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Gaming Companies Position Themselves to Take Advantage of Mobile Gaming Growth

On January 15th, 2008, for at least the next 5 years, the gaming industry has stated mobile gaming as the next big area of growth in the gaming industry. Profit from people enjoying poker, roulette, blackjack or betting their money on sports on their mobile phones would be big in the next 12 months, according to gaming industry experts. But it somehow never gained popularity. While hundred of thousands of individuals utilized their mobile phones to access Facebook, Google and other networking sites like Great Britain's Flirtomatic everyday, wagering on mobile phones has made only a small impact on the global gaming industry.

At the fifth yearly Mobile Gaming Summit in London, industry officials were promoting the same optimism about the future growth of the mobile gaming industry. Could they have hit the mark this time? Charles Palmer, the co-founder of Mfuse, a mobile gambling software developer focused on sports wagering, thinks so. Palmer said that in the past year, their clients have received more than one hundred million pounds in wagers through mobile phones, which only shows that the market is growing slowly but surely. He added that they are currently making casino and bingo gaming applications and they see solid evidence that players are very happy about mobile gambling. Mfuse's clients include some of the well-known gaming companies in the world including Ladbrokes Plc, Gala Coral Group Limited, William Hill Plc, Bet365 Group Limited and Rank Group Plc's Mecca division.

Mfuse recently attracted investment from online gaming pioneer Mark Blandford, the head of Sportingbet.com. The panelists at the London conference agreed that the mass acceptance of mobile gambling was probably 3 to 4 years off. One of the main problems for mobile gaming's mass acceptance in Great Britain is waiting for the generation of mobile-savvy teens to reach the age of eighteen, at which they can now legally bet on their mobile phones. Gaming experts agree that until only just recently, the quality of handsets and the speed of the World Wide Web meant that the overall gambling experience on mobile phones was not attractive to players.

The debut of Apple Inc.'s iPhone was credit as a major driver in getting people to download new applications on their mobile phones. Matt Welch, the chief operating officer of Britain-based Cecure Gaming Limited, which offer the game of poker on mobile phones said that figuring out how to create a playable poker speed on mobile phones has taken them a lot of years. From the perspective of a gaming operator, attracting clients to bet with their mobile phones is important because it improve the lifetime worth of a customer by a factor of 2 or 3. Richard Hewitt, the mobile product manager for Betfair, the world's biggest betting exchange said that it is valuable for mobile gaming companies to convert a player to mobile gaming.

Hewitt added that mobile wagering is currently one of the most important things for their organization. The Senior Product Manager at British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc's Skybet, Pritpal Bains stated that only a minimum percent of their customers utilize mobile gaming but they expect it to grow steadily once they have the appropriate services in place.

Perhaps the big break on the mass adoption of mobile gaming will be the personal attitude of the mobile operators. In Great Britain, gaming organizations and software providers complain that for years, gaming operators like France Telecom's SA's Orange and Vodafone Group Plc have tried to protect their players from gaming content and therefore stalled the adoption of mobile gaming.

In the past twelve months, the mobile operators have begun offering gaming content on their own portals and Vodafone launched a betting portal recently. But even then, gaming organizations are wary of what their customers might think. Vodafone restricts marketing links to casino-type services between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., although links to sports wagering are allowed during the day. American players are unlikely to see these brand new gaming innovations soon.

The biggest mobile gambling software companies refuse to accept US players because of questions of legality of these gaming services in the United States and it is very likely that U.S. phone companies would block any gaming sites immediately. So for now, the growth of the mobile gambling market seems confined to Europe and Asian countries that allow it.

 

02/22/2009, Sunday

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