GiGse 2014 Day One Summary

GiGse 2014 Day One Summary is back in San Francisco, in town for GiGse 2014, the event of the year dedicated to the regulated online gambling industry in America.  Today hundreds of delegates, mostly Americans, some Canadians, a few Europeans, operators, suppliers, regulators, legislators and media graced the expo hall and conference floor.

The layout of the event consisted of one floor dedicated to booths, refreshments, lunch and networking while the floor above served as a dedicated conference room and atrium.  Both floors felt full, especially the conference room where it was a challenge to find an open chair at any point throughout the day.  Delegates were commenting on the quality of speakers today, with panels featuring big names from the regulated and soon-to-be-regulated American online gambling market.

There are a decent number of booths to check out this year, mostly service providers and many of them exhibiting for the first time ever at GiGse.  This year Clarion has dedicated a lot of focus to start ups and innovators in the industry, with the Start-up Launch Pad on Wednesday and with a dedicated “Start-up Zone” in the expo hall area.

One of the new products on display in the Start-Up zone is Riftsino, The world’s first Virtual Reality Casino.  To experience the wonders of Virtual Reality players must wear special glasses and get used to the feel of the technology, but once you get going, its as if you’re playing blackjack live at a Las Vegas casino.  Founder Jeff Lande explained that players can enjoy games while socializing with other players and that his offerings will go beyond blackjack and eventually include games such as poker, slots and sports betting.

Today’s GiGse sessions focused on the politics in America behind online gambling, regulatory harmonization and interstate compacting.  The “political insight” panel featured former Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown, former Governor of Pennsylvania Edward Rendell and former governor of Nevada Bob Miller.  By leaps and bounds the most engaging panellist was Rendell, dishing out several classic one-liners such as “You can’t be a little bit pregnant” in response to limiting online gambling regulation to “poker-only”.

Rendell echoed many of the sentiments of Rep. Youngblood in this interview, pointing out that Pennsylvania surprisingly generates the second highest revenue from gambling in America.  He added that the gambling industry in PA has created jobs, lowered property taxes for seniors, eliminated school property tax for seniors and lowered all property tax for Pennsylvanians.  “Gambling has been a tremendous success in Pennsylvania”, he said.

Despite these high revenue numbers and all the gambling going on in the state, there are very few cases of problem gambling in PA.  Rendell referred to a Harvard study with results showing that exposure is not the driving force behind gambling addiction and that there are always ways to feed your addiction.  Therefore one can assume that adding an online gambling offering within the state will not increase problem gambling cases.

When it comes to online gambling regulation, Rendell explained that despite any attempt at prohibition, gambling will exist, in fact it already exists with internationally regulated sites, so lets regulate it and provide the best protection for players.

In response to any land based casinos afraid of cannibalization, Rendell made the comparison to the movie/VRC relationship- the VCR did not kill the movie theatre industry- people still go to the movies because it’s a shared experience. “People want that shared experience”, he said.

Another topic covered in the sessions today was the importance of harmonization within the American regulated online gambling industry.  Brian Mattingley, CEO of 888 Holdings, said that its our job to prove to future regulators that the system works.  He said we need a common approach to things like registration and payments and if we can identify this common approach, a lot of our problems would go away.  Introduce what we’re doing in the three states now to the regulators of other states and make it the standard- give them a blueprint and make it easy for them, he suggested.

Mattingley also shared that it currently costs 888 Holdings 50-60 million a year to operate in the US, a staggeringly large number when you consider the return at this stage in the game.  It should come as no surprise that companies like his are eager for more states to regulate, and fast.

Panellist Susan Hensel, the Director of Licensing, Pennsylvania Gaming Commission, agreed with Mattingley and echoed that its on us to help the regulators understand the industry as much as they can.

Representative Jim Waldman (Fl), President, National Council of Legislators from Gaming States delivered some actionable advice to the audience, explaining that most legislators work part time and that they have other jobs with different areas of their responsibility.  To make the most of their limited time, deliver your points as quickly as you can, send an email in five sentences or less, make appointments with them and don’t be late for those appointments, even if they are.

The subject of interstate compacting was also covered today, something that A.G. Burnett, Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, is truly looking forward to.  While there are plans for an 888 powered Nevada Poker Network in the works, A. G. is most excited for an interstate compact with Delaware and hopefully the domino effect that this compact will cause within America once its completed.  Its hard work he said, but we’ll be seeing the results soon, hopefully by end of year he predicts.