Leicester City, Brexit and President-elect Donald Trump have made fools of the forecasters in 2016 but December has come round again, so it is time to look ahead to 2017.

Review of last year’s predictions

GBGC predicted:

1.UK POCT would raise £475m and not the £280m forecast by Treasury
2.Social responsibility will become a major cost to the industry
3.Gambling taxes would be increased (I think applying tax to free bets qualifies a successful prediction)
4.Top picks for consolidation 888, Unibet, Bet Victor and Skybet
5.CMA would force Ladbrokes & Coral to sell 800 shops
6.Vegas will not be back to its 2007 peak in GGR
7.No progress on legalisation of US internet gambling
8.Macau revenues will stabilise at a lower level than January 2016
9.Brazil will commence the legislative process to legalise gambling in 2016
10.Start ups are being priced out through regulation and taxes, they will choose less regulated jurisdictions
11.Two years ago we said Africa, now we say India. Just in time this month India is looking to legalise sports betting
12.Casino consolidation in the Turkish sector of Cyprus

Nine out of twelve correct.

2017

Consolidation
I called it wrong on consolidation last year and I should have learned my lesson but I will stick my neck out again. According the Financial Times William Hill is struggling to find a new Chief Executive. If the Government turns nasty on FOBTs and compounds William Hill’s problems it could become a target for takeover again, or conversely maybe William Hill will look at 888 again. If this were to happen then Playtech could potentially lose one of its biggest customers. Whereas the tripartite merger of William Hill, Rank and 888 failed, would it have succeeded with Playtech in the mix? So my consolidation tips for next year are for William Hill, 888 and Playtech, any three doubles and possibly a treble.

Macau
Macau has hit the bottom and has now started to grow. But the much needed Zhuhai Bridge is facing continual construction problems. Nevertheless, I am still betting on steady growth for Macau casinos in 2017. During the election campaign President-elect Trump said some provocative things about US trade with China and he has further angered Beijing by taking a call from Taiwan. We saw a sell off in stocks on 8 December 2016 due to Union Pay restrictions, which shows how volatile this market can be. There is always the possibility that Beijing will choose to hit Trump election contributor Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn by taking measures against American investment in Macau.

Macau remains a compelling casino market, I expect steady growth for 2017 as the market moves away from VIP gaming.

USA
The best chance for the legalisation of sports betting in the US was if Donald Trump became President. Well, he won the election, now we just have to wait and see. The American Gaming Association seems to favour the legalisation of sports betting while some of its most important members such as Las Vegas Sands do not. Indeed Sheldon Adelson, a Trump supporter, is supporting a Bill to re-introduce the Wire Act.

Difficult to predict an outcome. Any new President has a lot on his plate and gambling is not a priority in the wider picture. My prediction for 2017 is for no movement toward legalisation of sports betting.

Japan, Brazil, India and Germany
Each of the four is a potentially significant market in its own right and all four governments are considering the legalisation or relaxation of their gambling laws. The four have a combined population of 1.7 billion people. Predictions about future markets have always led to disappointment because the deregulation never seems to satisfy the ambitions of the gambling industry. However the growing middle class of India, the population of Brazil and the high income per capita of both Germany and Japan lead us towards optimism. The terms of the licence and taxation will be important.

If all four countries opened up their gambling markets it would be like a new Klondike gold rush for the industry. I would settle for any one of the four. No predictions for fear of cursing the prospect.

United Kingdom
The Americans produce the biggest and best casinos in the world because the state of Nevada has a low tax rate that has allowed those businesses to develop. The UK is the global centre for betting expertise and thousands are employed either directly or providing services to the industry.

The UK gambling industry is now under pressure, not from its customers, but from Government. I do hope that within the UK Government an economic historian will come forward and point to the demise of sectors of British industry and how Government decisions made crucial miscalculations.

I hope the UK gambling industry will not follow suit.

Brexit
How will Brexit affect the gambling industry? Not much actually. The only area of major concern is whether Spain decides to close the border with Gibraltar and thus cuts off the supply of workers who cross each day. On this issue I have changed my mind several times.

I was heartened to here Merryn Somerset Webb on BBC Question Time. She put forward the opinion that 100 years from now historians will have recorded Brexit in one small paragraph that states that “during 2017/18 the United Kingdom and the EU decided to amend their trading arrangements”. She is probably right, in which case the border with Spain is likely to stay open, and after all it is in Spain’s interests. The balance of trade between Spain and the UK favours Spain 2:1.

However, e-gaming companies get jittery when there is a lack of certainty and some may decide to look elsewhere. Malta is an obvious choice; it is an EU country and has developed one of the best e-gaming hubs with a substantial number of people employed already. Malta through its own success is becoming crowded, the economy is booming and costs are rising.

The Isle of Man has the capacity to take all of the companies in Gibraltar; it has four tier-three data centres, and an abundance of office space. However the IOM is not an EU country.

My prediction is that companies will stay in Gibraltar in 2017 and probably beyond, and look to the Isle of Man for disaster recovery services.

Technology
I am a big fan of Microsoft’s HoloLens. It is still in its experimental stage and has not been launched yet but I think it will revolutionise the way we do business.

How will it work with e-gaming? Well you could have several screens in which to play slots or poker. In the back office HoloLens will enable traders to have multiple screens in minimal space.