Eye on the Industry | Swine Flu

5 May 2009
Welcome to IGamingNews' newest series of semi-regular op-ed articles, Eye on the Industry. Here, we'll feature brief, incisive pieces -- penned by executives, analysts, lawyers, researchers, the occasional anonymous source, mainstream media journalists, fellow e-gaming scribes and a professional gambler or two -- which examine a particular issue.

Warwick Bartlett, chief executive of Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, argues the recession -- not the swine-flu outbreak -- remains the biggest threat to the online gambling industry.

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At the moment, I think the World Health Organization and the various health departments around the world have acted quickly to contain this epidemic. While it still appears to be spreading at the time of writing this piece (Monday), the virus does appear to be less effective against people outside Mexico.

From an economic perspective the only measure GBGC has is the last SARS epidemic in Hong Kong, which severely hit trade with tourism, retail and many sectors of the economy. If the swine-flu outbreak were to repeat itself in Europe and North America on the scale of SARS in Hong Kong, many people are likely to be quarantined either in centers or at home.

People at home would lead you to believe that they have more time on their hands to gamble online, but it will all depend on their condition. If they are feeling awful, gambling is the last thing they would want to think about.

On the whole, I would say a pandemic, if it were to occur, would be negative to the industry but not drastically so.

However, pandemics cost governments money. The United Kingdom government, for example, has had to stockpile the Tamiflu antiviral drug. So far, the government has enough for half of the population (30 million). The aim is to cover 70 percent.

This means that health budgets and hospital resources will come under strain, output in industry and commerce would fall, so we could be looking at higher budget deficits at a time when the economic situation is still deteriorating. This is a worst-case scenario and I doubt it is going to be this bad.

The recession remains the biggest threat to the online gambling industry, and as we predicted at GBGC in October 2008, gambling is not recession-proof.

We had hoped that the drivers for the online business would be stronger than the recessionary influence, but the inevitability of people having less money in their pockets to spend does not compensate for new markets, broadband and the value provided by the Internet.

You cannot spend what you don’t have!

The IGN staff continually troll the wires, foreign papers, corporate news alert services and other dark, dusty corners of the Web to bring you the very latest industry news.