For the record, these stories are presented in random order, because it’s the freaking holidays, and we’re bitter enough about having to work over the holidays without worrying about weighing subjective shite like “that’s more important” v. “no, that’s more important.” Bah, humbug… Anyway, on with the show.
(1) US REGULATION: FEDERAL FAILURE, STATE SUCCESS
Rep. Barney Frank got his HR2267 online gambling bill approved by the Financial Services Committee, but despite acquiring 70 co-sponsors, the bill never came up for a full House vote. In the Senate, Harry Reid failed miserably in his attempt to attach a deeply flawed online poker bill onto a major piece of legislation. With the Republicans taking over the House and the Democrats’ majority in the Senate shrinking, the opportunity for pro-online gaming legislative change at the federal level is all but dead for at least the next two years.
At the state level, while California moves in fits and jerks toward intrastate online poker, it’s New Jersey that’s actually making progress. Pushed by state Sen. Ray Lesniak, the New Jersey legislature is but one vote away from giving Atlantic City casinos the right to offer legal online casino and poker to state residents.
(2) CANADIAN PROVINCES BEAT YANKS TO THE PUNCH
While Canada is often thought of as America’s underachieving kid brother, the province of British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in North America to offer state-approved online gaming. While the launch of PlayNow.com was plagued by both technical ineptitude and a laughable difficulty in handling basic mathematics, BC’s entry into the online market convinced Ontario and Quebec to get in on the action, with other provinces now compelled to at least publicly contemplate joining in.
(3) THE INCREASING BALKANIZATION OF EUROPEAN GAMING
They might share a common currency, but it’s clear that old nationalistic impulses die hard. Across the Euro zone, countries adopted stances and/or legislation designed to fence off their citizens and favor domestic companies, often current or former state monopolies. The most blatant example of these efforts was, of course, France. It’s a rare instance when the so-called winners of a competition protest the loudest, but those few companies who were ‘awarded’ French licenses soon discovered the game had been rigged in everyone’s favor but theirs.
(4) MERGER MANIA
“Let’s get hitched” was the preeminent theme among the European publicly traded online gaming companies this year. While Ladbrokes made a late bid for the headlines with its ‘pursuit’ of 888 Holdings, the big story was the bwin/PartyGaming marriage. If one were foolish enough to believe the headlines, all other gaming companies should pack it in now, as the Pwin juggernaut will crush all who dare stand in its way. In reality, the merged company will barely enter the double digits in term of market share, and as shareholders will ultimately discover, the unholy union won’t add value to the bottom line in the long term.
(5) BETFAIR GOES PUBLIC, MEDIA GOES APESHIT
This one is on the list based strictly on the number of column inches the media inexplicably chose to devote to a company putting 10% of itself up for public auction. Was it that journos were attempting to draw larger conclusions from a company going public, like a signal that the global recession had peaked and the next bull market was just around the corner? Whatever the reason, the ginned up stock soared like Icarus, then plummeted back to reality when the waxy hype melted away. As we have repeatedly stated, we believe going public is the wrong model for an online gaming company, and the short term gain is never worth the long term pain.