While still relatively underdeveloped, the mobile gaming industry should see rapid growth over the next four years, analysts say. The market has been slow to develop, mainly due to the uncertainty about future regulation of remote gambling and online gambling. Some gaming companies, however, have begun offering mobile platforms in anticipation of growth in the segment.
"We are very bullish on mobile devices' potential as gambling tools," said Simon Holliday, director of H2 Gambling Capital, a consulting and research firm based in London. "A number of European companies are generating as much as 15 % of their business from this source now, especially those with iPhone, iPad or Android applications."
American Wagering entered the mobile arena with the launch of its first application for its Leroy's Sports Book franchise. Last Wednesday, IGT said it created an online and mobile division within the company. "We recently had our mobile wagering application approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission," said John English, senior vice president with Las Vegas-based American Wagering. "It's only available on the Blackberry for now."
English said the company's applications for Android and iPhones are still being tested and need regulatory approval. He expected them to be released early next year. To open a mobile gaming account, he said, an applicant would have to fill out an application and bring two forms of identification to a Leroy's location. Once the application is approved and at least us$ 50 is deposited into an account, Leroy's will send out a text or e-mail with a link to download the application. "It will work anywhere inside the state," he said. "It will absolutely not work outside of Nevada. With statewide coverage, people can place their wagers at their leisure wherever they are. "
English declined to discuss revenue projections. He said the mobile applications could generate a "large portion" of the us$ 2.5 billion handle at Leroy Sports Books. "Merging our online and mobile business units under the IGT brand will solidify our position as a leader in interactive gaming," said Gideon Bierer, IGT executive vice president and head of the interactive division.
The company's WagerWorks and Million -2-1 groups will merge into a division and be based in San Francisco. Bierer said in the last five years in the United Kingdom alone, the Las Vegas-based company has "handled more than us$ 10 billion in online wagers." "As technology advances and markets evolve, we look forward to accelerating our product innovation and significantly grow our interactive business," he said.
In a recent report, Juniper Research projected gross wagers via mobile gaming platforms will reach us$ 48 billion worldwide, including us$ 10 billion in North America, by 2015. Mobile gambling is restricted in the United States for the most part by federal gambling laws.
"People have always liked gambling," said David G. Schwartz, director of UNLV's Center for Gaming Research. "Sports gambling is expected to benefit (the most). There has always been remote gambling going back to the illegal horse rooms ... to off-track betting introduced in the 1970s. This is the latest evolution in this."
While sports wagering was expected to benefit from the new technology, Schwartz said casino games like dice or blackjack might have a harder time attracting attention. He said the reason was as simple as "some people like the feel of dice in their hands."