Smart money play on Britain

Sep 23, 2003 4:37 AM

The British Invasion came to the annual Global Gaming Expo not with old Beatles and Stones memorabilia, but packed with smart cards and visions of attracting the American gambling market.

"The smart cards have taken off," said Olga Scott, vice president of direct investment for British Telecommunications eLocations. "The technology allows customers to buy gaming credit, issue and redeem gaming chips without the need for cash to change hands on the gaming floor."

Gambling in the UK has never been more exciting, according to Scott, with the government ready to deregulate the industry across the country sometime next year.

"We want to create Las Vegas-style casinos in land-based venues across Great Britain," Scott said. "The G2E allows us to get the word out to companies, especially the big hotels in Las Vegas. London is our main base, but we hope to have a lot more places open all over the country by this time next year."

The planned deregulation of gambling in England will have an immediate impact. At present, for anyone to gamble in the UK, there must be a 24-hour notice given.

"It’s quite like making a dinner reservation," Scott said. "You can’t just walk into a casino and bet without giving at least one day’s notice. That all will change with deregulation. We’re really excited about what this will do for the industry and our economic growth."

British Telecommunications believes that the smart cards are what will attract customers to their product.

"The smart cards have taken off," she said. "We can capture all kinds of customer data. It’s our answer to the credit card situation and we think people will be blown away with the technology."

The legislation is scheduled to come up before Parliament in 2004 and, if enacted, will enable companies to operate Las Vegas style casinos and online gaming operations. Online gaming is illegal in the United States, but Scott believes de-regulation will attract customers across Europe, Asia, South America and Central America.

"Today, gambling and gaming in the UK is a growth industry," Scott explained. "Almost three-quarters of the UK adult population participates. The proposed legislation changes will take this a step further. Gambling will be a mainstream legal activity, attracting greater investment from both abroad and within the UK."