Region/Jurisdiction on the Rise: North America
Its consumer market has matured and its gambling policies are generally restrictive, yet the land that's home to Jon Kyl, John Ashcroft and company is shaping up to be a land of opportunity for I-gaming businesses. The poker craze has turned hundreds of thousands of American consumers into online gamblers, and the implementation of Internet betting options has rejuvenated racing in some states, especially in California. North of the border, Woodbine Entertainment took its race betting services online in 2004, as did the Atlantic Lottery Corporation and British Columbia Lottery Corporation. Several U.S. lotteries will follow suit if they get legal clearance. Let's also not forget the Kahnawake territory outside Montreal, where some of the largest online gambling businesses in the world are located.
2003 Winner: The Caribbean
2001 Winner: Europe
Region/Jurisdiction on the Decline: Antigua
Antigua's well publicized WTO complaint against the United States brought to light the extent to which the country's economy has suffered due to online gambling businesses leaving for other jurisdictions. What was once considered the world's top I-gaming jurisdiction has struggled in the last year two years to remain a major hub.
2003 Winner: The Isle of Man
2001 Winner: The Caribbean
Best Marketing Campaign: Golden Palace
Not everyone is crazy about Golden Palace's promotional stunts, but there's no denying that they've achieved their goal of gaining big-time exposure. When tattooing boxers got old, they began sponsoring streakers, and when that got old they ran with the bulls in Pamploma and sponsored a rocket ship. Now they're making headlines everywhere by purchasing novelty items, among them the "penalty shot" ball kicked by footballer David Beckham, a one-of-kind Ellen Degeneres Cabbage Patch doll, a haunted cane and the hugely famous 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich bearing the image of the Virgin Mary.
2003 Winner: Golden Palace
2001 Winner: Golden Palace
Worst Marketing Campaign: Paradise Poker
It's not their fault, but $3.25 million dumped into an ad campaign with Travel Channel turned out to be money poorly spent when that amount was seized by the U.S. Justice Department and the campaign was squelched seven months early with no refund.
Honorable Mention: Golden Palace's imposter Olympic synchronized diver.
2003 Winner: Ladbrokes
2001 Winner: Bentley Communications
Worst Policy: The Europe Union
It's not so much the policy as it is the process of changing it. The European Commission needs a Europe-wide policy addressing online gambling. The Gambelli ruling of 2003 did not extinguish the cross-border debate, and it appears that the commission will address it with a new services directive. That's dandy, but the loose target date for getting it done is 2010, and that's ridiculous.
2003 Winner: Greece
2001 Winner: U.S. Congress
Most Resilient: Betfair
Internet gambling's most despised company continues to thrive despite making enemies virtually everywhere it does business. They're a threat to many, and for that reason, they are the target of efforts all over the world to stop them in their tracks. Regardless of your position on betting exchanges, you've got to be impressed with their ability to succeed when constantly under fire.
2003 Winner: Youbet
2001: Winner: World Gaming/Starnet
Best Acquisition: Paradise Poker
U.K.-based Sportingbet has turned itself into an I-gaming giant through a string of acquisitions, and they made they're biggest buy to date when they acquired Paradise Poker. They've always been a top bookmaker, they bought their way into the casino space and now they're in control of a company that dominated the poker space prior to the poker boom and continues to hold a healthy share of the market.
2002 Winner: Centrebet
2001 Winner: GoCorp
Biggest Splash: Poker
What else can be said? The major splash made by online poker in 2003 was dwarfed by the cannonball dropped in '04. Some estimate that the industry grew by as much as 600 percent last year.
2003 Winner: Poker
2001 Winner: Playboy
Best Enforcement: British High Tech Crime Unit
Yes, in one rare instance, authorities sought and apprehended the culprits of an I-gaming-related crime in which the gambling operator was the victim. There's not a lot of hope right now in the war against hackers, but it was nice to see the British High Tech Crime Unit play a key role in nailing three Russian hackers who were targeting the industry.
2003 Winner: Raymond Gruender
2001 Winner: Visa and MasterCard
Worst Enforcement: Racing Victoria
Officials with Racing Victoria in November posed the idea of banning all foreign horses from racing if Betfair isn't outlawed in Australia. Clearly they must stay on the offensive to protect their interests, but this is a little extreme.
2003 Winner: Raymond Gruender
2001 Winner: Wayne County Sheriff's Department
Best Neighbors: Canadian Lotteries
Canadian provinces were allowed to sanction I-gaming services only if they would keep gambling activity contained within participating jurisdictions. Staying within this guideline enabled the British Columbian and Atlantic lotteries to go online in '04.
2003 Winner: Pacific Racing Jurisdictions
2001 Winner: N/A
Worst Neighbor: The United States
The United States has always done what it can to block foreign online gambling services, and that's not much different from the approach taken in European countries like Finland and Holland. But the U.S./Antigua WTO ruling gives the United States an edge in the "worst neighbor" department.
2003 Winner: Australia
2001 Winner: N/A
Company of the Year: IGlobalMedia
The biggest player in the Internet poker boom, PartyPoker.com, has very quickly built itself into giant in the I-gaming space. The company is dominating the increasingly crowded Internet poker industry and is on the cusp of reaching the $1 billion per year plateau in annual revenues. This impressive performance earns its parent company, IGlobalMedia, "Company of the Year" status.
Honorable Mention: Sportingbet
2003: Winner: Betfair
2001: Winner: Access Gaming Systems