From the Editor's Chair - v21

17 December 2004

Seasons greetings from the editor's chair. It's been a while since I've spit one of these articles out, but I have an excuse: I've been rummaging through my closets looking for something quirky enough to sell to Golden Palace. I-gaming's most creative advertisers have found their new shtick, and it's a great joy for sellers of crap . . . er, novelty items. . . on eBay. They started with the Beckham ball and moved on to celebrity dolls. Now they've turned to the supernatural. You know, the typical stuff: ghosts, virgin sandwiches and the likes. Overall, it's been a good move for GP. Five-figure purchases are turning out a heck of a lot of publicity, and they've been less controversial than the GP streakers. What I don't understand is why every time someone comes across an object with patterns resembling a person, it's assumed to be the Madonna. I kind of think the GP sandwich looks like Sally Forth.

Amazingly, last month's three-part splurge from the chair mentioned not one word of the insanely fascist crackdown on I-gaming advertising in the United States. I've strayed enough. The promotion of Raymond Gruender (the U.S. attorney behind the investigation and warning letters to media outlets that carry I-gaming ads) to judge has left the industry wondering whether his replacement, James Martin, will pick up where he left off. Some have speculated that the fascist crackdown won't be of interest to Martin, but a recent appearance on a news broadcast on St. Louis's local CBS affiliate, KMOV, indicates otherwise. Martin was very adamant during the broadcast about his commitment to stopping illegal online gambling. During the segment, which focused on Internet poker, Martin said the unregulated online poker industry is an ideal avenue for drug dealers--and even terrorists--to launder money. "We will do our best to go after all of them," Martin said. He also said that casual bettors aren't necessarily safe from prosecution. "If when we throw out the net to get these big-time Internet gambling operations, if individuals are caught in that net, they can and they may be prosecuted some day," he said.

Justice's net seems to be really, really wide, but apparently not quite wide enough to cover Casino City, at least according to the government's central argument in the case of Casino City vs. the Rationally Challenged et. al. The Department of "Just Us" (as in the perpetrators of the insanely fascist crackdown) responded to Casino City's request for a declaratory judgment on media outlets' right to carry I-gaming ads by (among other things) asking the court to toss the case because the activity described in the subpoenas doesn't apply to Casino City and its intentions to carry I-gaming ads. Huh?

Despite the U.S Justice Department's efforts to protect Americans, the citizens are somehow still being made aware that Internet gambling exists. Bodog Sportsbook & Casino, a real-money wagering site, recently cracked Hitwise's list of top 10 traffic grabbing gambling Web sites in the United States. The U.S lists are almost exclusively composed of free-play sites and state lottery (information only) sites, so Bodog's "breakthrough" is a notable accomplishment.

Speaking of BoDog, a message to CEO Calvin Ayre: Congratulations on you becoming you! For those who haven't followed this story, after years of being trapped inside Cole Turner, the fictional adventurer/leader of BoDog, Ayre has finally revealed his true identity. Welcome Calvin!

Sporting Options is gone, and thousands of customers have been left high and dry. What happened? Is the perfect gambling business model perhaps not so perfect? The surprising collapse of one of the world's leading betting exchanges leaves the P2P industry in a bit of hole in terms of consumer confidence, but what's done is done, and hopefully the industry can learn from it. The first obvious lesson is that the only money that should be drawn from players' accounts is commission, and there needs to be assurance that this is the case. Plus, the remaining P2P leaders need to pick up the slack and bail the customers out. Betfair and IBetX, are doing this, and that's a good thing. It's also important that exchanges prove their viability to regulators, policy makers and the rest of the I-gaming industry, which brings up my next point: How long will it take those who oppose betting exchanges to add this unfortunate chain of events to their arsenal?

Rumors abound in the gambling world, thanks to speculation that Ladbrokes is coveting Sportingbet. Such an acquisition would create a behemoth--perhaps the most powerful brand in the I-gaming space. But now that they've got your attention, consider this: It's not going to happen. Ladbrokes has way too much at stake in the United States, and in case you weren't aware (or don't remember), Sportingbet and the United States aren't exactly the best of friends. Ladbrokes hasn't had anything to do with U.S. bettors, which make up a huge portion of Sportingbet's clientele. In that sense, they're just not a good match.

For many, the 2004 Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo will be remembered most for the charity sumo matches in which prominent members of the industry dressed up in puffy outfits and dueled on the expo floor. Nothing of the likes has been announced for GIGSE 2005. . . yet. . . but be assured that River City Group's crack team of nonsensical activity planners (the activities are nonsensical, not the planners) are kicking around a few very interesting options. Stay tuned.

That's all for now.

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.