States’ poker focus too blinkered

Marc PedersenSBC affiliate correspondent Marc Pedersen reports from the iGaming North America show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

I’ve only been out at the iGaming North America conference for one day, but already I’m getting a good feel for how the market is setting itself with regards to the opening up on online gaming.

While there is lots of media coverage about this state allowing online gaming and that state discussing liberalisation, there is less recognition that most of the talk seems to be surrounding just one product – online poker.

Obviously most of the country isn’t yet at the position to have a progressive debate on the merits of online sportsbooks, given the extensive ban on betting across many states, but I don’t think believe that many realise the revenue potential in casino.

Many states are only focusing on poker – which raises a couple of issues. First up is that despite what most states think, they won’t be able to go it alone for liquidity (although cross-border agreements are starting to emerge), which makes casino an obvious alternative. Secondly they haven’t really taken any notice of how poker has developed in Europe. While poker is very much an American heritage game, it seems a little foolish to ignore the problems that the product might come up against.

Of course the biggest problem that online poker, or any online gaming for that matter, is coming up against is Las Vegas Sands Corp, which provided one of the most interesting talking points of the day.

Sheldon Adelson’s campaign against online gaming has been much discussed and his spokesperson on the matter, Sands Vice President of Government Affairs Andy Abboud, was confident enough about his position to address the conference in a debate with Caesars’ Mitch Garber.

Abboud’s position was actually softer than his boss’, as he suggested that online poker could be permitted if there was a groundswell of support for Joe Barton’s Internet poker bill. He also said that Sands was mainly against offshore gaming which he suggested is already sapping business from land-based operators. To me that sounds like a good reason for bring in new online gaming laws as the current system isn’t working.

From what I can see, Sands Corp are clearly stuck in what is called the ‘innovator’s dilemma’, a theory that suggests successful companies can put too much emphasis on their existing cash cow and then fail to adopt new technology or business models that will meet customers’ currently unstated or future needs.

This is unfortunate as they are putting a lot of lobbying efforts into stopping the regulation in the US and, as such, potentially alienating future customers from their brand.

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