”Change is on the Cards,” a 1,000-page report released Saturday by Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, indicates that the current economic crisis could be a boon for online gambling.
According to the report, the world gambling market is set to grow from $345 billion in net profit in 2007 to $433 billion by 2012. However, the GBGC cautions, this growth will be primarily in the Internet-gambling industry and will be offset by a negative trend in land-based casinos’ profits.
“The slowdown in the USA,” GBGC Chief Executive Warwick Bartlett said, “will hit the pockets of Americans, and Las Vegas will feel the effect of that along with high energy costs and a transportation system reliant on road and air travel.
”The U.S. has not invested sufficiently in high-speed rail, and destination resorts, going forward, will suffer as the cost of carbon-based fuels continues to be an issue of cost and supply.”
Bartlett’s projections seem almost epimethean considering the bad news out of Las Vegas these days. Sin City staple Foxwoods Resort Casino has reportedly laid-off 700 employees, after hiring some 2,000 personnel to staff its MGM Grand expansion. Meanwhile, high roller Las Vegas Sands’ shares slipped to a 52-week low Friday, prompting the company’s CEO, Sheldon Andelson, to cut a $475 million personal bailout check of his own.
But Bartlett also opined that the U.K. gambling establishment is ill equipped to avoid the bear market’s claws. Although British consumers are better off for the British industry’s probity, social responsibility and the value they offer, he says U.K. books have lost their chance to attract international consumers.
”The bookmakers in October 2001 did a deal with then-Chancellor Gordon Brown to repatriate their Internet gambling sites back to the U.K.,” Bartlett said. “Now bookmakers are losing market share to offshore operators and the government needs to rethink its strategy.”
Bartlett said the winner in this craps shoot seems to be primarily offshore books, who have been able to reinvest their tax savings into marketing to draw off other books’ customers.
“The current ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ is not working in my view,” Bartlett said. ”The U.K. is missing the chance to create jobs, wealth and taxation in a sustainable industry.”
As for the EU, “Change is on the Cards” forecasts that the European online-gambling market will expand as the European Courts of Justice ruling that gamblers are entitled to the same guarantees of choice and value begin to sink in with EU member states.
At the same time, the Asian market, the report says, will continue to benefit from expansion like the two major casinos springing up in Singapore. And loosening gambling laws in nations like Japan— which the report projects is only five years away from legalizing gambling—will add thousands of new consumers to the market.
Yet, while economic woes seem to be at the crux of such trends, the report credits consumer preference with online gambling’s rise. Falling broadband prices and an ever-encroaching ban on smoking in land-based European and U.S. casinos has created the ideal climate for online operators.