Here we are, at the end of a three day immersion into the current and developing status of the regulated online gambling market in America. Over the course of the past few days, delegates from all walks of life- American operators, European operators, regulators, tribes, payment processors, media and other service providers- gathered at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco to collaborate.
The main event of day three was the GiGse Start-up Launchpad, a two hour session during which five start-ups pitched their companies to a panel of investors and the general audience. At the conclusion of the pitches, the investors provided their feedback on which start-up they would be most inclined to invest in and why, followed by the audience vote which determined the winner.
For this year’s Launch Pad the five companies included NEXRF, an “indoor aware mobile marketing platform” that bridges the real world with the online world, InAppFuel, a software development kit that helps developers create “mini games” to increase in app purchases and retention, TouchSpin Gaming, an innovation in “multiplayer slot machine gaming” with a seasoned team of industry vets behind it, Neo Poker Lab Corp, a mobile poker “zynga poker meets candy crush” app that uses Artificial Intelligence to teach poker, also backed by a season team of industry vets and endorsed by Chris Moneymaker and finally Action Reserve, the parent company of SportsPlayz.com , Bitcoin powered sportsbook software for land based and online casinos.
The two strongest pitches came from TouchSpin Gaming and Neo Poker Lab Corp with the crown going to Neo Poker Bot, mostly because the idea proved to be the most innovative of the group and the concept has been ten years in the making. The Neo Poker Lab Corp team was delighted with the recognition and the investors appeared satisfied with results of the popular vote.
After lunch, the sessions focused on California from a regulatory perspective and from an online poker landscape perspective.The “California- getting closer to legalization?” session this afternoon was packed, despite the fact that it was one of the last sessions of GiGse. Unsurprisingly, the debate on Bad Actors and the Amaya/PokerStars deal were both discussed on the panel, but without any new information emerging. As Mark Macarro of Pechanga said, “There is widespread disagreement about the notion of Bad Actors in California” and that just about sums it all up.
When asked for their opinion on the Sheldon Adelson campaign against iGaming, panellist Haig Kelegian of the Bicycle Club mentioned the nickname “Seldom Sheldon” because Adelson rarely remains on the same side of an issue for a long time- he sticks with whatever is in his best interest. Kelegian believes Adelson does not have any business dictating what goes on in California from an online gambling perspective and that California will not let him do so.
Thoughts on Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s launch of PrivateTable.com were also discussed, although some of the panellists had not even heard the news until this morning. Macarro said the information available online is simply regurgitated PR and the backstory is that the tribe used to run a remote casino in Californiabut they had to shut their doors in February likely due to location issues. “Our hearts go out to those guys”, he empathised.
However, Macarromentionedthat people often bring up that tribes do not need federal or state approval to launch online poker, but what about the people betting from off tribal land, he said? It sound like the whole path of avoiding state and/or federal approval will likely lead Santa Ysabel to court and having to shut down the site. “Its not worth the time and money to go down that road- we need a clear legal basis to so something- anything” and if not, people will be reluctant to pass on their credit card details, Macarro said.
Panellist Robyn Black also made the point that if Morongo and Pechanga have not launched online poker sites already, its probably not the right thing to do…but that she will leave it to the regulators to comment.
When asked by the audience if other tribes will jump on board should there be no backlash, Macarro confirmed Pechanga would not hop on the bandwagon because there is too much at stake and too many jobs at risk. “It’s a fools game- its only a matter of time”, he said.Victor Rocha of Penchanga.net who was listening in on the session agreed with Macarro’s words and said he believes the site will get shut down and that unfortunately the biggest losers in this game will be the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel.
The “Envisioning iPoker in California” session followed the lively legislation session and panellist Alex Dreyfus, CEO of Global Poker Index and ten year veteran of the online poker industry, strongly feels that the California market is different from the other state and therefore should be treated differently. Rather than studying the success and failures of online poker in the regulated US states, California should study the models of online poker in the established European markets as the ecosystems will be similar.
When reflecting back on our busy three days in San Francisco, after attending a number of sessions, interacting with exhibitors and chatting with delegates, from my perspective people were generally happy with GiGse- especially with the conference program- and look forward to returning next year. We were pleased too and look forward to seeing you there.