“China will legalise online sports betting within ten years”

Warwick Bartlett's boldest prediction is that China will legalise  sports betting.
Warwick Bartlett's boldest prediction is that China will legalise sports betting.

Exclusive interview.- Focus Gaming News speaks with Warwick Bartlett, chief executive of Global Betting & Gaming Consultants (GBGC).

With 50 years’ experience in the industry, Warwick Bartlett has seen a lot of change.

His company GBGC provides consultancy, data and market reports, helps governments develop policy, advises companies and assists investment banks with due diligence work.

Perhaps the one thing he hadn’t seen yet was a global pandemic and economic shutdown.

With GBGC’s global gambling report now in its 15th edition, Focus Gaming News caught up with Bartlett direct from quarantine on the Isle of Man to discuss the unprecedented situation. 

Bartlett notes that some land-based operators have been caught out.

“We’ve had calls from land-based operators that want to get online quickly, which is not possible,” he said.

“They should have made that decision some time back, but they’re coming round to it now so we’re possibly going to see more people applying for licences to enable their businesses to be on the internet so that when occurrences like this happen they’ve got a solution to be able to continue to take revenue.”

Bartlett himself predicted the pandemic would be a “black swan moment”, but admits he didn’t expect countries one after another to shut their economies. 

He said it may be some time before people are comfortable to return to land-based casinos in pre-pandemic numbers, but that the demand will be there at some point. 

“People that have been at home are saving a considerable amount of money, so there’s going to be pent up demand at some point in the future where this money is going to be released into the economy and off we go again, hopefully,” he said.

“For online gaming, every time you have a major event, like a World Cup, then business booms.”

Warwick Bartlett, chief executive of Global Betting & Gaming Consultants (GBGC)

He said he expected the online industry to benefit long term from the boost it received during the pandemic.

“For online gaming, every time you have a major event, like a World Cup, then business booms and they get new signups,” he said. “This is by any stretch of the imagination a major event.

“What you find when you have a major event is that it takes the market to a new peak and it drops, but it’s still higher than it was before.

“Those people now have accounts, those accounts were for poker, for blackjack, for casino generally. Now they have those accounts with online operators where they can now play on sports as well.”

He noted that bingo had made strong digital transition, while lottery had seen a few stand out cases such as Veikkhaus and the UK’s National Lottery which achieved strong digital business with very little marketing in order to avoid being seen as turning their backs on retail agents.

“It’s very difficult for a lottery company with mom and pop shops and corner shops all over the country as agents,” he said. “They don’t want to feel that the lottery is turning their back on their loyalty over the years by basically taking those sales direct.

“It’s very difficult for lotteries to make the transition but it’s necessary because if they don’t they’re going to lose market share to other gambling products.”

“The industry is still suffering from being stigmatised from the past.”

Warwick Bartlett, chief executive of Global Betting & Gaming Consultants (GBGC)

He said the other type of call he’s been receiving recently has been from operators that want to “refine their message to the government because they feel they’ve been unfairly treated.”

He said he expects various jurisdictions will look to impose taxes on the gaming industry to bring money into state coffers to aid Covid-19 recovery efforts, and warned that the take-up of licences in territories like Curaçao was increasing despite listed companies’ taste for regulation.

Bartlett noted that for smaller operators, Europe in particular has become a very difficult sphere to operate in.

“China will legalise internet sports betting within ten years.”

Warwick Bartlett, chief executive of Global Betting & Gaming Consultants (GBGC)

Where will markets grow, then? Years ago Bartlett predicted the US would finally legalise sports betting. Now his most audacious prediction is that China will make the move. 

“My prediction now is that China will legalise internet sports betting within ten years,” he said.

“They’ll go through several stages just as the US has. They’ll do their best to prevent the offshore. They’ll clamp down on it as much as they possibly can, they’ll see that it’s failed and eventually they’ll produce legislation.”

The GBGC Global Gambling Report is available now in its 15th edition. 

Check out the full interview with Warwick Bartlett on the Focus Gaming News YouTube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe!

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