Mobile Online Gambling Finally to Have its Day?

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Nov/28/2008

The following is an editorial piece by Gambling911.com Publisher Christopher Costigan related to mobile online gambling.

Since the late 1990's, mobile gaming has always been talked about in the realm of online gambling and its day may finally have come with the advent of Blackberries and the iPhone. 

"For at least five years the gambling industry has touted mobile gambling as the next big thing," writes Joe Saumarez-Smith of VegasInsider.com for a commentary appearing on Bloomberg, though we here at Gambling911.com can unequivocally state it's been a lot longer than five years. 

"It somehow never really took off," he adds.  "While hundreds of thousands of people use mobiles to access Facebook, Google and social networking sites such as the U.K.'s Flirtomatic every day, betting on mobiles has made only a tiny impact on the worldwide gambling industry."

The fact that mobile gaming has taken so long to be embraced shouldn't come as much of a surprise.  Paradise Poker and a handful of other "clunky" online poker rooms were around well before today's true "poker craze" really ever took off (courtesy of Chris Moneymaker, the World Poker Tour and two innovative rooms, PartyGaming and PokerStars). 

"This will be huge some day!" I recall one person saying of online poker's potential. 

Paradise was "huge" back in the day but that's because they had little if any competition.  Neither could their software compare to today's big name brands.  Back then, the so-called "poker bots" were also coming into their own, perhaps ahead of the room technology itself. 

But getting back to mobile gaming, I always laughed whenever this was discussed.  The technology was simply not there to support such an innovation. 

At the 5th Annual Mobile Gambling Summit held in London last week, Saumarez-Smith claims that presenters and attendees alike were sounding off the same optimism.

"Could they finally be right?" he asks.

I say "Yes".  I'm actually surprised it hasn't happened already within the last year.  A clampdown on our industry could be holding things back a bit.

Charles Palmer, co-founder of Mfuse, a mobile gaming software developer, said "`In the past year our clients have taken more than 100 million pounds in bets through mobile devices, which suggests the market is developing very quickly,'' he said in an interview. ``We are developing casino and bingo applications for launch next year and we see real evidence that users are very enthusiastic about mobile gaming.''

If you know people with iPhones or happen to have one yourself, it's easy to understand why mobile gaming would suddenly start to explode.  These phones are amazing.  They do just about everything outside of cooking dinner (that will probably be next year's innovation).  I was on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach last week and I've never seen it so dead (the economy no doubt a factor).  Yet when I stepped into the Mac Store, the place was bustling like nothing I have ever seen.  When the iPhone first came out, lines stretched around the block.

"Industry experts agree that until recently the quality of handsets and the speed of interactivity meant that the gaming experience on mobiles wasn't attractive to consumers, Saumarez-Smith recounted from last week's conference. 

``Figuring out how to get playable speeds has taken the company years,'' said Matt Welch, chief operating officer of U.K.-based Cecure Gaming Ltd., which offers poker on mobiles. ``We now have a 0.2 second delay for a decision in poker, which is pretty much the same speed as online. Four years ago that delay was 16 seconds, which meant a hand of poker could take as long as 20 minutes. Obviously no one wanted to play at those speeds.''

Make no mistake about it, mobile gambling will eventually boost revenues at online gambling firms significantly.  One of the biggest obstacles (and least talked about) facing our industry in recent years has been one's inability to access online gambling websites via their computers during work hours (9-5 or later).  The vast majority of companies today now incorporate firewalls and "gambling" along with "sex" are typically the primary targets.  That won't be an issue with mobile phones (unless someone gets the idea to start censoring mobile content). 

There is more great news down the pike as we head into 2009.  Airlines are now falling over one another to implement reliable in-flight web access.  You'll soon be able to play poker during those long flights from LA to New York as a "captive customer".

Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher

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