Ireland could miss out on mobile gambling bonanza

27 Sep 2007

Liberalisation of remote gambling legislation in key markets is expected to push total annual wagers made over mobile phones to nearly US$12bn by 2010, new research claims. However, failure by Ireland to update laws unchanged since 1956 may mean the country could miss the boat.

Juniper Research says that mobile lotteries are expected to be the most popular remote gambling service by 2010 with more than 380 million users worldwide.

The report added that growth would also be fuelled by market liberalisation such as the UK’s Gambling Act which came into force on 1 September, and by proposed amendments to existing legislation elsewhere in Europe.

Ireland is among many countries looking at bringing in new legislation, but there are fears that since the recent elections these moves are on a back-burner. Gambling legislation in Ireland hasn’t been updated since the 1958 and proponents of online casinos believe the country could become a mecca for online gaming within Europe.

In recent weeks the chief executive of Rehab Lotteries John McGuire warned that Ireland, by failing to regulate the gaming industry, may have missed out and handed the opportunity to the likes of Malta, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and the UK.

McGuire lamented: “Everything around gaming in Ireland is operating on the basis of 1956 legislation. There were moves at the Department of Justice that would have had significant implications for online gaming operations and land-based casinos but have been lost in the flow of the recent elections.”

Juniper has suggested that in the longer term there would also be opportunities in the US market as controversial legislation introduced there in the last two years may be relaxed.

“Mobile lotteries have already experienced significant levels of adoption in the Far East, while we envisage that European state lotteries will increasingly embrace the mobile environment in the medium term,” said Dr Windsor Holden, author of the Juniper report.

“The intimations from the US are that the act will be repealed or at least reformed,” said Holden. “Should that be the case, then, facilitated by location-based technologies, in-state mobile lotteries, betting and possibly casino services will be available in that market by 2010.”

In other words Ireland has a tiny window in which to turn around legislation and gain a competitive advantage or fall behind in the race as the sleeping giant that is the US online gambling industry awakens.

The Juniper report claims that the gross wins from mobile gaming services will rise from just US$106m this year to US$3.2bn in 2012.

The UK is currently the largest single market for mobile gambling services, although it will be overtaken by the US by 2012.

By John Kennedy