The simultaneous launching this month of two online gambling operations--one in Jamaica, the other in Panama--could have long-lasting effects on the interactive gambling industry.
BetPanAm became Panama's first licensed betting operation when it launched last week. The Web site is up and running, but they only facilitate phone betting; company officials said Web-based betting is expected to commence within a few weeks.
Marty Monroe, BetPanAm's marketing director, said officials with the site are working around the clock toward getting the site up and all the "wrinkles ironed," before the NFL season kicks off in early September.
BetJamaica, meanwhile, is the third Jamaica-based Internet sports book. The site, part of the Jamaica-based Olympic Sports empire, is geared toward the casual bettor.
"Our goal is to establish BetJamaica.com as the premier one-stop shop for the recreational sports player," said Scotty Johnson, general manager of BetJamaica.com. "We want to become the primary place for the casual sports bettor and fan. We believe that BetJamaica.com will offer lines and promotions that will be the best in the offshore sports book industry."
Olympic Sports provides the technical and financial support for the wagering site, in addition to the original long-standing Galaxy/Royal management team that includes Johnson and Victor Wells.
By some accounts, Jamaica's regulations are considered too loose, however, Jerry Duplessis of QuickSilver Sports, Ltd., which operates a Jamaican sports book, said government officials regulate the industry in a roundabout way.
QuickSilver is based in the Negril free zone, while Olympic and now BetJamaica are based in the free zone in Montego Bay.
Sports books in Jamaica currently fall under the umbrella of the Ministry of Technologies as data processing companies and are licensed and incorporated as free-zone companies. The country has a lotteries and gaming commission that oversees horse racing and lotteries, but doesn't have jurisdiction over e-gaming entities. Duplessis said some in the government are trying to change that.
He added that the presence of BetJamaica.com shouldn't jeopardize what he considers a stable state of self regulation. The company, he said, seems to be a reputable one.
"I also understand that some people from Royal Sports in Curacao are involved," he said. "If this is indeed true, I'm sure this new book will be run very professionally and be as solid financially as Olympic. ...This will be the third sports book on the island and I believe the quality of the industry will be retained."
A thousand kilometers to the south, BetPanAm is treading in new water. Policymakers in Panama laid the foundation for regulating interactive gambling services less than a year ago.
Louis Sola, vice president of CEMIS (Centre for Multimodal and Industrial Services), is developing a sister site in Panama and said it is nearly 99 percent ready to go. CEMIS's site will be accessed via www.rumbacasino.com and will have a companion sports book with rumbasports.com.
Sola is eager to be part of the foundation for online gambling in Panama, but he recognizes the risk with a new jurisdiction and trying to compete with already existing sites.
He predicts a major selling point for operators looking to relocate from Caribbean jurisdictions will be the first-rate networking capabilities of Panama after years of U.S. military presence. The fiber optic lines available in Panama, he said, are far superior to those found in the islands and are not susceptible to the outages and downtimes experienced offshore.
BetPanAm is led by senior management members Richard Long, formerly with Betmaker and Sportingbet.com; Monroe, formerly with Galaxy and Royal Sports; and Scotty King, formerly of Pinnacle Sports.
The BetPanAm license was three years in the making and, according to Monroe, "has the teeth in it to protect players."
Every gaming licensee in Panama, for example, must post a $500,000 bond with the government to insure payment in any disputed claim that is upheld.
Monroe added, "Regulatory due diligence is strict and goes over the past history of those applying for a license with a fine-tooth comb, so deadbeats and other bad elements are screened out before they get very far in the process."
Nobody knows where Kevin Smith came from. He simply showed up one day and started writing articles for IGN. We liked him, so we decided to keep him. We think you'll like him too. Kevin can be reached at email@example.com