A Glance at 2007

30 January 2007
See Also:
A Look Back at 2006
Top Stories of 2006
The Best and Worst of 2006

Big Plans for South Africa

After years of threatening to legalize I-gaming, it looks as though South Africa is finally poised to move forward. This in itself would have been a noteworthy development, but what happens in South Africa becomes much more interesting when you consider the lack of progress elsewhere. With U.S. bettors off limits and European operators handcuffed by member states' restrictions, one can expect I-gaming providers to take a long hard look at expanding into this young market.

Finally Full Implementation

It seems like ages have passed since the passing of the U.K. Gambling Act, but finally the I-gaming industry will have its day in England. The law, enacted in 2005, completely revamps British gambling policies, and amid the myriad changes is the foundation for regulated Internet gaming. The Act is scheduled for full implementation in September, at which point a new era for online gambling will begin. Expect operators to make moves throughout the year in preparation for implementation.

Regulate in the USA?

The day the Unlawful Interactive Gambling Enforcement Act was signed was the day advocates of regulated online gambling began strategizing on getting it reversed. Will it happen in 2007? Absolutely not, but expect planning, positioning and partnering with the stage being set for legislative change in '08 or '09. Poker players will be called upon to march on Capitol Hill and demand a poker exemption, and the American Gaming Association can be expected to renew its push for the assembly of a legislative panel to consider the benefits of regulations. Weak numbers at the 2007 World Series of Poker (due to restrictions on the participation of online poker rooms) could accelerate the process.

Infringement or Not?

After failing in 2006 to get gambling included in the revised EU Services Directive, advocates of free trade among gambling operations throughout Europe have turned to the European Commission. Citing inconsistencies between inter-European trade policy and individual member states' protection of gambling monopolies, the Commission has asked nine member states--Austria, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden--to justify their gambling laws. Infringement proceedings will take place in 2007, and the industry should have a better picture by the end of the year of whether the monopolies will be forced to give way to an open market.

Sands of the Internet

When Nevada-based casino operators enter the I-gaming space, they fail . . . so the trend goes. But Las Vegas Sands will take a crack at being the first to succeed with the launch of an Alderney-based online casino ion Q2 2007. Similar efforts from MGM Mirage and Harrah's were short lived because the two casino giants couldn't leverage their brands in non-U.S. markets. The Sands, which is digging foundations in England and Macau, is trying to establish an international presence, and perhaps the first results of these efforts will be realized in Q2.

The End of Grace

The U.S. Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) went into effect on Oct. 13, 2006, at which time federal regulators were given 270 days to figure out how the government will identify and block transactions to illegal gambling sites. Many operators and suppliers immediately bailed out on the U.S. markets, others will stick around no matter what happens and a few businesses will wait and see what comes of the 270-day "grace period." Those in limbo have circled Aug. 9, 2007 on their calendars as the day of reckoning, although it's fairly well documented that deadlines of this nature are rarely met.

The Consolidation Train

The UIGEA has greatly accelerated inevitable consolidation in the industry. The passage of the law was followed by a barrage of mergers and acquisitions that included the likes of PartyGaming, Sportingbet, Empire Online, Bodog, Playtech and others. The trend will continue in '07, with a number of potential deals already under speculation. As we enter the New Year, names like Ladbrokes, 888 Holdings, William Hill, Rank, Betdaq and Neteller are being tossed about the Rumor mill.

The Next War Down Under

It simply wouldn't be Australia without the presence of turmoil in the betting space. The compulsive gambling epidemic, the enabling and banning of I-gaming, the resistance to betting exchanges . . . it's always something. The latest battle involves betting operators and the Coalition of Major Professional Sports (COMPS), which is lobbying for a share of the A$1.6 billion bet on sports every year in Australia.

Mark Balestra

Mark Balestra is the Managing Director at BolaVerde Media Group. He previously worked at Clarion Gaming and the River City Group where he was the publisher of iGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.