A Glance at 2008

11 January 2008
See Also:
A Look Back at 2007
Top Stories of 2007
The Best and Worst of 2007

Prospects for Web 2.0

We saw the first intersections of Internet gambling and social networking sites in 2007. Convergence has been generally isolated up to this point, but you can't help but wonder what the meeting of these two phenomena could bring. If all the stars align, it could be huge.

A Venetian Launch

The Las Vegas Sands Corporation says it will launch its long awaited online casino, Sands Online, in early 2008. The Alderney-licensed Web site will target European players and will be powered by technology from Cantor Gaming, an affiliate of financial services company Cantor Fitzgerald. We've seen this before--a major land-based gaming operator launches an online casino--but never has such a venture experienced great success. Can Venetian buck the trend?

Infringement Resolution

This could be the year that the European Commission and member states finally come to terms on whether state-sponsored gambling monopolies should be protected from foreign European competition. The EC’s infringement proceedings have progressed to the stage of negotiation. France and Brussels, for example, are hoping for a resolution by March.

The US Legal Climate

A number of questions persist entering 2008; Will federal regulatory and/or exemption proposals progress? How far will iMEGA’s UIGEA challenge get? Will the UIGEA regulations be implemented? Are the Google/Yahoo/Microsoft settlements a sign of things to come? Will there be more arrests?

The US Market

Publicly traded I-gaming groups have left the U.S. market behind and turned their marketing and expansion efforts elsewhere. The market has consequently shrunk drastically, but the desire to gamble in America has not been eliminated. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the United States can successfully enforce a ban. When there’s a will there’s a way, and offshore I-gaming operators will surely figure out how to mend the severed bloodlines between their services and U.S. gamblers.

The BetonSports Trial

Amazingly, the question is not when in 2008 David Carruthers, Gary Kaplan and others indicted in the BetonSports case will have a trial; it is whether it will even happen in 2008. The highly anticipated trial was perpetually put of in '07, and one has to wonder whether 2008 will be yet another year of postponements. When it does happen, it will surely replace the Cohen trial as the most important U.S. court case in the history of the I-gaming industry.

Executive Plans

For two years the trend in law enforcement has been arresting I-gaming executives at the helm of leading industry corporations. In 2006 it was BetonSports' David Carruthers, Sportingbet's Peter Dicks, and bwin's Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger. In 2007 it was BetonSports’ Gary Kaplan, Unibet's Petter Nylander and a pair of unidentified executives from Betex. Will more wear the cuffs in 2008?

The Global Market

If there's a silver lining in the UIGEA for I-gaming, it's that investors finally have clarity that was absent for so long. So while the U.S. prohibition shrunk the I-gaming market, it also greatly decreased the volatility that came with legal uncertainty in the States. The hammer finally fell, and businesses in the industry are finding success in new markets. We can certainly expect growth in 2008, but the extent of the rebound remains to be seen.

Predictions for 2008:

  • In the 73rd and final round of WTO negotiations in the complaint filed by Antigua against the United States, the organization's panel for assessing disputed penalties in cases of disputed appeals of compliance panel rulings on disputes will submit its final, non-binding opinion on whether the United States blocking foreign I-gaming services constitutes a breach of trade agreements. Nine months later, after the panel has had time to translate the decision into every known language on the planet (including Pig Latin, smoke signals and ESP), it will be released to the public. The United States will declare that it is in compliance, and Antigua will argue to the contrary. The panel will be given 24 months to come up with an interpretation of its own opinion, followed by a 12-month period for deciding upon a proper penalty. After the 12-month penalty assessment period, the decision on the final decision will be finally finalized . . . unless one of the parties mounts an appeal.

  • Online casinos will become all the rage among Internet-based virtual worlds such as Second Life. Pretend casino moguls will establish lavish pretend casinos where pretend people can roll up in their pretend luxury cars, gamble with pretend money and leave with pretend prostitutes. Despite never fully understanding whether imaginary gambling is legal, a coalition of governments from North America, Europe and Australia will establish a pretend task force to make believe that they are cracking down on the fantasy casino moguls. They will be pleased to discover that Beijing has already assembled a pretend police force, and they will contract out to Chinese authorities, who will apprehend the pretend casino operators and ship them off to pretend work camps where they can be re-socialized and made fit to coexist with other Netizens in the world of make believe.

  • Former BoS chief David Carruthers will complete his rigorous physical training and dominate the St. Louis marathon, leaving his closest competitor blocks behind him. Not satisfied with one small victory, the chiseled, frighteningly fit detainee will sign up to test his strength and agility on the new American Gladiators TV show. The AG judges will quickly realize that he is a rare specimen of strength, rage and courage and invite him to join full-time as one of the gladiators. Carruthers will accept, and the first assignment will be jousting during the special "Former Billionaires" episode. The first contestant he faces will just happen to be Bodog's Calvin Ayre, who pummeled Carruthers four years earlier in a historic sumo grudge match. Carruthers, known on the show as "Razor," will be a heavy favorite to redeem himself, but Ayre will fixate his rage on business foe Scott Lewis (the man who successfully confiscated Bodog's domains) of 1st Technology and will punish Carruthers with multiple wallops to the cranium. Carruthers will withstand the assault, however, and enter a fury of his own after his glasses are broken. Seventeen hours into the astonishing duel, NBC will cancel the show, and the world will never know which bookmaker is truly king of the hill. Ayre will later recall the tale in a profanity-laden blog on his personal Web site. Carruthers will go home and have tea.

  • European betting company Unibet will unveil "Team Uni-Uni," a group of highly talented unicycle-riding performance artists in Paris. Decked out in (presumably second-hand) Unibet cycling jerseys, the performers dazzle tourists by juggling torches, swords and babies while navigating eight-feet-high unicycles around baskets of venomous snakes. The French government will catch wind of Team Uni-Uni when a competing street performer, renowned flame swallower Jacques Macques, has a falling out with his main sponsor, PMU, and threatens to jump ship for Unibet. Authorities immediately demand that the performers stop wearing the Unibet jerseys or get out of town. A showdown appears inevitable, but tragedy will strike first when the team's top rider, Lefty Lewthwaite, rolls into a crevasse that he mistakes to be the work of master illusionist/sidewalk artist of Julian Beever. Following the untimely (and unsightly) death of Lewthwaite, disheartened Unibet execs will pull the plug on the Uni-Uni campaign.

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.