What will be the outcome of the battle between .COM and .Country? Is social gaming a must-have for operators? How can we invest in the current regulatory uncertainty? These are some of the gaming law topics that I had the opportunity to discuss during the ICE Gaming Conference just finished in London.
You may have a different view but these are my top 5 takeaways from the conference:
1. .COM vs .COUNTRY – is the end of .COM so close?
With the upcoming setting up of the licensing regime in the UK, the general comment from the attendees was that if an operator wants to offer its games in Europe, it will be quite hard to rely anymore on a so called European license. Therefore operators will be “forced” to get a country specific license especially in their top countries. Also, the new approach adopted by European gaming regulators against the “black market” might render operators and game suppliers’ life more difficult.
An harmonization in the approach between gaming regulators will be crucial in order to create common technical standards and compliance obligations so that the entrance into a new market does not become a major barrier for medium/small sized operators.
2. Mobile gaming will still grow…, a lot!
It is not time anymore to discuss whether an operator can afford not to have a mobile gaming platform. This is now a must-have, but the big question is how much room for growth is still out there unexploited. The answer seems to be “a lot” especially in countries like Italy with one of the largest number of mobile phones in Europe if compared to the population. The pace of such growth is likely to depend on the timing of implementation of 4G networks in the different jurisdictions.
3. Is social gaming a must-have?
A year ago the entire industry was 100% focused on social gaming and any major real money operator was considering to launch its own platform. I got the impression that a slightly lower interest is currently around, but maybe because operators still need to understand how to make social gaming really profitable and they are too busy at the moment on their real money platforms.
4. Regulatory uncertainty is the main restriction to expansion
With every major Government threatening to increase taxes, limit advertising, restrict the location of gaming halls every now and then it is difficult for operators to plan their future investments. The general message that operators tried to convey during the ICE is that the gaming industry should be respected as any other industry. Responsible gaming measures are necessary but regulators should identify the right balance between business needs and consumers’ protection.
5. Aggregation vs. Start-ups
Major operators are looking at M&A transactions in order to increase their market share especially in markets where they were late entrants. At the same time we saw some interesting start-ups which show that in a market where the general comment is that there is nothing new to be invented, there are on the contrary still good of opportunities for those able to think outside the box.
These are my top 5 takeaways but I would be interested in hearing your view on additional insights gained from the conference.