Sunday December 14,2014 : CRYSTAL BALL GAZING FOR 2015
Top consultant gives his opinion on the future for online gambling.
Warwick Bartlett, a 40-year gambling industry veteran and respected gambling consultant with the Isle of Man-based Global Betting and Gaming Consultancy, has published his thoughts on what might lie ahead in 2015 for the online sector and developments that impact it.
Bartlett likes the concept of cybercurrencies as a transaction medium that cannot be abused by government overprinting and is in growing demand by punters.
However, he cautions that it is unlikely to gain mainstream approval quickly due to the resistance of both banks and governments concerned about money laundering and other criminal activity.
"The payment solution market is very competitive – I doubt there is any cost benefit at all in using digital currency over existing banking and payment providers. Risks and no benefits so far is all I see," he comments, predicting that 2015 will see the profile of digital currencies fall.
Describing the current regulatory landscape in Europe as dysfunctional, Bartlett says that reform is necessary but there is little appetite for it in Europe with a stream of nationalistic and largely negative news, including the potential for countries to levy VAT on bets, something Germany has already implemented.
That could encourage other governments to follow suit.
On the positive side, Spain is "warming to online gambling" and will focus on this in 2015, whilst the Netherlands is gearing up for legalised and regulated internet gambling in the year ahead.
Intriguingly, Bartlett suggests that the Russian economy, under international sanctions and debt pressures and an oil price in free fall, may relax its opposition to online gambling, beginning with poker. However, he warns that there is likely to be a parochial approach favouring local operators through the inclusion of "bad actor" clauses.
He predicts that for all the debate in Poland the officials in that country will fail to eliminate illegal internet gambling.
Although Bartlett in general confines his comments to a broad view, he does single out Bwin Party Digital Entertainment for examination, positing that the three possibilities for the company in 2015 are a sale, a break up or for the status quo to continue…he feels that the latter will be the case.
Referring to Britain, he expects to see a hung parliament with a Conservative Prime Minister in 2015, and a good year for retail betting that could see the Coral group sell off its bingo interests and focus on being a bookmaker.
The controversial point-of-consumption tax imposed in the UK will probably not really impact the industry until 2016, Bartlett opines, noting that the improvement in the UK economy with the same spend on marketing from the major operators will see the industry through 2015. But profits will fall by 20 to 30 percent despite robust revenues.
He does not see too much change in player pay-outs, and value will be maintained. The point-of-consumption tax measures will start to bite around the fourth quarter of 2015, and Bartlett expects to see more industry consolidation on the supply side.
Discussing the online gambling situation in the United States, Bartlett anticipates that 2015 will be another year of frustration with low returns and continued political interference. The conservative Republicans now dominate Congress, making sports betting liberalisation unlikely, whilst the outcome of online poker legalization in California – four years on now – remains uncertain in 2015.
US state lotteries may increasingly turn to the internet to boost sales, but as far as general online gambling in the United States is concerned 2015 will probably be another year of waiting for a major state to join the roster of those which have legalised online gambling.
Online gambling in Asia remains a risky business with crackdowns in Malaysia and hardline e-gaming legalization in Singapore, but Bartlett doubts that other regional governments will follow Singapore's example during the year ahead.
As a general observation, Bartlett notes that the current fall in the international oil price is good for many economies and their industries.
He observes: "Cheap oil is very good for the consumer; it is like every wage earner having a reduction in tax and every pensioner having a lift in pension. A fall in the oil price benefits everyone and this multiplies throughout the economy."