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All Happening at GIGSE

14 June 2004

by Brian Cullingworth,

InfoPowa News

All roads (and air routes) seemed to be heading to Toronto last month as the biggest online gambling event around kicked into gear attended by hundreds of delegates from around the globe.

The Global Interactive Gaming Summit and Expo commenced with sessions examining everything from payment and anti-fraud systems to marketing techniques , the US advertising crisis and the recent spam legislation in that country.

The latter was particularly interesting, because presenter Mark Grossman suggested that the US authorities had not efficiently addressed the problem by departing from the European opt-in concept. His logical arguments concluded that it would be some time before the new legislation could be made effective and be supported by case law.

US Department of Justice tactics that had adversely impacted online gambling advertising in the States came in for some criticism, too with delegates giving presenters Dave Caruthers of and respected gaming lawyer Lawrence G. Walters a standing ovation for the view that the authorities should be challenged on the correctness and justice of their present actions aimed at the media.

The traditional cocktail party at the Royal York Hotel, sponsored by Smart 2 Pay was packed, as members of the business networked frantically or just relaxed with friends and associates.

eCOGRA had a strong presence and gave several open presentations on its genuine regulatory regime, reporting on current progress and announcing the latest seal awards to what is probably the largest and most successful online casino company worldwide - Casino On Net. The eCOGRA representatives were among the most energetic around, briefing software providers and casino operators alike on the benefits of regulation.

The keynote address Tuesday was an unusual choice and dealt with an academic research study into interactive gambling by adolescents. Dr. Jeffrey Derevensky of Canada's McGill University concluded that youth gambling was more prevalent than generally thought, and could have serious life-issues for those involved. Most adolescents did not understand the dangers of gambling, and the internet made easy access possible where online sites were not vigilant. Various methods of controlling this problem were suggested, and it was important for gambling entities to take the long and responsible view in excluding minors.

The abundance of (information) riches that characterises GIGSE was evident in the many topics that were the subject of parallel sessions this year. Among the most topical was a Quova presentation on Distributed Denial of Service attacks and how to deal with them. The threat in the US and Europe was growing, and the criminals behind the activity were becoming increasingly sophisticated, necessitating a dynamic technology program to counter their efforts. In essence, the advice was be prepared - you could targeted next; consult with experts and get the right counter measures in place; do not give in to extortion; involve the ISP which is a key element and communicate with the players.

Delegates learned the nature and significance of "Ping of Death", "Teardrop", "SYN", "Smurf" and "UDP Flood" attacks, but the good news is that the damage initiated by DDoS raids can be contained and limited if an intelligent counter plan is in place.

Useful advice for operators can be had at who are experts in this field.

The Expo Hall opened at midday and the first thing that many delegates commented on was the absence of Boss Media, the Swedish turnkey provider which has previously been high profile at this key event.

Nevertheless the Expo Hall was packed, with more processing companies than usual, but a great turnout of the main providers, too. We took a walk around the stands and talked to staffers on hand.

Microgaming had a brand new look with a very attractive stand that showcased both the casino and poker products on hi-tech interactive equipment. Expect to see at least another five brand new games by end June, many of them with feature-rich innovations on the video slot theme that has proved so successful for them. There'll be something new for the VP fans, too and the graphics are outstanding on all the new offerings.

Neteller had a huge "Internet Cafe" presence that emphasised their major move into the European market. This popular payment solution is now available in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, Scandinavia, Finland and Turkey, with Russia and Poland scheduled to join the list soon. Neteller has added to its credibility by submitting itself to the stringent regulation of the Financial Services Board on the Isle of Man.

Swedish turnkey provider Net Entertainment has clearly been active since the ICE show in January and has very fast and effective cell phone gambling on demo featuring VP and Blackjack, with the hint of more to come. But what was pulling the crowds to their stand was a sleek, big screen kiosk which could bring Internet gambling and other entertainment to places like pubs. Branded the kiosk connects to Net Entertainment servers to furnish 5 or 6 popular games which have colourful and razor sharp graphics. The company is moving from Java to Flash technology.

The Spanish CIRSA company was also promoting their kiosk product and casino games suites. The company is showcasing an growing range of products and representatives were keen to discuss the professional approach of this turnkey provider.

Making its first appearance this year was the recently launched Inside Edge gambling monthly magazine from the UK. All of three months old, the magazine is enjoying growing popularity, features online gambling and has a print run of 50 000 a month.

DCEG-Parlay were showcasing their core bingo products as well as their download and Flash casino games, which again showed off outstandingly sharp and realistic graphics. The Oakville-based company now has some 25 licensees including UK based clients looking forward to the gambling reforms in that country.

Playtech had a large but mainly hospitality focused stand, but there did not appear to have been too many new developments since the ICE show back in January.

Real Time Gaming's CEO was the most conspicuous, largely because he zoomed around the hall on an appropriately hi-tech Segway scooter. Back at the very large RTG stand, the list of casino brands seems to grow every year.

Technical manager Mike McMain courteously showed us around and gave the latest information on the ICE-previewed new feature-rich video slot codenamed Igor the Monster Shack. This one is really something different but players will have to wait until the Fall to get their hands on it as that is its launch slot. RTG have a number of new games, most with 6 language capability coming up including a Win A Million game and a totally revamped Keno offering.

RTG multi-hand Blackjack has a new feature where two hands at a time can be played. Not content with that, Mike's Men have included technology through which any "slack" periods can be filled by calling up seperate slot game windows to play literally "on the side" on the screen ! There will be at least two games releases this year. Microgaming have a similar product which they call "soft games".

Cryptologic's Ken Cavaco showed us around some interesting "multigame" ideas this leading provider has just launched at, combining online bingo with a VP side game which can be played while the bingo action unfolds. This concept looks as if it could be catching on. And look out for plenty more feature-rich video slots from subsidiary Wagerlogic in the near future.

The signage on the Orbis Openbet stand read like a Who's Who of the sportsbook world, with most of the big names in the business in the UK using this platform. Mick d"Ancona the VP Product and Development walked us through this comprehensive system and talked about the huge potential for live betting and interactive television fixed odds gaming in the sportsbook industry. Openbet are ensuring compliance with all regulatory regimes and constantly improving and evolving their technologies, with attention to the management and data-mining capabilities.

Another provider in this important market is Gibraltar based Adanced Betting Platform from Laverock and von Schultz. MD Simon Ordfish told us that they were working with Victor Chandler with their hi-tech product, paying attention to live betting and iTV possibilities and a sophisticated real time banking system. His K.I.S.S. approach belies a strong and innovative approach to using hi-technology solutions in the industry.

With so much information and networking opportunities available it is perhaps inevitable that the time flies at events like the Global Interactive Gaming and Summit Expo, and that was certainly true in Toronto as delegates attended the final day of this outstanding industry event.

Two excellent presentations on the current legislative situation in the key UK and USA markets from Washington lobbyist Daniel Walsh and British gaming attorney Tony Coles updated delegates. The USA scene remains uncertain, but the general feeling was that whilst Senator Jon Kyl remains a formidable adversary for the industry, he is seriously overloaded with anti-terrorism duties at present and, combined with an election later in the year it is unlikely that a US ban will happen in 2004.

In the UK, it was emphasised that all developments thus far had been part of the consultation and scrutiny process, but that the future looked promising for a more sensible gambling law regime that should open the UK to Internet gambling and have positive effects on other jurisdictions. A possible timetable might be:

The regulations and taxation questions still demand a great deal of work, and a Gambling Commission will have to be set up but the Bill itself could go before Parliament as early as September this year.

The UK Budget presentation for 2005 could introduce an appropriate tax regime which will probably be consistent with other gambling taxation at around 15 percent, and by summer 2006 the Bill could have an easy passage through Parliament thanks to the extensive consultation process to which it has been subjected. It would not be unreasonable to anticipate a Gambling Commission in place and the new law operating by end 2006.

The current European cross-border sovereignty issue was examined by Belgian lawyer Peter de Wael, with the conclusion that things were moving in a positive direction but the bureaucracy involved and the differing case law interpretation will inevitably make this a long drawn out process. The regulation vs banning gulf between European attitudes and the USA position was stressed. De Wael illustrated the rising dissatisfaction with the situation by outlining the significant increase in complaints to the EU regarding attempts to block the free flow of Internet gambling business in some countries.

GIGSE in the past has anticipated major waves of progress in Internet gambling such as P2P in 2002, Poker in 2003 and this year the word has been Bingo, with many new and improved products from various providers. Betting exchanges, where gamblers can bet against other gamblers on everything from political elections to reality TV show results remain a contentious but active area, and several discussions and presentations considered the legal as well as business implications of the sector. Anthony Novac delivered a particularly thought provoking presentation.

The regulatory bodies were there in some force, with officials from The Isle of Man, Alderney, Kahnawake and Cagayan, and newcomer self-regulatory body eCOGRA. The talk was not so much about the need for genuine regulation which is recognised as a real industry imperative, but how the regulations devised by each can be harmonised to present an international standard for the protection of the player and the efficient operation of casinos.

Back in the Expo Hall, IGW was showcasing the latest iteration of their highly flexible casino and sportsbook management platform, which can be adapted to any gaming software. IGW offer their own Java casino software with a suite of 40 games, which is to be beefed up with some exciting new additions to 58 by July this year. The new games will have feature rich video slots with extra bonus screens to meet the latest trends.

Many observers have been commenting on the noticeable reduction in the number of complaints about Real Time Gaming casinos recently, and the reason is apparently because this well-established software provider has been doing some real housekeeping, introducing new and more player-sensitive dispute systems, being more selective in licensees and motivating their licensees to more consumer-aware business practices.

The last day of any GIGSE is traditionally marked by a general session in which industry experts are encouraged to do some crystal ball gazing, and this time organiser Sue Schneider from River City Group pegged the year 2010 as the timeframe.

Central themes in the predictions were that regulation, and a "harmonized" regulation that can be applied across international boundaries would be critical to the continued progress and success of the business.

The articulate Gord Herman, CEO of Neteller opined that legalisation in key markets such as USA and Asia was key to development, and that this was assuming increasing importance as younger. well educated and technically savvy generations came into the gambling entertainment ambit and created international acceptance. Neteller itself took the initiative of obtaining a Financial Services Board licencing in the UK with the stringent, bank like self-regulation that this requires.

He stressed the importance of honest, transparent operations with player accounts strictly segregated from operational funds. He was positive for the industry and said that player-sensitivity was growing, more pressure was being brought to bear for regulation rather than bans and that the picture going forward was looking invcreasingly attractive by the year.

Betfair's Steve Ives said that betting exchanges had been a revolutionary development, but that this phase was largely past and the future would be of a more evolutionary nature. The sector would remain highly competitive, and at least some of the more traditional betting organisations would inevitably find themselves drawn in.

There would be many startups...and many failures by those who had underestimated the complexities of this business model, and in the end the sector would be dominated by 2 to 3 large outfits, with no more than 10 enjoying significant business success, perhaps with some specialisation. Horse racing will have undergone significant change by 2010 and will have embraced exchanges with in-running betting.

Aldernet regulator Andre Wilsenach reiterated the critical importance of uniform, efficiently applied regulation for online gambling operations that wished to be successful, and painted a positive picture of the industry going forward, stressing that US payment problems had not crippled the industry.

He predicted continued market consolidation leading to fewer but bigger brands in operational units and software providers. Poker would develop strongly and require specialised regulation in some areas. Wilsenach revealed that in the early 'nineties there had been around 50 governments that licensed i-net gaming, but that this has increased to 72, requiring a common regulatory regime if maximum credibility and efficiency was to be achieved.

He said that regulation was a real desire on the part of players and casinos alike and would benefit the industry and have positive impact on the US penchant for bans. Regulators from a number of jurisdictions would be getting together next month in an attempt to arrive at mutually acceptable regulations for conduct and software fairness testing.

Chartwell Technology new CEO Lee Richardson held out an interesting research study that indicated that today's consumer has shorter "packages" of freetime and therefore had changing habits in the way in which leisure time was used. In his opinion this would fuel the need for faster, more intense gaming experiences through mobile and therefore more convenient and accessible technology. "Games will have to be punchy and quick" he said, explaining that the new gamblers were increasingly tech-savvy and accepting of this sort of vehicle. iTV will be big, too. The UK gambling reforms would have far reaching international as well as national effects, perhaps influencing the US legislators.

Con Kafartaris of SportOdds predicted significant growth with Asia making a major contribution once a successful strategy for accessing the market had been evolved. He highlighted the huge amount of publicity that sports and sporting related events generated every day throughout the world and suggested that mobile betting and live betting, together with iTV would be areas of massive expansion going into the future as more technically oriented generations joined the market.

Stand-alone online casino sites would decline unless they added sports betting to their offering for a more rounded and comprehensive product. He felt that there were significant creative opportunities inherent in the popularity of Reality TV shows if that were harnessed to tournaments or gambling synergistic projects.

There would be more land-based combined with online gambling, and that was already manifesting itself in land casinos where one "Rapid Roulette" table was surrounded by playing consoles - the possibilities for this were virtually limitless in "live over the Internet" scenarios. "We have only just begun to scratch the surface", he said.

GIGSE ended with a charity personality Sumo contest, and the industry dug deep in sponsoring this for charity (this year it is for Gamcare) $31 000 has already been pledged.

GIGSE 2004 has once again delivered an interesting mix of professionally useful information backed by the very valuable opportunity for industry people to get together both socially and in a business sense.

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