With lockdowns slowly being relieved across North America, land-based casinos are opening back up. However, the damage has already been done for many, with the temporary closures leaving them behind on rent. More than their financial liabilities, gamblers have changed their attention to online games during the pandemic – and the traditional industry isn’t looking confident that they’ll return.
Online casinos were gaining in popularity long before COVID-19 struck; we can think of lockdown as being an accelerator of a trend that already existed. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that caused this appetite for online casino games:
When you step foot in a traditional casino, gamblers will be hit by a wave of familiarity. Whilst this might scratch an itch for some, they’re simply falling behind when it comes to creating new experiences for the customer.
Online casinos have a significant advantage in game development. There’s a large pool of intelligent programmers out there working on software, video games, and ways to implement traditional gambling concepts in new ways. Really, there is only one place to go when searching for new ways to gamble.
When browsing through Casinos Jungle, for example, it soon becomes clear how one-sided this competition is. It’s not just the sheer number of games either, it’s that they have different themes that cater to different customers. For example, when looking for a slot machine game, most online casinos will have everything from Egyptian-themed games to fantasy-based characters.
In fact, some even develop substantial stories with side-puzzles, interesting characters, and unique challenges. This is far and away from the three-wheel spin machine we’re used to seeing. We can argue that they’re becoming gamified too, taking inspiration from the popularity of video games, where the line between gambling and competing on online leaderboards becomes blurred.
There is an argument that casinos create an atmosphere that is impossible to replace. There’s a wide range of interesting people around, all riding on a rollercoaster of emotions, with drinks being handed out by waiters and dealers making jokes.
Online casinos certainly have an inherent disadvantage in this regard, but they’re making up the ground fast. Venturing into the vast catalogue of table games, online gamblers are presented with options for live dealers. Sitting at a virtual blackjack table, the user can interact with a real-life human. This is where there’s a dealer (in a ‘real’ casino) hosting you remotely, in which you can interact with them through the in-chat feature.
Having a real dealer roll a real dice presents a massive opportunity for online gambler – socially distanced gambling doesn’t much better.
Furthermore, virtual reality is playing a large role in online casino game development. Or rather, the online casino industry is playing a large role in VR development. There is now the potential for users at home to walk around a virtual casino, see other avatars, and interact with them. Again, it’s not the same as the real thing, but this advantage that land-based casinos hold is being slowly eroded away as users can have a sociable experience from the comfort of their own home.
Accessibility and Privacy
A huge part in the success of online casinos is simply that they’re playable from almost anywhere. Developers have been working on responsive design in which games are just as playable on smartphones as they are computers. Airports, trains, and the toilet are just some of the environments in which online casinos see floods of traffic.
This isn’t to say online casinos are for introverts, whilst land-based casinos are for extroverts – there’s an element of privacy too. The rise of cryptocurrency casinos has meant that users can not only play games with their beloved Bitcoins, but they can now remain anonymous with no papertrace and no telling on their bank statements. Again, an advantage that land-based casinos once had is being slowly diminished.
Finally, beyond the differences in games, experience, and accessibility, there’s a very tangible difference between the two when it comes to money: Online casinos offer better sign-up offers. Now, it’s true that some online casinos offer joining rewards, but they can only be used once. How many casinos are there in your town?
Whereas with online casinos, people often make a habit of joining up to as many different casinos as possible to repeatedly benefit from the sign-up promotions.
Beyond all of the points above, some people simply would rather not go on a night out every time they wish to play poker or roulette. It would cost an awful lot of money (and effort) to be going to the casinos multiple times per week.
Land-based casinos will never disappear. Tourists, for one, will keep some of them alive, plus those who enjoy the night out as an event. However, for those that care mostly about the games themselves, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to put down the phone, step out the house, and head to a casino.