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Gambling industry bets on mobile

By Retail Technology | Tuesday June 4 2013

M-commerce is having as profound an impact on the gaming industry as it is having on retail, while also promising to offer completely new opportunities

Technology has had a huge influence on gambling, as it has with many industries. As technology capabilities have become more sophisticated, the gambling market has capitalised on new media and platforms to tap into a larger consumer base and generate more revenue.

The most notable change that has influenced gambling is the rise in popularity of smartphone devices. The player pool has increased as more players are able to access mobile gambling sites, and by 2017, the mobile gambling market is expected to be worth more than $100 billion, according to analyst firm Juniper Research.

Infrastructure supports rapid growth

Although gambling applications were introduced as early as 2006, it “wasn’t until 2010, with the expansion of the wireless network and the availability of Wi-Fi and 3G connections, that the mobile gambling experience improved,” states “This presented the perfect opportunity for the multi-billion dollar industry… to market its products in a completely new way.”

In an article in 2011, the Financial Times praised mobile technology for the potential boost it offered gambling operators. Although back then the selection of mobile gambling brands was much more limited compared to nowadays, its effects were felt almost immediately, with David Yu, Betfair’s chief executive, stating that: “Mobile is a real game-changer for us and the industry.”

The three biggest advantages for gambling operators to utilise mobile platforms were set out by Juniper Research in its report. It identified the most convincing driver as convenience. “As mobiles are largely with their users 24 hours a day,” it stated. “It means that – connectivity permitting – those users are theoretically always able to buy a lottery ticket, place a bet or play a remote game of poker.” It also suggested that the added privacy offered by mobile gambling will also attract more casual gamblers, where the ubiquity and adoption of mobile handsets across Western Europe is helping to drive global penetration more effectively.

Increased mobile access has also led to more ‘digital natives’. According to the CGI Gambling Technology Trends of 2011 report, these digital natives are people who “have never known a world without the internet, mobile phones and interactive television, and are therefore tech-savvy, have no techno-phobia, and are very trusting of these new technologies”. The CGI report continued: “It has been argued elsewhere that, for many of these young people, their first gambling experiences may come not in a traditional offline environment but via the internet, mobile phone or interactive television.”

Mobile device ownership impact

These tech-savvy consumers are helping to drive up revenue and, as two thirds of Britain’s population now own a smartphone, the mobile gambling industry is a very profitable market. With the increase in smartphones, along with Forrester predicting that tablet ownership in Western Europe will quadruple by 2017, mobile is even expected to overtake the PC as the most popular platform among online gambling consumers.

“As technology improves all the time, we may soon get to the point where [mobile] outperforms the traditional PC as the preferred mode of placing a bet, playing poker or enjoying various casino-type games. Ever since the launch of 3G data services, mobile gambling has been a key priority for operators as they concentrate on delivering new betting experiences for their customers,” said Brian Wright, director of the Remote Gambling Association. “In terms of the future, the rollout of 4G phones, with its ultra-fast wireless connection, will only see the importance and popularity of mobile gambling grow further in the years to come.”

With more sophisticated content, more variety in smartphone and tablet devices and a higher pool of ‘digital natives,’ the mobile platform has opened up a whole new way for players to access gambling sites and for those operators to generate revenue. Along with the liberalisation of gambling across Europe and in North America, the mobile gambling market is driving the future of the industry.

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