LONDON, December 31, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
Penned in his home in Antigua, Bodog founder Calvin Ayre, has put his neck on the block over how the gaming industry will shape up in 2013: some will come as no surprise, others will raise an eyebrow and some will induce foaming at the mouth - especially if you are a CEO nursing a share price.
US: The excitement surrounding Nevada's lead into online gambling will quickly disappear when the bare stats are laid out for all to see. The fundamental problem? The total population of Nevada is less than some New York suburbs. Also, being based in Antigua allows Calvin to remain close to the country's dispute with the US. As a result he believes the World Trade Organization will, in fact, allow Antigua to impose intellectual property sanctions against the US.
Europe: Bwin.party will make a multi-million dollar payout to the US Department of Justice in order for the Bwin half of the company to buy the same kind of immunity.
Ayre also expects the depressed share prices of European listed companies leading to one of the cash-rich Asian operators to contemplate acquiring a European foothold on the cheap, with operators like 888, 32Red, mobile specialists Probability, software outfit Openbet and Ladbrokes being likely acquisition targets.
Asia: here Calvin is not shy of making straight calls…like he knows a thing or two others may not: Japan will finally legalize casinos, Vietnam will legalize sports betting, and Australia will regulate online poker. I expect Genting to acquire a controlling interest in the Star Casino, outmanoeuvring James Packer's bid to dominate the Sydney casino market.
Poker: Asia is the only place this sector will expand in 2013, but even here, growth will be slow. As a result more networks will seek to protect and nurture their net-depositing players by adopting an approach that mimics Bodog's recreational model.
With the minor Chinese poker boom now creating more players per year than America creates lawyers, I believe an Asian poker player will hoist the World Series of Poker main event bracelet.
Social: This may be the single biggest factor driving innovation in the gambling industry, in that it is changing our definition of what is gambling. While gambling made the transition from casino floor to website close to two decades ago, the games remain the same ones gamblers have enjoyed for a century or more. Social gaming companies are looking to further monetize their product, initially with casino-style games, but there are a lot more non-casino titles in their portfolio.
Mobile: Smartphone and tablet sales have already outstripped sales of PCs, and comScore data says more Google maps searches are now coming from mobile devices than PCs. In a few more years, 80% of online gambling play will be via mobile devices. Sports betting products will lead the mobile charge, but casino and poker will soon catch up.
Tech: Any online gambling company that doesn't own its own technology is vulnerable to upheavals and/or outright blackmail at the worst possible moments. Companies can either choose to make the long-term investment to become their own master, or they run the risk of becoming someone else's bitch. That said, tech providers with battle-tested Asian-facing product are going to make a killing off the Johnny-come-lately operators desperate to tap into this market
In short: Keep your company away from public markets, move your head office to Manila, geographically focus your business on Asian markets, keep your platform emphasis on mobile, control your own technology and invest like hell in R&D.