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Mark Balestra

The Best and Worst of 2007

11 January 2008

See also:
A Look Back at 2007
Top Stories of 2007
A Glance at 2008

Blasts from the Pasts
Previous Winners:

*A batch of spoiled eggnog served at River City Group's '02 Pre-Holiday office party left the members of 'IGN's Best of/Worst of department fighting for their lives through the duration of December and therefore unable to complete their list that year.

Region/Jurisdiction on the Rise
Despite the controversy, conflict and commotion in Italy in recent years, the country took some major strides toward becoming a major hub for I-gaming. The big splash was the issuing of thousands of sports betting licenses, but the country also passed a skill games law that encompasses poker.

Previous Winners: South Africa (2006), Tasmania (2005), North America (2004), Caribbean (2003), Europe (2001)

Region/Jurisdiction on the Decline
United States
Is an explanation really necessary? I think not.

Previous Winners: Continental Europe (2006), United Kingdom (2005), Antigua (2004), Isle of Man (2003), Caribbean (2001)

Best Marketing
Unibet was all over the news throughout the year because of its controversial sponsorship campaigns in Europe. The most notable story, of course, was its ongoing tiff with the French government. The Tour de France sponsorship clash and the arrest of Unibet's CEO gave the company more headline real estate than any other business of its size and nature.

Previous Previous Winners: bwin (2006) Paddy Power (2005), Golden Palace (2001, 2003, 2004)

Worst Marketing
It was a rough year for online gambling mogul Calvin Ayre and his business, Bodog. In addition to the UIGEA-related plights experienced by the rest of the industry (although Bodog has fared better than others because it has a proprietary payment solution), the company lost its domain names in an IP dispute with 1st Technology. While Ayre's blog at is a fine marketing tool, his using the blog to blast 1st Technology's CEO (including name calling and challenging him to a fight) doesn't present him or his company in a good light. It is below what you'd come to expect from an industry leader and a respected member of the business community.

Previous Winners: bwin (2006), B-List Celebrity Endorsements (2005), Paradise Poker (2004), Ladbrokes (2003), Bentley Communications (2001)

Worst Policy
China is missing the boat on Internet gambling. It's the world's most exciting market, and operators are lining up to get a piece, but no one seems to know exactly what is and isn't allowed. All gambling is illegal in the PRC, yet the government has, in a very inconsistent manner, made certain exceptions. Could one of those exceptions be certain forms of Internet gambling? Is anyone brave/crazy enough to test the waters?

Previous Winners: United States (2006, 2001), United Kingdom (2005), European Union (2004), Greece (2003),

Most Resilient
Formerly the industry's dominant payment processor, Neteller was crushed by a series of misfortunes in the United States that would have killed a lesser company. Its founders were arrested, its accounts were frozen, and when the dust settled, it was on the hook for over $200 million. Plus, it had to turn its back on the majority of its customers. While the company has seen much better times, the fact that it is still standing, and managing to pay back its U.S. customers, is an impressive feat.

Previous Winners: David Carruthers (2006), Betfair (2004, 2005), Youbet (2003), World Gaming/Starnet (2001).

Best Acquisition
Non-US Customers
With M&A activity generally brushed aside during difficult times, the only logical candidate for this category is once again customers based outside the United States.

Previous Winners: Non-US Customers (2006), Ongame (2005), Paradise Poker (2004), Centrebet (2003), GoCorp (2001)

Biggest Splash
Antigua's WTO complaint against the United States seemed inconsequential when lodged in 2003, and remained that way for years, but the case has snowballed into something huge. For starters, the WTO's ruling on the matter has been so problematic for the United States that it had to withdraw gambling services from its WTO commitments. The ruling also had a bearing on policy development, and has been a factor in debates over both regulatory and prohibitive legislation. Further, the European Union's related complaint and subsequent agreement with the United States signify the ruling's global implications.

Previous Winners: Bill Frist (2006), Empire Online (2005), poker (2003, 2004), Playboy (2001)

Best Neighbor
European Union
The EU wins in this category for the same reason England won in 2007. Those backing Antigua in its WTO battle with the United States were hopeful that getting larger governments behind Antigua's efforts was the key to success. The European Union could have been a major factor, but Brussels and Washington came to terms in December on a deal through which Europe essentially agreed to look the other way.

Previous Winners: United Kingdom (2006), Albania (2005), Canadian Lotteries (2004), Pacific Racing Jurisdictions (2003)

Worst Neighbor
United States
There's no reason to change anything from last year. This is exactly what we wrote: "In addition to continuing to ignore Antigua vs. U.S. WTO decision, the U.S. government is now arresting I-gaming execs from companies operating legally in other countries. That makes this the easiest category to pick this year."

Previous Winners: United States (2006, 2004), Victoria, Australia (2005), Australia (2003)

Company of the Year
888 had a positively strong year, both off and on the indices. In October, the London-listed group launched its Italy-facing sports book--one among a series of white-label deals with groups like Riley's (United Kingdom), Tower Torneos (Latin America) and Blue Square (United Kingdom). On the LSE, 888's shares continue to gain momentum on the back of quarter-on-quarter growth and have regained nearly 42 percent of their value since the UIGEA was enacted in October 2006. To kick off 2008, the company announced a partnership agreement with Entertasia to develop a live, Asia-facing casino service and sports book.

Previous Winners: Ladbrokes (2006), PartyGaming (2004, 2005), Betfair (2003), Access Gaming Systems (2001)

The Best and Worst of 2007 is republished from
Mark Balestra
Mark Balestra is the Managing Director at BolaVerde Media Group. He previously worked at Clarion Gaming and the River City Group where he was the publisher of iGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Mark Balestra
Mark Balestra is the Managing Director at BolaVerde Media Group. He previously worked at Clarion Gaming and the River City Group where he was the publisher of iGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.