Two online gambling trends took hold of the industry in 2010, which at first glance seem to contradict each other but, after a closer look, are pretty closely in sync. I’m talking about the big online gambling consolidation wave, and the splintering of the online poker market.
As Dan Cypra at PokerNewsDaily.com puts it, 2010 “saw the continued splintering of the online poker market worldwide.” Cypra refers to France and Italy, each of which successfully created their own, self-contained online poker markets this year, complete with the ability to control what foreign operators are allowed in.
In the U.S., that “splintering” of the market is just beginning, with New Jersey set to create its own online gambling market in just a few weeks, and other states like California and Florida seeking to do the same. If all states take hold of this trend, the U.S. could be a very confusing place to market online poker on a national level, just as it’s difficult to market to all of the EU (rather than country-by-country).
This concept is even more interesting considering how much the online poker market is consolidating. Bwin and PartyGaming announced a merger this year; Ladbrokes announced it was trying to buy 888; SportingBet and Unibet may be merging; and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Those who watch online gaming stocks — and it’s a big group of people that does so, particularly in the UK — are betting on further consolidations in the years to come.
Part of the reason for all these mergers is to better deail with the splintering markets. 888 and Microgaming combined forces to enter the French market, for example, and a big reason behind the new bwin,party brand is PartyGaming’s cooperation with U.S. regulators and anticipation of being well placed to enter the U.S. market if regulation should occur.
So, going forward, look for these trends to continue: Less (and bigger) online gaming companies, with many more markets and regulations to deal with.
The Big Picture
What’s it mean to casino and poker affiliates? Fewer companies means fewer brands to promote, true, but it also means more international presence for those brands, and that name recognition may drive player signups. For example, bwin is a huge brand in Europe, and if its merger with PartyGaming gives it access to the U.S. market, look for that brand recognition to increase — everywhere.