Casinos Must Appeal to a Younger Audience

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                Casino owners everywhere have gathered to discuss the future of slot machines, and what they can do to continue its survival in the industry. With online casinos gaining more popularity over land establishments, operators have come together to determine how to attract younger customers.

                This was the subject of many conference panels at this year’s Global Gaming Expo. According to Casino City Times, “The Big Four – International Game Technology, Bally Technologies, Aristocrat Technologies and WMS Gaming – showed off more breakthroughs to interest younger players while still appealing to their core audience of over-65 gamblers.”

                “You’re talking about a demographic that’s dying,” said Al Thomas, executive director of research and development for WMS Gaming.

                Over the next years, casinos will offer slot machines to its customers that use server-based technology, very similar to online casinos, that will enable managers and gamers to select games to download on a machine.  This is probably the best means of competing with online casinos, allowing a younger audience to access a variety of slots games and other services usually not available to them at the casino.

            IGT introduced a slot machine with a library of over twelve games. Customers can switch slot games in nearly 20 seconds. The machines will also offer customers coupons and random tournaments, as well as the ability to order cocktails and make show reservations.

            The company has also released a series of movie themed slot games to appeal to their younger demographic. Customers can enjoy a “Jaws” and “Sopranos” slots game, as well as advanced version of classic video game favorite, Pong. IGT has released a “Star Wars” games, and WMS showed a “Star Trek” themed game at the gaming expo.

RummyRoyal a Booming Success

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                RummyRoyal.com introduced an internet casino to the industry just one year ago, and already has seen a huge success. The company which held the biggest online Rummy tournament, with a guaranteed prize pool of $10,000 reports that they expect to be around for some time.

                Rummy tournaments are rare to the internet casino industry, and this greatly contributes to the success and future longevity of the website. The game has a variety of versions, including Gin Rummy, Kalooki, Rummy500, Mahjong, Rummikub, Traditional Rummy, and so forth.

                RummyRoyal.com was released in the second half of 2007, and has since gained an enormous consumer base and popularity among the gaming community. The company offers an advanced multi-player gaming platform for its players and is designed according to the poker standards. Like most poker rooms, the site features a number of Table tournaments, single and ring.

                Shachar Schalka, RummyRoyal CEO commented, “It was not clear to all where Rummy would fit in with all of the poker, casino, backgammon and bridge sites, but today we can say with confidence that Rummy is the closest product to poker from all of the multi player games available in the market, with the perfect combination of skill and luck. The fact that it has only gained in popularity over the years and that the players are familiar with the games makes Rummy the next big market in the gaming world. After one year online it is apparent that the Rummy room will withstand the test of time.”

                RummyRoyal offers many variations on the game, including Gin Rummy, Traditional Rummy, Oklahoma Gin, Kabooki 40 and Rummy 51. Two to four users may play a game at a time using two decks with jokers.

                Over 250,000 players registered an account at RummyRoyal this year alone. According to reports, the highest concentration of players is from the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Romania, Spain and the Netherlands.

AGA Can’t Decide its Position on Internet Gambling

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                The prospect of legal online casino betting has had land gambling establishments tearing their hair out over the past couple of months. With the upcoming administration, internet gambling is back on the agenda, and the American Gaming Association is rushing to clarify its position.

                There are mixed feelings within the land industry as to the benefits of legalized internet casino wagering. There are some companies who support the idea of a federal regulation in online gaming, others that feel the authority to legalize egaming should lie with the states and other who fear the industry altogether as another rival with which to compete.

                The leading casino members, MGM Mirage, Harrah’s Entertainment and International Game Technology have already expressed their support for online gaming. These companies already have their feet in the door, having been involved with overseas internet gaming owners.

                The American Gaming Association as a whole has shown a more conservative outlook on internet gambling, calling for research into its regulation, benefits and disadvantages. In the recent Las Vegas Gaming Expo, it was said that internet gambling will begin to look promising for the federal government, as tax revenue could help our fading economy.

                Because the AGA’s members cannot come to an agreement on the issue, the association has initiated a study group which will analyze bills that have been proposed in the past year.

                The latest bill passed in favor of internet gambling was S 3616, the most progressive of proposed legislation in the way on internet gambling. Senator Robert Menendez’s proposal seeks to license internet gambling when it entails games of skill, such as poker.

                Before that, Representative Barney Frank pushed for HR 6870, a bill that would ensure that the UIGEA does not cause harm to the payments system. Frank has also proposed HR 5767, a bill which would prohibit the Secretary of Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from proposing, prescribing or implementing any regulation under the UIGEA. Finally, Frank is responsible for the proposal of H.R. 2046, an amendment which would provide the licensing of internet gambling facilities by the Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

                Other legislation includes HR 2140, a proposal for the National Academy of Sciences to study and identify the proper response of the United States in the growth of internet gambling, HR 2067, to amend the International Revenue Code of 1986 to regulate internet gambling, HR 2610, to amend to UIGEA to clarify the applicability of provisions to games of skill, and establish certain requirements with respect to such games, HR 6501 to regulate internet gambling and set a trust fund for its tax proceeds, and finally HR6663, which would further clarify what the UIGEA deems as “illegal internet gambling.”

                This is not the first time that the AGA’s members have disagreed on a policy. In 1990, members were torn as to whether or not they should support gaming movements by Indian tribes that were involved with Las Vegas Casinos. The Nevada Resort Association, and later the AGA, decided to remain neutral.

Internet Gambling to Show More Growth than Land Establishments

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

               Gaming consultant Marco Felice Baranzelli has released the results of his latest study in the global gambling market, which show that internet casino gambling will produce a higher average annual growth than that of land casinos by the year 2012.

                In 2007 internet gaming showed $328.5 in revenue as compared to the $309.6 billion in 2006. By 2008 online gambling represented a mere 4.8 percent of that total. However, the offline market is estimated to grow 2.2 percent per year until 2012, whereas internet gambling will show growth rates of 10.3 per year. The total revenue of internet gambling from now until 2012 is expected to reach $24.4 billion, 6.3 percent of the overall market (including online lotteries).

                Baranzelli explained the online gaming has shown a significant growth rate over the last few years, and is anticipated to continue this pattern over the next five years. Because there are no geographical boundaries to an online casino that is constantly accessible to users, the market will continue to grow rapidly.

                The study shows that the total online gaming revenue will increase 13.5 percent per year until 2012. More specifically, online poker will increase 16 percent per year, online casinos will increase 15 percent per year and online sports betting will increase 11 percent per year. Most internet gaming establishments are comprised of one of these three types of wagering, with sports betting as the largest segment, followed by online casinos and then online poker. This excludes skill games and internet lotteries.

                In 2007, the online sports betting market saw revenue of an estimated $4.8 billion, a 19 percent growth rate per year since 2007. Outside of the U.S., still the largest sports betting community in the world despite its legal difficulties, the sports betting market was an estimated $3.4 billion in U.S.. This shows a 17 percent increase from the year 2006. Of the 11 percent increase in global online sports betting over the next five years, Europe will see a 23 percent increase.

                The online casino market resulted in an estimated $3.2 billion in 2007, a 28 percent annual increase from the $.06 billion in the year 2000. While U.S. internet casino gambling has decreased 24.7 percent in 2007, Europe showed a strong 34.3 percent increase in 2007 from the year prior. Online casinos are expected to grow 15 percent per year from its current $1.9 billion in revenue to $3.8 billion in the year 2012.

                Online poker made an estimated $3.0 billion in 2007, a substantial 107 percent increased from the values reported in 2004. According to Baranzelli, online poker has grown more than any other type of online gambling. Europe showed a 38.4 percent increase in the year 2007, and is predicted to increase 47.9 percent in 2008.

                Baranzelli notes that the leading gambling websites have remained the same for several years, with only a few achieving a mass consumer base. Despite various anti-gaming legislations, leading websites have not changed. When the UIGEA was passed in 2006, the U.S. market made up nearly 50 percent of the global internet gaming market. By 2007, the U.S. market had diminished to 36 percent.

AGA CEO Says Internet Gambling May be Back on the Agenda

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

               Despite the Bush administration’s “midnight drop” submission of the new regulations for the UIGEA, the American Gaming Association says that Congress may consider a legalized online gaming industry. According to a report in the Reno Gazette-Journal, AGA CEO Frank Fahrenkopf feels that internet casino gambling will be the subject of much attention in the next few years.

                Fahrenkopf expects that the need to tax gaming income, with the slope of the U.S. economy the main priority for upcoming administration, will eventually be the reason for its legalization. “There have been projections circulated on the Hill that it can raise billions of dollars in new federal revenue,” he said at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. “So we can expect that the whole issue of internet gambling will be front and center in the next Congress.

                “Federal lawmakers see that potential tax revenue from Internet gaming could fuel their legislative agenda.”

                The AGA is a major organizer of the Gaming Expo, which could attract as many as 30,000 attendees from around the world.

                Fahrenkopf continues, “Congress has adopted a pay-as-you-go system. So any Congressman or Senator who introduces a piece of legislation that is going to cost something will also have to show how they are going to pay for it, either by cutting spending in one place or raising taxes in another. So we know under those circumstances, they will be looking around at a place to get additional revenue.”

                The influential executive has not said it will be an easy task however, warning that any push to legalize online casinos will be faced with years of anti-gaming work. Fahrenkopf alluded to the passing of the UIGEA last week as the Bush administration makes its exit and the efforts of the Massachussets House Financial Services Committee chairman and Democratic Representative Barney Frank to challenge this legislation.

                Frank has continued to argue for the overturn of the UIGEA, the bill passed to prohibit the transfer of funds from financial institutions to internet gambling firms, claiming that its regulations are difficult both to enforce and to interpret as far as what is considered “illegal internet gambling.” He is confident that the upcoming administration will be more lenient toward online gaming.

                “With the Obama administration, you wouldn’t see these bad regulations,” Frank told Gambling911.com

                There is also the issue of land casinos and their operators. The land casino market is already in distress, and with the addition of internet casino gambling, some feel this could be the end to the land market altogether.

                Fahrenkopf addressed the mixed feelings of various Nevada gaming companies on internet casino gambling saying, “If it were legalized, I know that Harrah’s, which now owns the World Series of Poker, would be extremely interesting in getting into that market. We know that MGM has been bullish on Internet gaming for a long time. Steve (Wynn)…I don’t know what he would do and I don’t know what some of the other operators would do.”

Belle Rock Entertainment Exits U.S. Market

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

              Although it has yet to be confirmed publicly by the Microgaming network, BelleRock online casino and poker group is the next of its gaming websites to close its doors to the U.S. market. A number of Microgaming licensees have left the U.S. following the Kentucky domain seizure case. With the software company’s website still unavailable to players, American internet casino users have had to rely on the affiliates to receive information regarding their welcome.

                With the lack of communication between MGS operators and their users, affiliates have begun to relay messages to players when directly e-mailed by their programs. The latest from affiliates is that BelleRock is due to exit the U.S. market. An e-mail from the company explained, “In the short term players will be able to continue placing wagers, however the long term view is to become 100 percent independent of US purchases and play, with our focus being solely on the rest of the world, where we are already getting the majority of our business.”

                Another affiliate posted on a message board an excerpt from a ReferBack affiliate program e-mail which read, “Please be advised that, with immediate effect Referback, representing Belle Rock Entertainment, is withdrawing from the USA and will no longer be representing any casinos or poker rooms in that market.”

                Another e-mail read, “We regret any impact that this decision may have upon you, and would like to reassure you that the decision was not taken lightly. Recent experience has seen the USA becoming less and less profitable as market conditions have become ever tighter, to the point that continued activity in the USA has become decidedly unattractive to ReferBack. At the same time, ReferBack has seen very substantial growth in their marketing efforts beyond the USA.”

                The absence of direct communication from either Microgaming or website operators has become a great source of frustration in the industry, showing a lack of responsibility or concern for its players. Any further information remains to be provided second-hand from Microgaming affiliates.

                Belle Rock Entertainment’s online casino brands consist of JackpotCity.com Online Casino, River Belle Online Casino, The Gaming Club Online Casino, King Neptune’s Online Casino and Lucky Nugget Online Casino.

American players may confirm that these e-mails are legitimate by logging on to the aforementioned websites. When attempting to access to download and no-download casino links provided, U.S. citizens will be directed to a page that states, “download unavailable,”  although there is no notice or explanation as to why.

 

NFL Lobbyist May Be Under Investigation

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                Internet casino gambling continues to stir controversy in the U.S. as Tennessee Democrat Representative Steve Cohen has made the harsh accusation that a top Bush Administration adviser applied “considerable political pressure” on a former lobbying client.

                According to a publication from Poltico, Cohen has called for an investigation on William Wichterman, the adviser in question, to determine whether he disclosed his “potential conflict of interest” in influencing the Bush administration to enforce more regulations with the UIGEA. In March of this year, Wichterman was a registered lobbyist with Covington and Burling, representing the NFL.

The NFL makes no secret of their die hard opposition to internet gambling. As a lobbyist with Covington and Burling, Wichterman worked on internet gambling laws, the main focus for the NFL in legislation.

There has been an effort to release new UIGEA regulations before November 17th, the deadline to pass legislation that can’t be amended or reconsidered by the Obama administration. Wichterman, as well as other backers such as Republican Senator John Kyl, have put pressure on the current administration to enact the regulations before this date.

While the drafted regulations have been submitted, the Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve must sign on off them in a 60-day review process. Because of this, the language of the new law is subject to review under the upcoming administration.

Cohen’s letter to the White House pushing for the investigation reads  that Wichterman “…has been a source of considerable political pressure to speed this regulation through finalization.” Furthermore, Cohen suggests that Witchterman “…has been among the most vocal advocates for the proposed rule and the underlying law” while serving as a lobbyist with Covington & Burling and representing the National Football League.

Cohen has also inquired of White House Counsel Fred Fielding if Witcherman had made a note of his conflict of interest in the issue. “If so,” Cohen continues, “was he nonetheless allowed by the White House to work on this issue?”

He asks Fielding if “there is a defined period during which employees who served as lawyers or lobbyists in the private sector must recuse themselves from matters affecting their former clients,” essentially suggesting the Bush administration’s policy on aides working in issue areas they covered as paid lobbyists is unjust.

Opponents to the new language in the UIGEA, such as House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, have continued to argue that the law is too vague and that, according to Politico it “places onerous requirements on these financial institutions – at a time when many a struggling to rebound from the slumping economy. While administration officials testified before this Financial Services panel earlier this year that this was the case, the OMB is not swayed, and has made no attempt to clarify what constitutes “illegal internet gambling.”

“The way to get a better reg[ulation] is to get a better law,” said Andy Barbour, overseer of Internet issures for the Financial Services Roundtable. “We’re interesting in pursuing that cause, as is the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.”

The Democrat from Tennessee has also inquired as to whether Wichterman intends to return to the lobbying firm. He calls for a catalogue of contact between the White House Office of Public Liaison with Treasury, OMB and the Federal Reserve.

The White House has failed to comment on the Cohen letter.  White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said on Thursday  that his office “does not comment on administrative rules that remain under consideration.”

Free Bingo Sundays at Crown Bingo

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

                Crown Bingo has released a slew of new promotions to the website, the latest of which is free bingo. Every Sunday the online casino will host a free bingo session from midday to midnight, offering guaranteed cash prizes. These games will be available to users in between paid games.

                The free bingo sessions will be held in Crown Bingo’s Room 2 along with two jackpots, the Cash Cow Jackpot with 25,000 Euro and the Piggy Bank Jackpot with 1,000 Euro. Free bingo will be available to all new and preexisting players and launched Sunday the 16th of November.

                Kirsty Bates, Crown Bingo Promotions Manager commented, “We’re looking forward to having free bingo as part of our seven day schedule of promotions. Not only is it a great addition to the site’s features but it also gives our members the chance to play and win for free.”

                Room 2 hosts daily promotions for Crown Bingo including Penny Bingo Mondays, BOGOF every Saturday and Big Money Thursdays. From 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, Room 2 plays UK 90 Ball Bingo.

                There are 6 rooms at Crown Bingo in total, featuring UK 75 Ball Bingo, Pattern Bingo, Speed Bingo and Joker Jackpot, as well as two rooms of 90 Ball Bingo.

                The release of free bingo curtails a successful month of promotions in October and the award of CM team of the month. With the latest series of promotions, all Crown Bingo players will have to opportunity to win additional prizes and jackpots each month.

                Julie Palfreman, 40 from Worthing, reported a win of the monthly prize draw of 500 Euro in the TV and Entertainment package, and just a week later the 1,000 Euro Piggy Bank Jackpot. “Luck is certainly going my way!! £1,000 means I am going to have a great Xmas!” she wrote.

                The prize draw for November offers members £500 in retail vouchers, giving one user the chance to “Win Christmas.” The December promotions are soon to be announced with the promise of a bigger prize pool.

A Turn for the Better in the Kentucky Domain Case

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

               The Kentucky Court of Appeals granted a stay of the forfeiture order against 141 internet gambling websites until appellate judges hear oral arguments and rule on the matter. The decision follows an appeal made by the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) and the Interactive Gaming Council (IGG) under the argument that the forfeiture is unconstitutional.

                A forfeiture hearing was scheduled for December 3rd for those domain owners who failed reasonably establish “to the satisfaction of the Kentucky’s Justice and Safety Cabinet or this Court that such geographical blocks [to Kentucky residents] are operational.”

                “We’re glad that the Appeals Court recognized the need to prevent the immediate forfeiture of those domain names,” said iMEGA chairman Joe Brennan, Jr. “The Commonwealth’s attorneys have tried from the very beginning to push this seizure action through at a breakneck pace, so that by the time any of the domain owners realized what was happening, they would have lost their rights to their domains.

                The hearing for iMEGA’s petition is scheduled for December 12th. iMEGA will present its case in front of the same three-judge appellate panel that granted the continuance. The panel will assess the ruling and make a decision as to whether the lower court lacked to jurisdiction to order to domain confiscation and whether Secretary Brown lacked the authority to initiate the seizure to begin with.

                Should the panel find that these groups were lacking jurisdiction, then the ruling will be overturned. However if appellate Court finds otherwise, there will then be a decision made as to whether the lower court wrongly applied Kentucky’s “gambling devices” law in ordering the seizures and whether these actions violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

                A final hearing will take place in which the appellate panel has agreed to combine the petitions of iMEGA and the IGC against to forfeiture. IGC has made the argument that the domain names are not subject to Kentucky law as they are not located in Kentucky.

                The Poker Players Alliance filed an additional amicus brief, focusing on the issue that has not uet been addressed by the courts: that poker is more a game of skill than it is a game of chance, and should therefore be omitted for the UIGEA altogether. The PPA has made claims that the trial court judge was responsible for making a decision on the issue, but failed to do so. They feel that had this issue been addressed, the judge would have ruled in favor of poker.

                This particular hearing has received a great deal of attention and support, not only from internet casino and gaming advocates, but also net neutrality, free speech and civil liberties groups. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (ACLU) have all joined in filing an amicus brief on the grounds that the domain seizures violate the First Amendment, the Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

                Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who gave no comment on during the original hearing, has requested that his name be removed from the domain case in an attempt to distance himself from the ruling. The seizure action was initiated by Secretary of Justice and Public Safety J. Michael Brown rather than the Attorney General.

                In its brief, iMEGA noted that Attorney General Conway must appear on behalf of Kentucky in all cases in the Court of Appeals in which the Commonwealth is involved.

                “Now, we hope to have a fair hearing regarding our petition, because we’re confident that Kentucky law is on our side, and that the lower court erred in ordering these seizures,” Brennan continued.

                “The bottom line is that this move by Kentucky cannot be allowed to stand, because if it did, it would hand an ‘ultimate weapon’ to governments here and abroad to stifle Internet content that does not meet their approval.”

CAP to Offer Advice Column

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor

           CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com, or CAP, has released a bi-weekly Q&A marketing advice column for online casino affiliates which will be written by Bob Rains. Rains has a certain popularity in the marketing field and is most well known for his work as the Head of Acquisition with Befair.

            Affiliates couldn’t ask for a better consultant, as Rains experience includes not only his time at Betfair, but also his service as Director of Online Marketing for Everest Poker as well as other internet marketing management jobs.

            Internet casino affiliates will find Rains’ column in the Learning Center of the website, a section of the domain that provides a multitude of informative articles, educational marketing techniques, SEO and web design.

            “I’m looking forward to helping provide SEO, online marketing and social media solutions to real affiliates facing real challenges in these changing economic and legal times, as well as sharing my stories from my own personal experience,” said Rains in a statement to CAP. “And I can’t think of a better venue to do so than the CAP Learning Center.”

            “We’re thrilled to have Bob Rains on board for this exciting new feature,” said Lou Fabiano, President and founder of CAP. “Bob is deservedly one of the most popular figures in the online gaming industry – especially where that industry crosses over with the world of online affiliate marketing, which is CAP’s jurisdiction. We’re confident that the thousands of CAP members and casual readers who visit the site each day will be directly benefited by his expertise when it comes to online marketing and SEO matters.”