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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Are US Land Based Casinos In Jeopardy Of Losing Market Share To Online Gambling Sites?

The recent holiday retail store and online e-commerce sales numbers highlight the steady march of consumers moving away from purchasing products at brick and mortar shops to purchases online. This year's comparison numbers are lower for brick and mortar shops and higher for e-commerce transactions.

The inclination to transact online as opposed to transacting in a conventional store represents a growing trend for individuals to interact virtually as opposed to interacting physically. The pendulum is swinging steadily in the direction of more online activity.

Is the same phenomena occurring in the gambling sector?

Online gambling has been alive and growing since the mid 90's. Some of the earliest e-commerce sites were gambling based. The growth in online gambling has been brisk despite the attempts by governments to render online gambling illegal.

In contrast to traditional retailers that have embraced online e-commerce by launching online stores of their own the US casino operators have avoided embracing the online model. Land based casino operators have not established online brand identities.

In defense of the US land based operators state and federal regulations have been greatly responsible for prohibiting land based operators from entering the online market. However, casino operators have also been reluctant to fully embrace online marketing of their land based properties and introducing legal options for consumers to experience gambling online.

Conversely online gambling sites continue to grow at an ever increasing rate. PartyPoker estimates that they are adding 5000 US players to their free play model every week. Fulltilt and PokerStars continue to allow US players to wager in their poker rooms.

Online gambling operators such as PartyGaming are now entering the legal online US gaming market through the purchase of the WPT property.

Certainly the recession has had a negative impact on the land based casinos. Their drop in revenues can be attributed to a deflated US economy. However, is this the only reason for their loss of revenue?

Online gambling revenue have steadily grown through this recession. Have they taken market share away from US land based operators and will that traffic return to Vegas when the recession abates?

The synergy between the offline and online gambling experience is strong. Playing online helps educate players on how to play the games and will improve their performance in skill based games at the casino. There is no complete substitute for the land based experience. People want to go to Vegas. So a marriage of online with offline(The Walmart model) makes sense. In fact a marriage of the two is almost mandatory for the land based operators to once again become growth mode companies.

The question is who will move first and if a merger of the business models occur who will initiate the merger? Will the online gambling operators be acquirers of land based US operators or will US operators begin to form partnerships with online gambling operators? What will be the dominate brand? Will it be online or offline?


YouGaming.com said...

I think selected land-based operators with powerful brands will ultimately be some of the big players. With a US bias, I'm looking at Harrah's.

Selected online operators will also be successful. Again, with a US bias, I'm thinking Betfair will be one of those.

With regard to acquisition, I would tend to think the brick and mortar operators' balance sheets would be more likely to be hefty enough to pick up online operations rather than the opposite.

My 2 cents!


MichaelB said...

It would look at what happened in the UK as an example. People did not flock to the land based casino sites when it be became licensed. I think that for some, it strengthened their customer relationship. Looking at poker, brands like Partygaming did not just fall away, and they continues to have a strong position in poker, casino, bingo.
So the e-brand poker sites continue to maintain their market position based upon technology (PKR), sponsorship (BWIN, PokerStars, FullTilt) or licensing of other brands (888). Harrahs may take a leadership role in the UK but not because of its casino brands name but its WSOP brand. So the markets are very segmented.

I actually see brands like zynga, yahoo, and others having a place, even linden labs. I see video gaming brands entering this market and having success, not just gambling brands.
On the other hand, I do not think that the land based casino market will be hurt, rather more online poker players will be good for the offline venues, and to the extent that LB casinos link their online and offline involvement with customers, they can extend the reach of their brands.