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 Bulletbusiness.com 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
Moving on, recently Bulletbusiness.com' 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
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
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
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.
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