Mobile gambling via smartphone: you can bet it's in your future

poker player's pile of chips Imagine this: you're sitting in a boring presentation, and see a man in the row in front of you with his iPhone in his lap, playing blackjack online. As you watch, he wins a hand and $20 in real money. This is the dream of the mobile gambling industry, a dream that a new white paper by research firm Juniper Research concludes has excellent odds of coming true.

Juniper's white paper projects that gross wagers via mobile gambling platforms will reach $48 billion by 2015, on a combination of casino games, lottery, and parimutuel betting on horse races and the like.

In some ways, the smart phone is the perfect tool for gambling, if gambling revenue is your goal. If U.S. laws against it can be changed or worked around, the phone would allow you to gamble any time of day, in your office at lunch or in your pajamas at 3 in the morning. No more need to go to a casino, if you're concerned about your public image.
WalletPop had a chance to speak by phone with Juniper's Principal Analyst Dr. Windsor Holden, who explained that mobile gambling in this country is restricted by current federal gambling laws. However, many of the barriers to bring mobile gambling to the U.S. will come down if legislation recently introduced by Sen. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and passed out of committee comes to fruition, as Holden believes it will. This legislation would open up Internet gambling in the U.S.

Holden added that one of the drivers in the possible legalization of remote gambling is the U.S. state lotteries. He explained that these lotteries find it harder and harder to sell tickets over the counter -- and hope that adding remote sales via the smartphone will help draw in new business, especially young people who are accustomed to online transactions. In the United Kingdom, as well as other countries, lottery tickets are already sold via mobile phones, so the technology is in place.

As illustration of the potential for lottery sales, Holden points to China and its amazingly successful VODone lottery, which has 9 million registered users. Other mobile lotteries, the report states, are already bringing in the bucks in Latin America and Africa.

Holden also said that, while opponents of expanding gambling to mobile platforms often challenge it on moral grounds, on-ground casinos are strong backers of the opposition, hoping to protect their turf. They'll have to work hard, though, to ignore or circumvent the record numbers of problem gamblers in America -- by some estimates, as many as one in 10 people who gamble have an addiction, or are problem gamblers.
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