From the Editor's Chair - v3

20 October 2003

Proposition of the week. . . Does anyone know the over/under on when U.S. law enforcement will storm the BetonSports party bus? Has anyone posted odds on that? For the second successive year, the Costa Rica-based sports book is dispatching two buses to different cities every week throughout much of the NFL football season. The luxury buses appear decked out with logos and promotional items in the parking lots outside NFL stadiums before and during games. Last year's bus bust went down in Week 6 in Tampa Bay after visitors were allegedly welcomed to bet on the premise, although it should be noted that the tour continued through the rest of the season despite the arrests. BetOnSports, no doubt, must be hoping for a well attended game this year, maybe even a prime-time match-up. You can't buy publicity that good. Next up, by the way, is Denver at Baltimore on Sunday.

Despite the mountainous shadow of doubt cast by those who claim the Internet is a borderless medium, Hong Kong seems to be doing a good job of blocking access to foreign competition. The Chinese special administrative region passed a law in 2001 making it illegal for foreign bookmakers to target its inhabitants as customers. According to Internet traffic statistics from Hitwise, Internet operators outside of Hong Kong aren't doing much business there. The group's most recent statistics show that sites operated by Hong Kong Jockey Club (, and account for 96.6 percent of Internet traffic in the "Entertainment - Gambling" category among Hong Kong residents. The absence of Betfair on the Australian list could be an indication of a small victory for the "border patrollers" as well.

With each passing week comes another blow to the gut for advertisers of online gambling services in the United States. In last week's columns I suggested that justice officials might bite off more than they can chew if they go after the bigger broadcasters. The Howard Stern radio show seems to be chewing up just fine, as the immensely popular program recently pulled its Internet gambling ads. The question, then, is: If the media giants are backing down, who's going to put up a fight? The only solution, it appears, is for I-gaming ad sellers and buyers to unite on one front. Anyone up to that challenge?

Speaking of united fronts, that's precisely how Australia's TABs will combat what many in the bookmaking business Down Under regard as renegade Internet bookmakers. The proposed merger of UniTaB and Tab Ltd. would give the new "Super Invincible Mega TAB" (my proposed name, not theirs) a monopoly on the Queensland, New South Wales, Northern Territory and South Australia markets. So if your traveling to Australia and you plan on doing some wagering while you're there, it's a pretty safe bet that you'll be 1) getting there on Qantas and 2) betting with UniTAB/Tab Ltd.

I can't figure out what the apparent insider-betting epidemic means to Betfair 's standing with the gaming regulators. On the one hand, the betting exchanges have clearly been playgrounds for cheaters, but then again, Betfair has done a commendable job keeping betting agencies abreast of questionable wagering activity. Are exchanges facilitating insider betting or are they merely exposing insiders who who'd cheat regardless of the vehicle? More importantly, what's the British DCMS's take?

Yes, all is still quiet on the U.S. prohibition front, but be assured that Sen. Kyl's meeting schedule is full. He won't step back up to the plate unless he's confident he's got a winner, which means he clearly has some deals to make. There will be changes made to his prohibition bill, and if the American Gaming Association has its way, those changes will come in the form of exemptions.

Youbet's recent promotion of Joseph Hasson to general manager of mobile products for North and South America, Asia and Europe in itself isn't earth shattering, but the fact that the company is investing an interest in the mobile space is significant. An overhaul of management and the receiving of an advance deposit wagering license in California have gotten the company back on track (no pun intended), and concentrating on mobile gaming products is a wise progression. Mobile is already the medium of choice among Asian race bettors and its popularity is expanding healthily all over the world. Race betting operators who ignore this are putting themselves at a sizeable disadvantage.

That's all.

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.