Betting firms have offered ‘remote’ services via the telephone for decades, subject to clients having accounts with the bookmaker. More recent innovations in information technology extend the possibility of interactivity to screens in mobile phones, as well as to the internet and interactive television. Data for interactive or remote gambling do not include placing bets by voice over the telephone.
The GBGC estimate that the GGR for interactive betting was globally €2,850 million in 2003, implying about €810 million or 28% of the global total for the EU. Telephone betting’s share of overall betting GGR has been declining slowly in the face of interactive media.
Lotteries are taking increasing advantage of the possibilities of remote participation. Camelot, the operator of the UK’s national lottery and largest lottery operator in the EU, reported that, in the year to March 2005, there had been a 600% increase in interactive sales through internet, iTV and mobile phone text messaging, from €17.8 million in 2003-04, to €126.7 million in 2004-05. Boss Media, the Swedish based operator, predicted that many members of the World Lotteries Association will go digital in 2005, and that they are looking to make deals with Swedish and Czech national lotteries. Alexander Resources estimated (In the E-gaming Review of August/September 2004) that mobile phone revenues from global lottery sales were approximately €4,130 million.
National lotteries have huge marketing and jackpot advantages over private lotteries. Nevertheless some private lotteries operate and use online services, e.g. Littlewoods’ product Bet247. GBGC estimate that the GGR for interactive lotteries was globally €490 million in 2003, implying about €140 million for the EU.
Sales by national Lotteries are usually intended to be limited to nationals (Refer for example to the terms and conditions of La Francaise de Jeux [France] and the Österreichische Lotterien [Austria].). The limitation is not wholly political, with player poaching seen as a major threat to all but the largest lotteries. Amongst its members, the World Lottery Association has been actively promoting a code of conduct prohibiting cross border sales.
c. Casino gaming
Casino gaming has used the internet as a distribution channel for several years. GBGC estimate that the GGR for interactive gaming was globally €1,530 million in 2003, implying about €430 million for the EU. However, since EU households have access to the internet at rates superior to the global average, we can reasonably expect that actual GGR was somewhat greater. For example, if it were 10% greater, then 2003 GGR for internet casino gaming would have been €470 million.
Most recently, casino games are being offered on some WAP and Java enabled mobile phones and other hand held devices.
ARGO, in its 2005 report entitled, “Fair, Honest and Safe,” estimated that over one million UK adults visit an online gambling site every month, despite the fact that there is no online gaming operation based in the UK. It also quotes the Belgian Gambling Commission to the effect that, in 2003, 25 thousand Belgians per month played in online casinos and spent €27 million doing so.
The most rapid recent expansion has been in the online Poker business, reckoned by GBGC to be worth €24,790 million in handle in 2004. Matthew Goodman, writing in The Times, identifies the top online poker site as Party Poker [owned by PartyGaming] with a 50% market share. Paradise Poker, purchased for €247.5 million by Sportingbet in October 2004 accounted for a 10% share and showed a profit of €16.5 million. The eGaming Review claims that US online poker players dominate the global market, with Europe having only a 15% share. Within Europe, UK players are estimated to have an 80% share. Ladbrokes operates Europe’s biggest poker site. There are important economies of scale in this business, since a larger pool of players allows for a greater number and variety of competitions / tournaments, and a stronger advertising profile.
Bingo.com is, according to the eGaming Review, one of the world’s largest bingo sites, with more than 30,000 daily visitors and one million registered players. Its website currently offers both “pay-to-play” gambling and “play-for-fun” games.
Bingo is widely forecast to expand in the near future. Players spend more offline on bingo than they do on poker. According to the website ‘Think Bingo’, the UK market will by 2007 have 250,000 regular players spending €1.44 million daily on internet bingo. Andrew Branscombe of the Canadian software company Parlay points to the high numbers of bingo halls around the world. Bingo is the biggest single leisure activity for women in the UK aged over 28 years. Mecca [owned by Rank] and Gala are two UK operators who are launching online bingo to complement their land-based operations.
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