Gartner: 'Growth of M-Gambling Should Be Accompanied by Responsible Actions'

18 January 2006

Mobile gambling is on the rise, but research group Gartner, Inc. warns that the expansion of this cutting-edge industry brings its share of risks and challenges.

The firm's new report, "Take Precautions Before Offering Vices on Mobile Phones," takes a look at two of the largest drivers of the mobile Internet: pornography and gambling. (This article focuses, however, on just the gambling-related findings.)

Gartner Dataquest predicts that mobile access to online gambling will be available in most regions in 2009, and among the new report's key findings is that in many regions, regulatory and legal restrictions will be overcome by telephone betting and that service providers should deal with the security risks involved with m-gambling.

Gartner researchers, suggest that carriers work with industry associations and government regulators to bring gambling to the mobile Internet and that depending on the country, carriers should consider moving gaming to third-party off-portal vendors and mobile virtual network operators. Above that, it is recommended that handset manufacturers see whether specific V-chip requirements are necessary, and carriers wishing to enter this sector should prepare for a sort of "denial of service."

According to the Gartner report, m-gambling will be one of the big drivers of consumer use of mobile data services in the next five years, but there will not be the same marketing push seen with socially accepted services like ringtones and mobile music.

The complete group of researchers--Tole J. Hart, Carlo Cosimo Giuseppe Garofano, Ron Cowles, Eleana Liew--holds the opinion that mobile operators, gambling game platform suppliers, new betting exchanges, traditional bookmakers and even the sporting press are looking to cash in on the mobile gambling market.

Mobile gambling is categorized into three gaming groups: sports betting, lotteries and casino games.

The evolution of mobile betting services and games has been closely linked with the evolution of mobile technology. Gartner believes that the combination of gambling, interactivity, voice and video calling is the ideal way for the operator to make money, as the customer uses all possible service media.

Sports betting, for example, can now take place anywhere and anytime. The bettors have become mobile, and this has created all new sports betting products.

Concerning m-gambling regulations, lead researcher Tole J. Hart highlights the U.K. Gambling Bill, which addresses the technological and social changes affecting gambling and uses the term "remote technologies" to cover gambling services offered through the Internet, interactive television and mobile phones. As a result, anyone wishing to offer a "remote" gambling service must hold a remote gambling license.

The most important factors for a successful m-gambling operation (as presented by Gartner):

  • Users will need Java-enabled handsets for most mobile gambling applications.
  • Small-screen rendering of the gambling application is essential. As with any content presented on a smaller screen, low-quality presentation will detract from the user experience.
  • Placing a bet has to be easy. Don't create irritation.
  • Personalization will be important, such as the application "remembering".
  • Network coverage must be good.
  • Users need incentives. Create thrills.
  • All involved in m-gambling should cooperate with the authorities.
  • The political power of help groups, charities and associations such as Gamblers Anonymous may put greater restrictions on mobile gambling.

The authors of the report expect mobile gambling to increase because it is convenient, easy, addictive, unobtrusive and will be very difficult to stop. They also emphasize that mobile service providers must guard against the security issues that online gambling has faced on the Internet as well. These sites are often targets of denial of service extortion attacks.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.