Mobile phone gambling set to expand in Asia - Thursday 29th of December 2005

SINGAPORE : The mobile applications market has become more colourful with each passing year.

So far, gaming applications have proved to be one of the most popular, with the International Data Corp predicting that the mobile gaming market in the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) will rise to US$3 billion ($5 billion) in 2009 from US$868 million this year.

So, whats next after mobile gaming? Take a bet? Yes, you guessed it: Mobile gambling.

Every one of us is, to a certain degree, a punter. So, what better way of entertaining yourself on the go than to play a game and perhaps win some money?

Advances in technology are helping to accelerate the growth of mobile gambling. The availability of high-speed third-generation (3G) networks, for example, is just one of several catalysts.

"3G improves the throughput and creates a better gaming experience because data transfer becomes much faster," said Mr Matti Zinder, 39, the chief executive officer of wireless casino systems provider Spin3.

"Handsets also play a major role in terms of graphics capabilities and memory size. As these continue to improve, so would game-play. Today, phones are being used more in the capacity of an entertainment device and less of a communication tool."

The mobile gambling industry is still young, especially in the Asia Pacific.

The primary growth is in Europe, said Mr Zinder. Although the current take-up in Asia-Pacific is "very small", he believes 5 to 8 per cent of the 70 million mobile gamers have the potential to carry out gambling activities on the phone.

Juniper Research forecast that the global mobile gambling market will be worth US$16.6 billion in 2008, with US$5 billion from the Asia-Pacific region.

"We are looking for local partners," Mr Zinder told Today. "In the next 12 months, well be building up our infrastructure here and Im hoping that some time next year, we will have a number of clients in the region."

Spin3 launched its wireless gaming system, GameWire, in November last year. An updated version of GameWire, unveiled last month, includes an improved graphical user interface and age verification controls.

Spin3s platform is compatible with about 600 mobile phone models. It offers six real-time networked casino games such as roulette, blackjack and jackpot, with a backlog of 235 games under development.

It is also exploring Asian-type games such as Pai Gow (a game played with dominoes) and Sic Bo (a game of chance played with dice) to appeal to regional markets. The company plans to go into sports betting and wireless lottery as well.

"We are targeting a more mature audience, which is often overlooked," said Mr Zinder. "Most of the games these days are battle and racing games, which cater to the tastes of a young audience.

"As the older generation becomes more capable in the use of mobile devices, they will want content. This audience is growing and we have the ability to provide them with high-quality games."

To play, users transfer money by credit card into their mobile casino account. Spin3 is looking to collaborate with local providers to integrate gaming credits as part of the users monthly phone bill.

The companys patent-pending authentication technology ensures that sensitive player-specific details, such as credit card data, do not reside on the phone. Player information is stored on the gaming server. So, even if the phone is lost, none of the data stored on the handset would lead to abuse or fraud.

Where there are legal restrictions, Spin3 is able to deploy its system without the full gambling option through SpinFone, a pay-per-download or subscription-based model integrated with real-time scoreboards that are based on the Web, WAP and SMS.

According to Mr Zinder, Spin3 sees social responsibility as a critical success factor. Its products are engineered with safeguards in them, such as age verification checks and adult short codes, a dedicated numbering system restricted to authorised users.

Spin3s system caps the amount of gambling that can be performed by a user to US$2,000 daily. Users would be able to set a limit to their casino credits in the next version of GameWire, expected to be released by the second quarter of next year.

The company works only with casino operators approved by E-commerce Gaming Regulation and Assurance (Ecogra), an independent organisation that monitors casinos to ensure their internal audit and data control processes are in place.

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