Futurist Predicts Great Growth in Internet Gaming, to $90 Billion by 2010

15 May 2000

MONTREAL -- A Canadian futurist is predicting a really bright future for online gaming, to the tune of US$90 billion a year by the end of this decade. The futurist, Frank Feather, concedes that's a higher number than others have forecast.

About one third of that amount will consist of wagering on sports, he said.

Feather, a former strategic planner and author of "Future Consumer.Com," addressed a session of the Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo here Friday.

While bullish on the future of online gaming, Feather also exhorted the industry to follow ethical practices and to weed out unsavory operators.

"Look at self-regulation," he said. "Look at restrictive licensing. You don't want fly-by-night operators in the business. You want a good, legitimate business that you can defend. Weed them out, before somebody else does it for you."

Operators of Internet gaming sites should be aggressive in screening their players, Feather said, to prevent children from gambling and to help addicted gamblers.

"Online is the ideal world for knowing your customers," he said. Operators should look for early recognition of problems, and offer "counseling for those who need it as a public service. Show the accumulated position on the screen, so people know where they're at."

Bettors should always be kept aware of how much they've lost, Feather said, and encouraged to think about whether they really want to continue betting.

"Problem gamblers are an ageless problem," he said. "You need to get ahead of the issue."

He also said gaming site operators should excel at customer service, citing as an example the ease with which an online customer of Land's End can get a live sales associate on the screen to help search for products.

Feather placed online gaming in a macro context, saying that the Internet is reversing many of the changes wrought by the industrial revolution. And it's already bigger than the industrial revolution, he said.

That change moved production from the home to a centralized place - the factory. Now work is returning to the home, or wherever the individual is.

"It (the Internet) takes work out of the work place," Feather said. "In the information age, you do not go to work. Work comes to you when you switch on your computer."

Similarly, he said, "it takes banking out of the banks . . . it takes the library out of the library. It takes the casino out of the casino. Everything gets reversed. It comes to the consumer."

This means, the futurist said, that intermediaries change, and some intermediaries will disappear.

"Who needs a bookie? Who needs a stockbroker?" Feather asked.

There will be more consolidation, he said, in both offline and online industries. In the United States, he said, there were more than 300 automobile manufacturers and 300 telephone companies in the early days of those industries.

Feather said we are moving toward winner-take-all Web sites, which means few brands will succeed.

"That's why branding is going to be extremely important to your business," he told the conference audience. "In the online world, the most important key to success that should drive overall strategy is how to get your site bookmarked as a favorite."

Feather also encouraged gaming site operators to prepare for a wireless world.

"There will be 1 billion cell phones on the planet by 2003, and 40 to 50 percent of those telephones will have Web access," he said. "By then the Web will be always on. You'll not log on to the Web. It will be always on in the same sense the radio and television is always on."

Feather had reassuring words about the Kyl bill and related efforts in the U.S. Congress to ban Internet gaming. They're bound to fail, he said, because prohibition on the Internet is impossible and because there is huge demand for online gaming.

Related Links
Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo (GIGSE) 2000