Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Some Snippits from Westminster – The Future of Gambling

Yesterday's gambling seminar at Westminster (London, UK) brought together senior industry, parliamentary, and regulatory figures to debate how regulation, technology and international markets are shaping the future of the gambling industry.  Whilst there was much debate across a range of issues, such as EU regulatory harmonisation, taxation, US regulation and Black Friday, data privacy, sports betting and sports rights, we will share some highlights from the discussions that focused on the new opportunities that technology is providing for the industry.

Opening the ‘New technologies and platforms for gambling’ session was Mark Maydon, Commercial Director of Sporting Index.  Maydon said that the industry is witnessing an ‘arms race’ in terms of technology, in that there is a need for significant and continued investment in IT if operators are to remain competitive.  Operators need to develop more effective and scalable data processing capabilities, with Maydon suggesting that the gambling industry needs to learn from how the financial services industry has developed these capabilities.  Investment in mobile gaming was also an area of significant importance and growth for the industry.

Charles Cohen, CEO of Probability, was next and he stressed that whilst mobile gaming was a growing channel it was a very different channel to traditional online gaming.  He challenged the ‘myths of mobile gaming’  stressing mobile gaming’s objective is not about squeezing as much cash from online gamblers by encouraging them to gamble more (such as when in the pub or whilst waiting for the bus).  Rather, mobile gaming is about offering a different betting experience that appeals to a different customer i.e. not traditional PC-based online gamblers.  He stressed PC-based online games do not transfer well to the mobile channel and the best mobile games were very simple games.  He also shared some interesting insights from Probability’s own research: the average session of a mobile game is c.10 minutes and 82% of mobile gamers gamble whilst sitting at home sitting in front of the TV.  David Loveday, CEO of OpenBet, stated he felt that the TV channel, once integrated with broadband, along with online content provision, were two areas that will become increasingly prevalent in shaping the future of gambling.

Finally Martin Cruddace, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer at Betfair, framed his views on technology in the context of social responsibility and integrity in betting.  Cruddace said the industry must lead from the ‘front foot’ on these issues and that Betfair was investing in technology to better protect the customer, including predictive analytics to identify problem gambling behaviour.  In addition, Betfair are further enhancing the current range of player protection features by offering self-exclusion via gaming vertical and are also assessing the possibility of giving players the ability to exclude themselves from gambling from certain parts of the day e.g. after 11pm.  Earlier Peter Reynolds, Head of Communications at, emphasised the that online gaming offered a perfect audit trail of data that allowed the industry to proactively track online behaviour and act upon insights obtained.

The key messages coming from the other sessions re-iterated common themes; US regulation will inevitably happen however this will be via multi-year state projects, a lack of harmonised regulation in Europe is making it increasingly expensive for operators to compete internationally, however EU harmonisation is realistically many years away, and regulating markets is the best way to protect the consumer.  And the consumer is what the industry must focus on during these consultations and debates over the coming months as the best way to influence policy makers is by framing the debate in the context of what is best for the consumer rather than what is best for the operator.