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Mobile Gambling: Understanding the role of the mobile operators

 There have been a number of obstacles, which have been known to impede the growth of mobile gambling over the years. Significantly, in an article written by Yishai Habari, Founder of 777Mobile for in October last year, the Founder of 777Mobile had categorically mentioned that mobile operating portals are "clearly the most efficient ways to generate players to our Casinos."

He had mentioned: "Mobile operators want to be in the business, but they usually don't understand or don't really take the time to truly understand our business model, needs, and support requirements. Mobile gaming is one of the only business models where the mobile operator is being paid by the provider instead of paying them. It is clear that the payment method can't be premium billing, and CC/Debit/Cash is the only way to go. If Internet Gaming was born in the US it is clear that mobile gaming was/is born in the UK."

"About 18 months ago, T-Mobile launched its mobile gaming portal with 3UK, Virgin, Samsung and recently soft launch by Orange. O2 is said to be "launching next month" (for the past two years!), and Vodaphone are "still making a decision". Meanwhile MILLIONS could be made if they would only let us do it right. At the same time I must say that they went long way and they are willing to listen to us now more than ever, however this is a very very slow game, and with the changing of personal and decision makers on regular base we are having very slow progress," he had written.

Moving on, recently' Ritesh Gupta interacted with several industry executives, who will be attending Bullet Business' 5th Mobile Gambling Summit 2008 in London in November this year, to get an insight into the same. Here is what they had to say:

Charles Cohen, CEO of Probability: I don't buy any of this stuff. It's patronising to networks - assuming they are not bright enough to see other business models - and I think obscures a more unpleasant truth about what happened in the last couple of years.

Before September 2007, the whole area was legally a grey one. Was it or was it not legal to advertise, and what could you or could you not say? Which jurisdictions were valid and which not? This was a problem, which affected the whole remote gambling industry, not just mobile. The only people guaranteed to make money were the lawyers.

Until the Gambling Act came into force, it was like the Wild West days of the mobile gambling industry. Bad behaviour by some people in the mobile gambling business in the Wild West days poisoned the well by abusing the trust given them by network operators. These "cowboys" were used to the "anything goes" freedom of Internet advertising and to the "see no evil" approach of the UK regulatory authorities, and thought they could get away with the same practices on the mobile. They thought they could not be touched. Some of the practices they indulged in were spam text messaging, misleading and sometimes illegal marketing practices and some fairly flagrant breaches of data protection regulations.
This didn't create the right impression amongst the network operators (regarding the gambling business) and they cut the cord.

Only since the Gambling Act helped legitimate gaming operators drive the cowboys out of town has the situation stabilised. It's been barely a year, but a cathartic one and I'm pleased that phase is over. The Gambling Act is good for everyone in this respect - especially consumers. The most important thing for the future of the mobile gambling industry is that it never again allows the cowboys to come to the fore.

Charles Palmer, Commercial Director, Mfuse Ltd: The network operators still lack any real understanding of gambling.

They are nervous about becoming too associated with gambling and as a result shy away. They still don't have any credible payment systems in place, e.g. the ability to deposit and withdraw from a customer's mobile account, at present reverse billed SMS charging is the only option.

Take NTT Docomo in Japan they have sophisticated payment system, which effectively turns your mobile account into a bank account.

In addition, NTT Docomo unlike UK operators haven't tried to become the 'content providers' instead focusing on connectivity and payments, whilst also making it easy for content providers to get the content onto the network.

It is not too dissimilar to the original ISP's who tried to own the content, eventually giving up and just
proving connectivity.

Chris Sheffield, CEO, Million-2-1: The operators have been confused around the area of gaming and the premium rate scandals etc. last year have not helped this area.

However, the operators do now see a major opportunity in this space and I think this is helped by the entry of respected operators such as IGT-UK into the marketplace.

Marcel Puyck, CEO, Cellectivity: Mobile operators, at least in the UK, are now moving forward with the offering of mobile gambling services.

What we are seeing is the delivery of responsible services, promoted responsibly, for the enjoyment of their customer base. It is important that the mobile operators act in this way because they form such a crucial part of the market and it can only add to the general credibility of the sector.

Customers will therefore be encouraged to see branded services being offered by their mobile operator, which can only be good news for the customer and the market.

For detailed information, visit:

Source: Wire

 Published on 08/27/2008

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