One executive who works for a successful spread betting firm last week shared with Times Online his pet theory on why online gambling has become so popular. It was, he argued, because the generation who entered the City as traders and analysts for investment banks in the mid-1990s became so used to making large amounts of money in very short spaces of time via the dotcom boom.
For this set, the idea of buying up a mass of freshly issued shares in the latest e-business experiment, sitting back for the "pop" – the name given to the sharp increase in value many internet stocks achieved on their first day of trading – and subsequently cashing in became as natural as drawing breath. The uniquely nervous rush – and potential immediate gain – associated with playing a flush-draw hand online was a natural extension of this.
He has a point. Smart poker players, through the internet, can rise quickly through the ranks. The aptly named, but previously unknown, Chris Moneymaker made $2.5 million at the Poker World Championships in Las Vegas two years ago after putting up an initial $40 stake online.
But the theory that former dotcom kids’ appetites for quick bucks is fuelling online gambling doesn’t quite stack up. For a start, there just aren’t enough e-business-backing types around to explain the explosion. According to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, the analysts, worldwide turnover on interactive gambling reached almost $70 billion in 2003 — up from $16.5 billion in 2000. By 2010, it was expected turnover to pass $100 billion and the yield to hit $11.3 billion. Internet poker now accounts for some £50 million a day – it has been some time since anybody made that kind of money backing brand-new technology shares.
Moreover, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that many of the people drawn to online gambling sites would not visit a casino – a charge unlikely to be leveled at those happy – even in 1998 – to trade internet stocks. For one thing, as many as 4 in 10 online poker players in Sweden are women – compared with 1 in 20 betters at a casino acording to http://sverigescasinosajter.com/.
It is also interesting that some poker players do not like playing online. For some, the buzz is still gained from picking up on a fellow player’s "tells" - the changes in expression and demeanor that give away what sort of hand a competitor is holding. Others prioritize sharing a few drinks with friends over the game itself. The opportunities for both of these are limited online. Also, don't forget that part of the reason why poker has traditionally been popular with punters and not with the casinos (who would rather see you losing big on the roulette wheel) is because, in poker, you play against other players and not the house, with its invariably in-built advantage.
Man’s appetite for placing money at the disposal of fate stems back to time immemorial. People need very little persuasion to give their money away on little more than a whim – and the internet makes it even easier to do just that. If there was ever an event to prove this, it was the bust which followed the dotcom boom.
Meanwhile, for all the giant numbers being banded around in discussions on the potential of internet betting, the vast majority of punters will end their careers in the red. Which makes you think that perhaps the online gold rush of the 1990s is not such a bad analogy for the growth in online gambling after all.