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Seeing this morning that the European lotteries have called on the EC to carry on its fight against illegal operators reminded me that I never posted my most recent colum for Gaming intelligence magazine. I have therefore copied it below. Far more interesting, though, for most people, will be Alistair Osborne’s interview with Richard Koch in today’s Telegraph about the failed bid for Betfair.


I was never a big fan of Andre Gide. Strait is the Gate annoyed me intensely, for some reason; The Immoralist, I just didn’t get: I think most of the imagery passed me by. But one thing he got absolutely right. “There are very few monsters,” he wrote in Fruits of the Earth, “who warrant the fear we have of them.”

I found myself thinking of that quote while I chaired day two of the recent Asian Gaming Conference in Macau, where the debate (such as it was) revolved around the same old subjects, but – when people were engaged with me – with one main difference: when I was having them ten or so years ago, people were scared that the organisation that I was then representing was going to change the world.

Maybe not the world, but their world, for sure: people in the industry were frightened in a way that they no longer are, for reasons which, on the face of it, are obvious. But it struck me, as I considered it, that actually, perhaps they aren’t so obvious: perhaps they aren’t scared any more for the slightly less obvious reason that if they had stopped for a moment to take a breath back then, they might have realised that there was no good reason to be scared in the first place.

I bring it up now because while the bookies versus exchange debate has moved on – Ladbrokes have bought Betdaq, after all; so we can all now admit that Coral launched Play2Match in the same month as Betfair, but just couldn’t make it work – there remains one fearsome argument between incumbents and challengers which stuck in the same groove as it has been for approaching 15 years: that of the State gambling operators against the Private ones.

As the Malta regulator Reuben Portanier points out elsewhere in this edition, the President of the Europen Lotteries Association, Frederich Stickler, recently told this magazine what he thinks of what he calls ‘illegal operators’; and not a lot of it was based on any facts.

I have argued the toss with Mr. Stickler at plenty a conference over the years. He is a forthright sort of chap, as you might expect; although not aggressive, as many of them are. But his entire position, and all the rhetoric that flows from it, is predicated on fear – specifically, the fear that all the money that flows from the lotteries to good causes will dry up if private operators start to take increasing amounts of the pie.

So, more than anything, it seems to me he needs to get back to his Gide. There are countless examples of industries fearing implosion as a result of new developments, and it almost never happens. The implosion, if it comes, is down to poor management, and a failure to adapt to the modern world – two things that will kill you off in the long-run anyway. In marked contrast, established players who adapt to the modern world embrace a whole new audience while keeping the vast majority of the one they had in the first place. In short, if you weren’t so scared by it, you’d take it as an opportunity.

Gide also wrote that “man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” It may be that Mr. Stickler is happy with the little pond that he has made his own, but there will come a time when the man heading up the lotteries has broader horizons. The sooner that day comes, the better for everyone, in my view – lotteries included.


Posted in Betfair, Betting industry.

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2 Responses

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  1. colston says

    A great piece by Alastair Osborne, and Richard Koch appears to have it spot on.
    His 80/20% philosophy is ideal for Betfair.
    If you’re not a fan of Betfair by now, the chances are you never will be.
    I especially like the idea of cutting meeting rooms and meetings by 80%, thereby saving rent and having more time for “real” work. Too radical?

Continuing the Discussion

  1. | Mark Davies linked to this post on June 10, 2013

    […] on from my article about Gide and monsters, copied below, I was amused to see reported in the Tasmanian Mercury newspaper that, “Betfair […]

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