Guest Blog: New Year = new industry?

Guest Blog: New Year = new industry?

Friday, January 2, 2015 Totally Gaming

TotallyGaming.com asked betting and gambling consultant Aideen Shortt to gaze into the crystal ball of the gaming industry and predict what she expects to be the key trends to emerge from the sector in 2015.

"Although I feel I’m already boring myself at the very outset, it would be remiss of me to start any article on predicting trends for 2015 without mentioning legislation and taxation as the focal points for the next 12 months," Aideen told TotallyGaming.com.

"Throw in the constant flux of payments in established and emerging markets and you have the triumvirate of issues that have blighted this industry for more than 10 to 15 years already.

"Sometimes I feel like we’re the crew of the Apollo 13, endlessly and fruitlessly circumnavigating the same thing hoping that we’ll find workable way to get us all home safely. Ideally before we all grow old, although quite frankly, that’s not a given."

Mergers and Acquisitions

In particular, UK Point of Consumption and the new Europe-wide VAT regulations are game-changers, which will obviously lead to continued M&A activity. Last year saw the massive show-stopper deals, but in 2015 we’re going to see a continuously changing landscape. In this regard, I think Shakespeare called it right, in that there is a commonality across all his tragedies that by the end of the play all the “baddies” will be eviscerated, but to reach that point some good will also have died. While I’m not trying to draw correlations between goodies and baddies I do feel that by the time the M&A activity settles down we’ll have a vastly different marketplace and we’re certain to have lost some operators that quite simply didn’t deserve to go.

US... and California

Furthermore, unless I woke up in a parallel dimension, we’ll continue to obsess over the US market. Re-establishing the market didn’t get off to the stellar start that was hoped for, but to be fair it was so broken from UIGEA, the Wire Act, the DOJ, the Full Tilt debacle, PASPA and myriad other obstacles it’s going to take time and patience to recuperate, and when that’s all done, it’ll take even more time and patience. It’s a long game we’re playing.

That’s not likely to stop us from fixating on California as the sweet spot for the turnaround. Let’s be candid however and realise that there are three points in the next 12 months that legislation could pass – February, May and August. It’s likely to be the latter of those options in which case legislation wouldn’t be signed in until the end of the year and assuming the New Jersey pattern repeats itself a further nine months to go live. That brings us to Q4 2016. Yes, really. So let’s not build the US into our 2015 P&L quite just yet.

Platforms and Products

In terms of platforms and products, I’d like to think that the industry would finally emerge from the social gaming / real money gambling convergence hangover and simultaneously grow up and see mobile not as a “product” but as an access point. For the former consideration we have finally realised that social gaming is a very profitable venture of its own volition and a useful branding and database tool for landbased and black markets – but not one that acts as a funnel for real money gambling.

Mobile

Furthermore when it comes to the concept of mobile the consumer mind-set has moved on and so too must ours. Over the past few years we’ve traversed from “Mobile Second” to “Mobile First” to “Mobile Centric”. It’s time now proceed to “Consumer First” – accommodating all the different platforms that they move between during the journey of any typical day. “Single view” is the new darling, and the operators that will succeed will be those that start from their punter and work back through technology and not the other way around.

Crypto currencies

2015 is also likely to bring dubious forays into other headline topics, namely Bitcoin. Crypto currencies are the precious that everybody is talking about; but let’s face it, once you dig behind the hype, they are presently so far from mainstream in the gambling, or any other industry, they doesn’t deserve huge amounts of time and effort. I’m not saying that we don’t keep a close eye on developments, but at a time when operators must be increasingly responsible, transparent and strict in their multiple jurisdictions, supporting social currencies is definitely a secondary concern. While there does exist a niche market, it’s fair to say that Bitcoin gambling operations are not going to be eating the lunch of traditional operations any time soon.

Big Data

Finally the next “next big thing” is Big Data.  I sense that we’re going to be talking about this ad nauseum for the duration of 2015 and beyond.  I emphasise the word talking, because most people don’t actually know what Big Data is, let alone what to do with it.  Unlike Bitcoin however, Big Data is worth attending to.  There is so much to know about consumers, behaviours, wider online and offline activity that future victories will rest on using all available data in every aspect of our business from player acquisition and retention to product development and customer support.

In saying all this as my predictions for 2015, I’m prepared to be surprised by the end of the year. But, honestly, I don’t think I will be. We’re not the mysterious industry we’d like to think we are.

Aideen Shortt will be speaking on a panel session focusing on ‘Considering factors for successful market entry’ on Day One of ICE Totally Gaming 2015 on Tuesday, February 3. Visit www.icetotallygaming.com for further information about the session and the event.

To contact Aideen, please email: aideen.shortt@gmail.com

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