Another new year is almost upon us, and as an online gaming industry veteran of some standing, I guess I’m expected to offer up some fearless predictions for what I see transpiring in 2011. For the record, I don’t actually own a crystal ball, but for the past couple hours I’ve been staring into the crystal martini glasses that are cluttering up my workstation, and I’ve seen some wacky shit in there… For example:
✖ All the major publicly traded companies will take on massive debt in Euros, in the hope of paying it back in Sterling at some later… Hang on… Actually, that’s one of last year’s predictions, so never mind.
✖ Pwin shareholders will reject the thoroughly unimaginative bwin.party moniker and will instead take this site’s repeated advice on the new name for their two-headed monster. However, the company’s lack of imagination will return with a vengeance on its new “Gamble.Website” campaign.
✖ Harry Reid will attempt (and fail) to slip a 1,900 page online bingo bill into a Senate roll call.
✖ At least one major poker company is killed by the cruel hand of the marketplace; two others commit ritual suicide after being bullied once too often on CalvinAyre.com.
✖ If a punter asks to place a traditional ‘against the house’ bet, Betfair customer service will helpfully direct them to that area of their site. If Inland Revenue asks why Betfair shouldn’t pay the same tax as other bookmakers, Betfair will say that they’re not a traditional bookmaker. If asked for the time, Betfair execs will reply: “Time is an artificial construct man attempts to impose on a disordered universe” followed by a muttered “Shit, we’re late for the 2:15 at Doncaster.”
✖ Mitch Garber (former Harrah’s Interactive and PartyGaming executive poster boy) will convince yet another organization with money and dreams that he has either started or run an online gaming company (in truth, he has done neither, much to the shock of Harrah’s management during his last gig).
✖ Ladbrokes will succeed in acquiring 888 the second time around and rebrand the site as 8pm.com, the hour at which most of Lads’ senior management return their teeth to the glass on the nightstand, put on their warm wooly jammies and climb into bed.
✖ Sportsbook.com‘s owner will sell his company to Sportingbet PLC (which he also owns) for the second time. He will then sell Sportsbook back to himself for $10 and a pack of Winston Lights — proving once and for all that minority shareholders in public companies really are that stupid.
✖ Following my own appearance pimping the Bodog Brand in Playboy, the BetUS owners will appear in National Geographic under the headline ‘New Species of Parasite Discovered in Costa Rica’.
✖ London-based physicists will marvel at a curious vortex emanating from a mansion in Mayfair that reduces otherwise upstanding members of the media to a state of wanton immorality that even barnyard animals would find depraved — prompting scientific journals to dub the source of the vortex The ‘Dog House.
✖ EnterAsia wins the Swiss Cheese Live Dealer award for the impressive number of ways its system manages to get defrauded.
✖ Paddy Power assumes the title of largest publicly traded online gaming company, causing intense moments of self-doubt at CalvinAyre.com as we come to terms with the fact that we are not always right.
✖ Cole Turner will puke on himself. Again.
BUT SERIOUSLY, FOLKS…
✔ 2011 will see a continued increase in global stature for privately-held, London-based online gaming companies like Bet365 at the expense of publicly-traded companies and private companies based in less professional jurisdictions (where it’s much harder to build world-class teams). The privately held companies will also be the ones doing all the major hires — and learning all the secret sauce recipes from the execs made redundant by the mega-mergers.
✔ Europe will continue its Balkanization trend, with each country having its own set of rules (also referred to as walled gardens in some reports). But this is of limited significance, because as of 2014, Europe will be less than 20% of the global market and these walled gardens will be the only markets open to the public companies — meaning the public companies are like fish trapped in a drying pond.
✔ The launch by (at least) one US state of its own online gambling operation will set in motion a process that ultimately undermines any attempt at instituting online gambling at the federal level — meaning every penny spent on lobbying the federal gov’t on this issue will have been a complete waste of resources.
✔ Asia will continue to grow in significance relative to all other markets and big Asian private companies will arrive on the world scene like some reenactment of “Storm from the East” — Genghis Khan’s invasion of Europe.
✔ Mobile will continue on its path to becoming the dominant way of accessing the internet.
✔ The only thing that will stop Live Dealer from continued growth will be if the world runs short of desirable women willing to flip cards in front of video cameras.
✔ More companies will follow CalvinAyre.com’s lead by switching their technical operations to eco-friendly operations like Iceland’s ThorDC. While ‘going green’ will be the public selling point, saving ‘green’ will prove the tipping point. When gaming companies realize that outfits like ThorDC offer a quality product at a cost that competes with traditional sources, switching will become a no-brainer. Pwin will even attempt to get into the act by sponsoring a clean energy initiative they’ll call Pwind Farms, which will (ahem) blow.
Other than that, nothing much in our industry will fundamentally change in 2011, which is basically what I’ve been saying for the past year. And you’ll all keep coming back to this site, because nobody makes saying nothing of substance so damn entertaining. Happy new year, everybody!