Monday, 10 May 2010


I'm a bit slow on this, but I was fascinated to read Lloyd Levine's take on hearings about poker licensing in America - in Florida, specifically - in which he states that

"Representatives from several current foreign online operators also spoke and suggested that the Committee adopt alternatives proposals that would advantage foreign operators over Florida licensees. They proposed allowing current operators to simply be licensed in Florida, rather than create a state-owned hub in which current land-based Florida licensees could participate."

One of those 'foreign operators' was Betfair, but Mr. Levine's version of the position we have always taken - worldwide - on licensing, just goes to demonstrate how different people see things differently.

Our view of licensing has always been that the best way for governments to retain control of (and a portion of tax from) the greatest number of players in their jurisdiction is to ensure that offered within their jurisdiction is product that consumers want. Given that consumer tastes change, and that things move on, this is not best achieved by issuing a fixed and limited number of licenses and then hoping that that fulfils consumer demand.

A far better option, as I see it, is to require operators to achieve a given standard in whatever areas you legislate for, and then grant them a licence if they achieve that standard. If you want, it's the basis on which people get driving licences: if you're good enough on a series of measures, you get one. You don't get told, even if you prove to be Best In Class, that it's a great shame, but your neighbour got your street's (or even your town's) allocation first.

This is the position which Betfair put at the hearings in Florida. I know that even though I wasn't there, because we were represented at the hearings by one of my team, Laurie Itkin.

She put forward my oft-repeated (as nauseam, you might argue) proposition that in an internet age, consumers will go and find the product they want at the price they want to pay for it, and if they can't find it in their home jurisdiction, they will go and find it on the web. It is very difficult to stop them from doing so without taking a draconian, Chinese-style, approach to the internet;and even there, it doesn't work in preventing it happening.

I'm surprised that anyone should think that this approach seeks to advantage foreign operators over state ones: it simply means everyone needs to achieve the required standards, whether those standards are tools to protect people or levels of tax to pay.

Personally speaking, I'd certainly never defend the idea that any individual or set of operators should get special treatment, to any government. But I would certainly advocate future-proofing legislation, to the extent possible, in a fast-changing world.


  1. Is it not the liquidity factor that would disadvantage Florida licensees? { I am unaware of any internet offering based in Florida. }

    If so, established foreign operators already have large user bases, and people will go where people already are. I suspect a land based Florida operation wouldn't get a look in.

    Protectionism perhaps? Even if the US opens up to allow internet gambling, I suspect they will be looking at ways to keep the dominant players on shore for the benefit of their own economy, rather than anyone else's.

  2. Day 1 would be slow if it was restricted to Florida only, but make it legal and not bogged down with taxes etc, it would soon fire up. Big enough population for it to light up very quickly.

  3. Perhaps, but isn't that a very big risk for any new operation to take, especially in light of the technology infrastructure & experience required?

  4. to get first dibs on the rest of the US, by conforming to all the legal requirements? They will queue up for miles!