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iGaming


Deregulation opportunities at a growing cost


The potential of the US market has the sector on tenterhooks, although Virgin Games’ Simon Burridge warns that when major jurisdictions deregulate it usually comes with a big invoice.


VIRGIN GAMES T


he opening up of the US market to online gambling has got all the main operators


excited with anticipation, but Simon Burridge, CEO of Virgin Games, believes it will be at least 2012 before companies will be able to take bets without fearing the wrath of the Department of Justice.


Listed operators have shied away from America since the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, allowing some less cautious, private operators to make hay in the online poker market, but Burridge believes there is still plenty of opportunity in the US - it just has to be regulated first. He explained: “Since the very outset, we decided not to accept bets from any market where it wasn’t unequivocally legal to so do, we have in effect, been restricted to regulated markets. To date, that is the UK and Italy.


“The US is obviously the big prize for all gaming com- panies, particularly for Virgin, given the strength of the Virgin brand in the US, and that is where all of our efforts are currently being concentrated, although realistically we are at least 18 months away from a dénouement.”


Burridge said it is not just the US that is of interest to his company, but he is wary of the way that govern- ments are starting to per- ceive the industry as a big money generator. He expanded: “As more gov- ernments move to regulate their jurisdictions, there are many more opportunities opening up for Virgin Games. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the cost of entry into new regulated markets, as Italy has shown, has risen dra- matically; and operators are going to have to pick and choose which markets they are going to concen- trate on, unless, of course, they have unlimited budgets. Ironically, because we never took illegal bets, Virgin Games has not amassed the huge war chests that many of our competitors have and so we have to be very selective about which markets we want to compete in.” But it is not only geo- graphical expansion that is


ANALYSIS


GIVEN THE GLOBAL NATURE OF THE VIRGIN BRAND, IT IS UNDERSTANDABLE WHY SIMON BURRIDGE BELIEVES IT WILL HAVE SOME AUTOMATIC TRACTION IN THE US, BUT IT WON’T BE THE ONLY MAJOR ESTABLISHED BRAND LOOKING AT THE ONLINE GAMBLING MARKET IF IT IS DEREGULATED THERE. GIVEN VIRGIN HAS A FOOT IN EACH CAMP, AS AN ENTERTAINMENT BRAND THAT HAS STRETCHED INTO THE GAMING SECTOR, IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO HEAR BURRIDGE’S TAKE ON THE ISSUE WHEN HE SPEAKS AT NEXT MONTH’S EIG EXPO IN COPENHAGEN ON THE SUBJECT: ‘MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT BRANDS MEET GAMBLING - COMPETITORS OR PARTNERS’.


Tombola gets shirty in Sunderland


MARKETING T


he new football season has seen the first glimpse of online


bingo firm Tombola’s sponsorship of Sunderland AFC. Tombola, which already has the high-profile sponsorship of ITV soap opera Emmerdale in its marketing portfolio, replaces another gambling brand -


Boylesports - as the shirt sponsor for the north east team.


While some questions have been raised over the crossover between the demographics between football and online bingo, it appears that Tombola’s decision was as much about local geography as international reach. On announcing the


sponsorship earlier this year, Tombola chief executive Phil Cronin described the deal as a fantastic opportunity: “With our own head office


14 BettingBusinessInteractive • SEPTEMBER 2010


here in Sunderland we have been able to see the work that Niall Quinn and his team have done to transform the fortunes of the club. We’re really looking forward to working with Sunderland and we're confident that this sponsorship will help us achieve our own ambitions.”


Sunderland shirts now sport the logo of local firm Tombola


on the agenda at Virgin Games - the company is also looking at expanding its product portfolio and wants to be able to take bets on sporting events before too long.


Burridge commented: “The lack of a sportsbook on our site is an obvious omission and one that we fully intend to rectify over time. However, given the finite amount of resource we have within Virgin Games, it has always been important not to stretch ourselves too thin and to ensure that anything we do is not only done as well as we can, but also that we are able to support it with ade- quate and appropriate budgets. Nevertheless, we are currently in the process of scoping what a Virgin sportsbook would look like and hope to launch in the not-too-distant future.”


Simon Burridge: speaking at Clarion Gaming’s EiG Expo next month


iGAMINGBRIEFS DROP IN DISPUTES


eCOGRA, the independ- ent player protection and standards body, has reported a decrease in dispute mediation requests for the first half of the year. Cash-in (43 per cent), Bonus issues (21 per cent) and Locked Accounts (21 per cent) were the principal causes for dispute.


Fair gaming advocate


Tex Rees explained: “We can attribute a portion of this drop in disputes to the fact that we have now been working with many of the eCOGRA Seal opera- tions for several years and as a consequence a number of policies and procedures have been developed that translate to less cause for disputes.”


POKERSTARS IN WITH CANAL+


Pokerstars has signed a deal with French TV company CANAL+ to sponsor some of the broadcaster’s sports pro- gramming. Reports suggest the deal will see the online poker operator sponsor CANAL+ broad- casts of tennis tourna- ments including the Shanghai Masters, BNP Paribas Masters and London Masters and has already seen it associ- ated with the Basketball World Championships. The company said sport sponsorship was a natural choice given the sporting values of poker, highlighting the spirit of competition and skill. The deal is unlikely to please Ladbrokes, which earlier on this year formed a joint venture with CANAL+ to launch an online betting and gaming service in France.


TWL JOINS THE CLUBS


The Weather Lottery (TWL) has signed deals with football clubs Glasgow Rangers and Middlesbrough enabling the listed company to be both teams’ online gaming partner. The two teams join Coventry City, Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday and Leicester City as TWL partners. Under the contracts TWL will provide a full package of online gaming and lottery prod- ucts to the clubs and its supporters. The Lottery will be run by TWL under its new ‘FC Lotto’ brand specially designed for the football market while the online gaming package created by TWL under the brand ‘FC Betz.com’ will be mar- keted to the clubs’ fans.


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