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It’s been an interesting week for conferences, not to say something of a conference fest. There have been four or five running concurrently in London, and a Thoroughbred Breeders’ Conference in Ireland. I was called at the start of the week by a conference organiser who wanted to know what the industry needed in terms of conferences. “Fewer of them” was probably not the answer she wanted.

Still, there were some interesting comments made, as well as some fairly shocking ones. Hearing that the RGA was described by a racing Chief Executive as as ‘shabby’, ‘discredited’, ‘myopic’ and ‘old-school’ certainly fell into the latter category, but there were some more progressive and somewhat less personal views aired as well.

One gentleman who approached me after I had spoken to the European Casino operators said to me that he agreed with my argument about the need for quicker regulation to be enacted if Europe is to retain control of its destiny, from a macro-economic perspective. But his concern, he said, was that the market couldn’t sustain more than a handful of operators. It was not sensible, in his view, just to set the regulatory standard and to license anyone who passed it, because it would be impossible to control the thousands of companies who would operate in your country.

Surely, if the UK market proves anything, it is that when markets are liberalised, they actually settle very quickly: although you need to make sure that you offer a complete range of products to cover all the variations of consumer demand, a handful of operators can actually fairly easily cover the bases that are needed. In other words, if consumers do, as I often suggest, find the product they want at the price they want it in an internet world, you don’t need more than 20 or so operators to cover all tastes.

It’s interesting, with that in mind, to ponder exactly why there are 5,000 gambling operators out there (by the estimates of the French government’s Durieux report). I would argue that the reason is precisely because governments try to criminalise the activity of betting. I’ve worked in this industry for 10 years and I can’t name more than about 30 operators internationally. How would an average consumer be able to do more? It’s only multiple fragmentation – the direct result of prohibition – which creates so many options, which by definition (or perhaps design) are impossible to police.

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