The Best and Worst of 2006

30 January 2007
See also:
A Look Back at 2006
Top Stories of 2006
A Glance at 2007

Blasts from the Pasts
Previous Winners:

*A batch of spoiled eggnog served at River City Group's '02 Pre-Holiday office party left the members of 'IGN's Best of/Worst of department fighting for their lives through the duration of December and therefore unable to complete their list that year.

Region/Jurisdiction on the Rise
South Africa
Finally South Africa seems poised to move forward with online gambling regulations. This has been kicked around for years, but there's reason to believe it's for real this time.

Previous Winners: Tasmania (2005), North America (2004), Caribbean (2003), Europe (2001)

Region/Jurisdiction on the Decline
Continental Europe
It seems logical that the market will open up eventually, but it's hard to imagine it coming together in '07, only months removed from Teufelberger and Bodner's weekend in hell. The long-term prospects are good. The short-term prediction: turmoil.

Previous Winners: United Kingdom (2005), Antigua (2004), Isle of Man (2003), Caribbean (2001)

Best Marketing
It was a breakthrough year for promotional relationships between European sporting entities and interactive gambling operators, and the aforementioned (Norbert) Teufelberger and (Manfred) Bodner lead the way by securing multiple big-league sponsorships for their company, bwin. Thanks to aggressive marketing , bwin is probably the continent's best known purely online betting company and a legitimate leader in the I-gaming space..

Previous Previous Winners: Paddy Power (2005), Golden Palace (2001, 2003, 2004)

Worst Marketing
The marriage between interactive betting and sports unfortunately also fueled the fire in the intense battle over whether Europe's gambling monopolies should be preserved. In this sense, bwin's marketing blitz ultimately invoked the wrath of a few member states, resulting in governments filing civil complaints as well the company's co-CEOs landing in a French jail for what proved to be a very long weekend.

Previous Winners: B-List Celebrity Endorsements (2005), Paradise Poker (2004), Ladbrokes (2003), Bentley Communications (2001)

Worst Policy
United States
It wasn't so much that the United States banned I-gaming (if you want prohibit, then fine, prohibit) as it was the manner in which it did so. One of the goals for most parties involved in the legislative process was coming up with a clear policy addressing online gambling, they failed to achieve this. The law does not adequately define what activities constitute gambling and its loopholes are sure to come into question. Are real-money online games of skill legal? Can state lotteries operate online? Are U.S.-based race betting services operating legally? What will come of the inconsistencies between U.S. policy and the country's trade agreements via the WTO? Is there any doubt that ambiguity was a goal in drafting the UIGEA?

Previous Winners: United Kingdom (2005), European Union (2004), Greece (2003), United States (2001)

Most Resilient
David Carruthers
Former BetonSports CEO David Carruthers hasn't yet lost his mind, and that's quite an accomplishment. Despite reports of his living in the lap of luxury, he is confined to a very small, very humble apartment awaiting his trial, which doesn't look to be coming soon. Since his arrest in Dallas in July, he has endured the collapse of his company, several very unpleasant weeks in jail, confinement to a tiny apartment, the tactics of U.S. prosecutors and the notion that he could be put away for years. Through all of it, he has managed to keep a perspective on things and is still holding his head up high. Some observers have suggested that a plea bargain is the best route for him, but he hasn't shown any signs of giving in.

Previous Winners: Betfair (2004, 2005), Youbet (2003), World Gaming/Starnet (2001).

Best Acquisition
Non-US Customers
Whether it was via purchasing a business, carrying out market campaigns or dumb luck, any company that boosted its non-.U.S. player base in 2006 made a good move.

Previous Winners: Ongame (2005), Paradise Poker (2004), Centrebet (2003), GoCorp (2001)

Biggest Splash
Bill Frist
Say what you will about Sen. Frist and the doom he bestowed upon the I-gaming industry, you have to give him credit for succeeding where Kyl, Goodlatte, Leach and others failed. After nearly a decade of futility on the part of the prohibition movement, Frist stepped in and got it done in a relatively short amount of time. His accomplishment has dramatically changed the course of the mighty I-Gaming River.

Previous Winners: Empire Online (2005), poker (2003, 2004), Playboy (2001)

Best Neighbor
United Kingdom
In the scope of online gambling, England hasn't been the best neighbor to continental Europe, but it has been a great pal to the United States, which comes as a bit of a surprise considering that the States' restrictions on I-gaming is badly hurting British companies that supposedly have the full support of their government. The U.S. policy has crushed many of England's top I-gaming companies, and U.S. law enforcement has thrown prominent members of England's business community behind bars, yet the U.K. government seems content to stay out of the way. It has even been suggested that England could be willing to cooperate in the extradition of I-gaming execs.

Previous Winners: Albania (2005), Canadian Lotteries (2004), Pacific Racing Jurisdictions (2003)

Worst Neighbor
United States
In addition to continuing to ignore Antigua vs. U.S. WTO decision, the U.S. government is now arresting I-gaming execs from companies operating legally in other countries. That makes this the easiest category to pick this year.

Previous Winners: Victoria, Australia (2005), United States (2004), Australia (2003)

Company of the Year
This honor is not so much for what they are, but for how they've positioned themselves. Ladbrokes opened up a lot of options when it freed itself from its U.S. interests. They have an impressive stable of non-U.S. customers, a powerful brand, strong ties to land-based gambling, lots of experience and cash. As the industry consolidates, Ladbrokes is well positioned to be a buyer or a seller.

Previous Winners: PartyGaming (2004, 2005), Betfair (2003), Access Gaming Systems (2001)

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.