Sponsored by Deutsche Bank another successful GES conference at the great W Hotel, Barcelona was concluded on Thursday 10 July 2014.
No prizes for the main topic of conversation during the agenda topic The Big Debate, it was the Amaya acquisition of Poker Stars.

The Big Debate 

There was a divergence of views. On the one side Alen Lang a Director of consultancy Coloring Up (and previously at Party Gaming) and David Briggs CEO of Geocomply, presently is working in New Jersey helping operators with their geo-location problems. Both have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share.
David took the view that if Poker Stars were to be licensed in New Jersey it would be transformational. 
It is a company that knows what it is doing and would bring forth to the market their data base of players causing the market to substantially grow. He did not envisage that Poker Stars would experience the same problems as the newly licensed businesses.
Alen took a different view explaining that he had in some respects already walked in their shoes when he was at Party Gaming. Alen was not so bullish about the prospects for Poker Stars to be licensed because although there had been director and ownership changes the offence was still against the assets of corporate Poker Stars. On trading he took the view that Party was the number one prior to UIGEA, a position subsequently taken up by Poker Stars as Party exited the market.
Alen said things had now changed. The market had moved on, poker was less popular than it had been and New Jersey was not doing as well as people had expected. The current licence holders had a jump on the market, were becoming established and were paying tax. That is essentially the difference, paying tax, coping with regulation, leaves less to spend on promotion. Alen thought Amaya’s stock was a short!
David took the opposite view and said that those who had purchased Amaya had done very well and they are now the only investor play in the Internet gambling sector in the USA.
The general feeling however was that given time Poker Stars would if licensed be number one as they are in most of the markets where they trade.
It has to be said also that Poker Stars are used to trading in the regulated and taxed markets of UK, France and Italy, taxes and regulation will not be new to them. 

In conversation with analysts 
Moderated by Andrew Gellatly from Gambling Compliance panellists included myself, Paul Leyland from Regulus Partners and David Bains from GLP.
Andrew was concerned about two things, why had the price earning s ratios of listed companies had fallen and why I was taking photographs of One Direction who were staying at the hotel. The answer to the latter is I have a granddaughter who said “do not come home without one”. My problem is that if I bumped into them I would not know who they were!
The fall in PE ratios was an easier task. The answer to that conundrum is that investors have been burned. They lost money on the Betfair IPO, lost money with Bwin Party merger, lost money post UIGEA. Add to this the uncertainty of Point of Consumption Tax and regulation it is not surprising they are staying on the side lines.
For the time being investors are focussing on the negatives the industry faces and are blind to the positives which are, the world coming out of recession, albeit slowly, the availability of services due to technology.
How do you get those investors back? Make profits and pay dividends. 

Examining Bitcoin as the next disruptor 
Melissa Blau interviewed PKR founder Jez San and Steve Beauregard CEO of Go Coin. The benefits of using Bitcoin as an online payment solution were explained. It is quick, no charge backs, and it will cost one percent per transaction. They key of course is in the software that handles the transaction.
Steve explained to me that you could be in a restaurant with three people and each decides to pay separately. One person pays the bill and the others by using their smart phones utilise the Bitcoin or a digital currency system to send the money instantly to the person that has paid. Banks and payment processors are not involved.
What is most interesting to me is the technology involved. Techy’s call it Block Chain technology where a decentralised value system is created to dis-intermediate the government and banks from the generation of money.
Charles Hoskinson from Etheruem is looking at other industries that they can dis-internmediate. He said “What else can we remove from a process such as Dropbox from storage, Rackspace from hosting and Vegas from gambling. Charles it has already been done in gambling. Betfair has removed the bookmaker from betting with its betting exchange but has subsequently had to become a bookie itself if they are to capture the mass market.

Planning five years ahead 
This panel was moderated by Cameron Cartmell from Ernst and Young and he was joined by Mor Weiser (Playtech) Richard Glynn (Ladbrokes) Alexander Vleeming (Gauselmann Group) Luke Alvarez (Inspired gaming Group).
Mor Weiser said the Internet gambling industry lags behind other non gambling industries with the introduction of new technology some he said were not even using single wallets., this should not happen. More data analysis is required focusing on the activity of the player so as to create a better experience and take the customer to a new level of enjoyment. He thought Asia was good for some operators but did not suit everyone; Africa was growing faster than anywhere else. He said consolidation in Europe was inevitable and expected a large deal to be done toward the end of the year.
Luke Alvarez said the betting shop machine now meets the Internet with the player using the same games on the Internet as he does in the betting shop and using his same account for both.
Alexander Vleeming said that so far as Gauselmann was concerned regulation or lack of it in Germany meant that their focus had to be in other countries. Schleswig Holstein regulation was so complex no one plays the games. He thought US was a mature saturated market and saw few opportunities.
Richard Glynn from Ladbrokes said their investment in China was not transformational for Ladbrokes, they had been there for ten years now and was viewed as a long term opportunity. In the UK service was key and we have to bring the customer into the boardroom so that more decisions are based on the consumer. 
There were 21 topics for discussion at WGES. This is just a glimpse of what happened at the best conference of the year.