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Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2006 Online-Casinos.com
GIGSE DAY ONE
With late on-site registrations still pouring in this (Tuesday) morning the 8th Global Gaming Summit and Expo at the Palais des Congres in Montreal had already set a new record of upwards of 1600 delegates, with a full program stretching ahead for the next three days, and exhibitor numbers up from 92 in 2005 to 130 this year.
Sue Schneider of organisers River City group announced the figures in her introduction to the keynote speaker at the conference, the noted author and legal academic from Stanford Law School, Professor Lawrence Lessig.
A masterpiece of logic, the Professor's address covered key events in the development of the Internet since the early efforts of Tim Berners Lee in 1992 to create a privacy prioritised medium, skillfully integrating this with later developments in cookies and IP mapping, important "sovereignty" legal decisions and leading into the advanced research into personal ID developments taking place today.
In an absorbing exposition, Lessig used these milestones to illustrate the title of his address: "How Regulation Will Happen - The Leviathan Is Coming" arguing that ID-dependent regulation was probable within the next five years and explaining how Law, Custom and Norms, the Market and the Architecture of the Internet all influenced it's future development and the question of regulation in a world troubled by global terrorism and criminal or anti-social activites such as spam, virus infection and phishing.
Microsoft and others are currently developing ID options which allow the Internet user to remain generally anonymous to the world, but require that he or she register and prove certain aspects of identity for reference should the need arise.
Professor Lessig made the point that ID of this nature renders the Internet regulatable and was a trade-off of some Web freedom in return for a safer and more trouble-free environment where countries could well develop treaties regarding the manner in which their citizens were treated vis-a-vis issues that were legal in one country but not necessarily in another.
Examining the case for online gambling, the Professor made the point that it may be a mistake to base future success using the offshore argument in the US situation. Developments may make the viability of this approach questionable in the years ahead, and the industry would be well advised to recognise the growing importance of ID and start working on more proactive options more in keeping with the way in which the Internet was developing.
Net neutrality was not incompatible with an additional ID layer on the Internet, where pseudonyms could for example be used which nevertheless had traceability without too deeply infringing privacy.
A measure of the intense interest in the Professor's theories was the very active question time, followed by many delegates crowding around the academician to hear more of his views.
After a brief break for refreshments Paul Lauzon of the IPSOS Research group explained the importance of professional market research and its capabilities in an industry where product-driven marketing had tended to dominate. As the competition grows, he said, there was a need for marketing to become more consumer-driven. Valuable advice was given on when it was most appropriate to conduct various strategic and tactical forms of research project and the wide range of possibilities.
In a parallel session entitled "State of the Industry - an Overview of the Market", Warwick Bartlett of Global Betting and Gaming Consultants UK looked at statistics conveying the magnitude of the industrys growth in all sectors in recent times and gave fascinating insights into regional sectors and the pros and cons of each.
The significant potential of cross-marketing through convergence of company interests and mergers was examined, as were the dangers of a perception that the sector was volatile in a stock exchange sense.
It was important for self interest and for the industry that companies worked harder on building trust and respect with shareholders, governments and regulators, he said bemoaning the lack of an effective body that could speak authoritatively for the industry and create a better perception of transparency and professionalism.
"Investors need more information than an annual report," he said. "The industry needs to talk with one voice, and commercial rivalries need to be put aside in the interests of providing better consolidated information that creates an improved perception of the business. We need to interact with our various audiences more than we do and in such a way as to combine our strengths. "
Citing what he sees as industry negatives, Bartlett said that there was a lack of cohesion with companies fighting seperate issues; there was a lack of positive PR to combat negative perceptions of gambling; lobbying was insufficient and not well coordinated and measures were underfunded.
"We need to remember that fighting individual legal battles is not necessarily effective in changing the way things are," he said. " Laws are changed by creating a need for change among the people - the electorate, who influence the politicians who change the law.
"The online gambling genie is out of the bottle and has many positives: It is now an industry of financial consequence; it creates employment and enables the government to tax and spend; it is a widely accepted pastime and governments should not criminalise what is really ordinary behaviour - most citizens want legalisation and not prohibition."
On the Marketing front, Debbee Silverman of Gone Gambling chaired a diverse panel comprising Bryan Bailey of Casinomeister, Michael Caselli of iGaming Business, Dave Hallonqvist from Spotted Dog Media, Micki Oster from the Trident Group and David Wang of World Poker Tour.
With such a widely experienced group the examination of i-gaming marketing concepts attracted a large audience for the following conclusions:
In the USA marketing has become more restrictive thanks to the efforts of the Department of Justice, necessitating the use of different and smarter techniques.
Performance-based returns were nowhere near as enticing as they were in the halcyon days of online marketing.
The marketing space was now crowded, making life more difficult and more expensive for the smaller companies.
PR opportunities are not being full exploited and bear review by most companies.
Mainstream media, and especially TV had appeal but was expensive and harder to track. This was especially so when the importance of sustained activity was recognised.
In this market it was important to develop both online and offline strategies for maximum penetration. Frequent Internet users tended to mentally screen out adverts that did not interest them immediately. One interesting observation was that players recruited offline tend to develop into better investments in terms of lifetime expected value and loyalty.
Branding was critically important and had to be sustained, and customer care creating trust and reputation was a key factor for success.
Looking ahead, panelists felt that responsible gaming measures were increasingly important. In the future it would be necessary to develop more closely targeted marketing with carefully defined demographics. Cross-marketing through collaborative agreements and ventures or mergers would be a growing feature. There will be a move away from "conditional" bonusing in favour of stronger and more direct offers and loyalty rewarding tactics, perhaps even following land casino strategies.
It is likely that in the years ahead major legislative changes are possible in the USA, opening the way to very large, well established land brands entering the market with massive marketing experience, reputations and budgets thus increasing the competitive levels.
Technology developments aimed at screening out advertising on TV will call for the marketing elements to be mainly carried more subtly in the program content.
It's impossible to get around to all of the interteresting parallel sessions at GIGSE, so we'll simply mention those here. Susan Breen of Mishcon de Reya and Daniel Bruno of GMP Securities gave insights into the complexities of a subject assumning ever greater importance in online gambling - Mergers and Acquisitions.
Veteran freelance journo Fred Faust and Advantis manager Cyrus Mavalwala gave a pressure course on PR in their management oriented "Public Relations - Addressing a Neglected Need."
The efficient performance of Due Diligence from both a business and IT perspective were examined by Peter Chadha and John Barker of BDO Stay Hayward in the UK, and 32 Red's Pat Harrison, Will Griffiths of Bet On Sports and Joe Brennan from Industrial Strength gave tips on how to really get the brand out there and treat customers right with some back-to-basics advice.
After a very full program with solid information and content, delegates will be letting their hair down tonight at the opening cocktail party sponsored by those friendly and efficient Swedes at Ongame Poker Network. When that function ends at 9pm, delegates will disperse to a variety of dinner engagements as the networking machine swings into high gear - always a great advantage at GIGSE!