Some Investors Ask: Will the Online Gambling Bubble Burst?


A report entitled “Networked Games Driving the Future” was recently released by the market research and consulting firm Park Associates.  This report, by every conceivable measure, indicated a successful and resilient industry.  However, some see parallels to the boom and bust of the dot com industry. 

According to the report, the U.S. online gambling industry revenues are expected to increase from $1.1 billion this year to over $3.5 billion in 2009.  This represents an increase of over 318% over a period of only four years, and makes the online casino industry one of the fastest growing businesses in the world.

Several relatively new online casino innovations are expected to account for much of the increase.  Analysts predict that, in 2009, almost 50% of online gambling industry revenues will be from online console gaming, MMOs, multiplayer internet gaming, and mobile multiplayer gaming. 

"The two primary drivers for online gaming are networked services and digital distribution," said Yuanzhe (Michael) Cai, who is Parks Associates’ director of gaming and networked services. "Over the next four years, the gaming industry will no longer depend solely on retail sales but will see more balanced and diversified business models."

However, the high- speed expansion of the online casino industry makes some nay- sayers nervous.  For some, the super- rapid expansion brings back memories of another boom that eventually ended with an enormous bust: the dotcom bubble. 

Some investors at the London Stock Exchange, where several online gambling firms went public with net worth values in the millions last summer, suffered flashbacks to the scene in 2001, when technology shares collapsed and investors learned a harsh lesson.  The online gaming market, some say, is a fad of whose staying power they are ultimately not convinced. 

Those with a pessimistic view of the online gaming market became more confident of their opinion in September, when the growth in the Poker market experienced dramatic slowdown.  However, others say that this was merely an insignificant blip on the investment radar. 

Perhaps they are frightened by the level of resounding success of firms that did not even exist ten years ago.  Some of the most successful online casino companies have even surpassed British staple brands with well-known products and dozens of years of retail excellence such as Boots and British Airways.  The dot coms, similarly, emerged out of the blue to beat traditional companies, only to disappear into the abyss a few years later.  

However, despite the similarities, some major differences between the online casino and dot com industries; distinctions that argue for a greater chance of survival for the former.  One major difference lies in the fact that the profit margins of online casino companies are much larger than those at the dot coms, even during their peak.  Analysts also approve of a series of consolidation maneuvers in the online casino industry, which was not a tendency of the dot coms.  They foresee the strongest and most resilient online casinos as being those that offer poker, sports betting, and casino games.  


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