Gambling is worldwide. Places to amble number well into the tens of thousands, when you consider all of the poker rooms, bingo halls, pachinko parlors, jai alai frontons, lottery ticket outlets, sports books, thoroughbred tracks, dog tracks, and home games. All in all, brick and mortar gaming has more than 100 jurisdictions throughout the world, with no two sharing exactly the same set of rules.
Each gambling jurisdiction imparts its own flair on the games. Some limit the games to games of skill which can often be the subject of considerable debate. Others might limit the amount a player can wager, while others still, limit the amount that a player can win. In Atlantic City, for example, all roulette games are required to have the "imprisonment" rule (where half of your even money bet is returned if the ball lands on 0 or 00). In the Cherokee casino North Carolina, the tribal compact requires that all slot machines have respin buttons.
These rule variants add excitement to gambling in new places and give players incentives to try new things. In some cases, these rule variants are there to protect the player from games that have hold percentages that are too high, and in others are designed by the tax authorities to ensure that no game is beatable by the players, and that each game generates tax revenue.
Differences in Target Market
Although differences between casinos around the world are due, in large part, to regulatory differences between the jurisdictions, some casinos differ in order to attract different segments of the market. For an example, let's take two high-end casinos in Las Vegas- The Regent, and Bellagio. Both hotel casinos are well appointed, have luxurious rooms and conference facilities, but their casinos are geared to different types of players.
Bellagio, a strip resort, is designed to appeal to tourists and passers by. The casino floor has games as far as the eye can see, and from any point in the casino you can get a good view of the other games the casino has to offer.
The Regent, on the other hand, is more geared to the locals of Las Vegas. Its casino, while still upscale by design, is much smaller and intimate, but unlike Bellagio, the machines are nestled in among plants and other decorations. This design was chosen so that people can hide, since as a local's place many of the players will know other people who walk in. Your roofer probably doesn't want you to see him at the Deuces Wild machine, when he should be at your place fixing your roof.
When Internet casino gambling first started, it began with the traditional games most commonly found in casinos, namely blackjack, video poker, and slot machimes. In the beginning there wasn't much differentiation between online casinos. It was just a novelty that there were any at all. The web sites were more about the fact that you could gamble online, than about any sort of theme in the software.
As Internet gambling continued to develop, certain types of sites have begun to emerge in different parts of the world, and as laws have developed, certain casino software developers have taken strong footholds in various jurisdictions. Of course, no matter where the site is based, almost all of them are available to players anywhere in the world.
The Major Jurisdictions
Internet gaming is now concentrated in four major locations. These are Costa Rica, Antigua, Canada and the Mohawk Of Kahnawake, and Australia. In each of these jurisdictions, one or more major software developers has become a dominant player, and these developers drive the types of casinos that appear in these regions.
Costa Rica has become a haven for online casinos since there is no license fee to operate an online casino (at the time of this writing), and the local labor market is excellent for customer service. According to one report, there are over 200 online casinos operating in Costa Rica, although the number might even be higher. In Costa Rica, the largest suppliers of casino software are RealTime Gaming, Unified Gaming, and IQ Ludorm. Although there are major differences between these suppliers, one thing common to most of the sites using these software suppliers is that they tend to have large customer support facilities with easy access to managers.
Antigua is a popular site for online gaming operators since the government of Antigua was one of the first governments to issue online gaming licenses. A gaming license in Antigua costs $100,000 annually. Three major software suppliers dominate the gaming environment in Antigua. These are Microgaming, Starnet, and BossMedia. These software developers provide full turnkey systems to their operators , and therefore, many of the sites that use the same software operate identically with the same customer support, and payout staff. All three of these software developers have downloadable applications, although both Microgaming and Starnet offer Java versions as well.
Canada & Mohawks of Kahnawake
Cryptologic, based in Canada, is the largest supplier of casino gaming software in Canada. The Mohawks of Kahnawake, a newcomer to online gaming, have opened a hosting facility called Mohawk Internet Technologies, which offers state of the art casino server hosting for the annual fees to the Mohawks of Kahnawake tribe, or the fees associated with getting software approved by their regulatory board. Despite the high price, Mohawk Internet Technologies is rapidly becoming a viable location for casinos to place their servers due to the high bandwidth, and superior technical support staff. Casinos from many different vendors have begun to appear on the Mohawks of Kahnawake's land.
Although there is only one online casino (http://www.lasseters.com/) currently licensed and regulated in Australia, I list it in this selection because it is the only first world country to fully embrace online gaming with a formal license procedure and regulatory process. The process is expensive with a base of approximately $200,000 plus the fees of background checks of all the principals of the corporation. Add to that heavy gaming taxes, and a relatively high cost of labor compared to other jurisdictions. However, its license carries with it, a legitimacy, that licenses from other countries cannot. For this reason, many online casinos are now considering moving their operations there. It is my opinion that in time, Austrlia will lower its tax structure for online gaming businesses, in order to attract them and to profit from this rapidly growing industry.
The Internet World Traveler
Although most players don't know it, in a quest to sample the different types of casinos out there, they have become unintentional world travelers. Players often have little idea of the actual whereabouts of the casino at which they play.
Other than the software provider that is popular in a particular region, there isn't much that differentiates a casino in one part of the world from those operating in another. In many cases software providers have crossed their traditional lines, and have provided software in new jurisdictions.
In the end, it is more important to try different casinos and find one that appeals to you, than to try to find one that operates out of a particular jurisdiction. After all, this is the Internet, and the place that you find a casino today may be a totally different place than you find the casino tomorrow. Try to find a casino that is fun to play, has great customer support, and has affiliations with important industry groups such as the Internet Gaming Council, SafeBet or the OffShore Gaming Assocation.
In the end, the fuzzy lines between the jurisdictions works well for the player. Traditional brick and mortar casinos generally need only compete with their neighbors, and often become complacent in offering incentives to guests. On the other hand, online casinos must face fierce competition from other online casinos all over the world, and will have to work hard to earn your business, regardless of how close you live.
To remain competitive, online casinos will have to continue to offer better odds, higher bonuses, and faster payouts. If they don't they will see just how small this world really is.
Author: Steve "Eagle Eye" Walker is a consultant to the online gaming industry. He has been involved with online gaming since its start and had consulted on software, security, technology, and operationd for numerous online casino. He can reached at [email protected]
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