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Online gambling is spreading worldwide, motivating governments to regulate

Hamburg-based secondary research organization yStats.com has published a new report: “Global Online Gambling and Betting Market 2014“, depicting the latest trends and developments in this field. Among the findings of the yStats.com researchers is that the online gambling and betting segment is increasing, enhanced by the spread of smartphones and tablet computers. YStats.com CEO Yücel Yelken observes: “while land-based lottery and casinos still dominate the gambling scene, online real-money gambling and betting are growing rapidly“.

The regulatory landscape on online gambling and betting is varied. The majority of Western European countries have some laws in place to channel online gambling and betting. In North America and major Asian countries online real-money games are yet awaiting progress in regulation. In the USA, online gambling is legal only in three states and in many Asian countries gambling and betting is allowed only in casino resorts. The spread of online betting and gambling is forcing governments to act to regulate. The global online gambling market has a current value estimated at a medium double digit number in billions of Euros, with growth expected between +7 and 10% annually in the next few years.

Trends in online gambling and betting.
The major trends in online gambling and betting globally are mobile and social gambling. Mobile gambling is expected to grow at double-digit rates and to reach over 40% of the total online gambling market by 2018, as the number of mobile gambling users increases by a hundred million. Social gambling, evolving from the desire of game developers to monetize gaming on social networks is a trend to watch. The growing acceptance of the digital currency Bitcoin is another trend in online gambling.

The leading online gambling and betting companies worldwide include PokerStars, Bwin.Party, William Hill Online, each of which annually generate online revenues of over EUR 0.5 billion. Also Betfair Group, Paddy Power, 888 Holdings and Ladbrokes are among the leaders on the market. Most of these companies operate under the license of Gibraltar, and two are registered on the Isle of Man.

Number of mobile gambling in users

Regional variations in legislation and acceptance of online gambling and betting
In North America, online gambling was legalized in three US states by early 2014, with online gambling revenues surging to millions in the first months of legal operation. New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada have allowed online gambling on their territories, with more states expected to follow, while no progress in regulation was made on the federal level. In New Jersey, the largest of the three, online casinos were legalized in November 2013 and generated almost USD 1 million in revenue during the first week of operations. In 2014, the number is approaching USD 10 million per month, with almost several hundreds of thousands gambling accounts being registered.
In the largest Latin American market, Brazil, gambling and betting is forbidden except for horse racing. However, offshore gambling websites are popular among Brazilian gamblers, who spend several hundreds of EUR million annually on offshore sports betting sites. This offshore betting activity will likely increase in 2014 with the World Cup taking place in the country. In Mexico and Argentina online gambling is allowed only under special license, though in Mexico offshore websites are more popular than the regulated domestic sites. As online gambling becomes legalized in several USA states, it is expected that Mexican casinos will partner with them to boost the market. Argentina has the largest number of registered online gambling and betting websites in Latin America.

Europe has been a leader in adopting regulation regarding online gambling, but as the activity spreads, new measures are being enacted. To combat the loss of taxes on gambling and betting due to its gamblers turning to offshore websites such as operators in Gibraltar, the UK has adopted a rule to tax online gambling based on the consumers‘ place of residence, effective in December 2014. The turnover of remote betting in the UK reached a medium double-digit figure in billions of Euros in 2013, as a significant single digit percent of males and a small percent of females in the UK gamble online. Laptop and desktop computers are still the leading devices used for online gambling, but the use of smartphones and tablets is increasing.

In France, online gambling and betting has been legal since 2010, but many gamblers turn to illegal sites. For example, a quarter of poker players chose to bet on unregulated networks. Apparently, because of the high taxes paid by the French regulated sites they have smaller budgets available to promote their services.

Italy has one of the most advanced regulatory arrangements regarding online gambling in Europe. Total online gambling revenue in Italy recently reached a high number in hundreds of millions of Euros, with poker constituting the largest segment.

Regulation of online gambling and betting in Germany and Russia lag some of their neighbors. Progress in online betting regulation in Germany is expected in 2014, as several operators have applied for the first online sports betting licenses. Once the licenses are obtained, the regulated segment is forecasted to generate several hundreds of millions EUR by 2017, while the non-regulated market in Germany will still be larger with a one-digit number in EUR billion in revenue. Meanwhile, legislation is currently being prepared to legalize online betting in Russia. Betting and gambling remains restricted to special administrated zones in Russia, with online gambling being illegal.

Online gambling and betting is spreading in the Asia-Pacific region. In Australia, which leads the world in terms of per person gambling, online sports betting and gambling has been growing by over 30% annually, while the growth of the total gambling market does not exceed 5%. Singapore restricts gambling generally, and the government is considering measures to also restrict online gambling, even though a third of Internet users in Singapore had gambled remotely at least once. In Japan, only the national lottery operator has a legal online betting site. A bill to legalize casinos was submitted to the Japanese parliament in 2013, with a decision expected early this year. Online gambling and betting is prohibited in China, with those accused of operating such sites on mainland China being prosecuted. However, gambling is allowed on the specially administrated territory of Macau, with some online gambling operators hoping online gambling would be legal there as well.

Online gambling is only starting to emerge in Africa. The first regulated online gambling website in Kenya was launched in 2013. In South Africa, online gambling awaits legalization in 2014.