With online casinos now a viable alternative to land-based casinos, the future of the market looks strong. As one of America’s fastest-growing industries, many experts are wondering how it can possibly evolve further. However, with augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and the emergence of cryptocurrencies as a possible payment solution, there are a number of potential evolutions to discuss. However, before we do this, we’ll first take a detailed look at how the industry has evolved so far.
The Current Status of the Online Casino Industry
Online casinos emerged in the 1990s, making the industry only a couple of decades old. However, since modest beginnings where only basic games were offered, the range of games available to punters and the platforms they’re playable on has increased rapidly. From these humble beginnings, according to Global Newswire, an estimated 3.4 billion people worldwide used online gambling and betting sites in 2016.
The rapidly increasing market size of the gambling and betting industries has been attributed to a number of factors, including the use of smartphones for gaming purposes, the multiplication of payment options, the increasing speed and prevalence of the internet and the rise of the middle-classes with disposable income in the US and the UK particularly.
Highly responsive and adaptive to new technologies and innovations, online casino operators are now also constantly trying to stay ahead of a crowded field, fighting for market share. This is reflected in a number of bonuses and offers, which provide customers with more bang for their buck. These bonuses, which can be compared on sites such as Oddschecker, allow people to try new games, new operators and new technologies without having to increase their stake, with options including free spins and deposit bonuses, among other things.
Overall, this drive for innovation has led to rapid market expansion in recent years, with live gaming and mobile gaming attracting new customers and providing unique ways for customers to access the market. Now, with continual improvements to hardware and software, many pundits are asking what the next big innovation in the industry will be. Let’s take a look at three options.
#1 Augmented Reality
Augmented reality hit the mainstream with the release of Pokémon GO in 2016. Since then, the game has had over 1 billion installs and earned over $2 billion in revenue. The release of Pokémon GO proved to online casinos that gamified augmented reality can reach a mass market. As the creator of Pokémon GO and Niantic CEO John Hanke told Variety, augmented reality may currently be in its primacy, but it can provide an enormous benefit to society, creating “inherently shared experiences” between gamers and punters.
For this reason, online casinos are closely looking at how augmented reality products can be added to their offering. By adding digital elements to a live view by using the camera of a smartphone or a webcam, augmented reality will make it easier for customers to feel involved in the land-based casino experience. It could even transport the dealer straight into their kitchen or living room (much like how Pokémon GO brought the creatures right into the streets in front of us).
As the technology allows customers to face real people in a realistic virtual environment (including a live dealer), it has the potential to almost completely replace land-based casinos. Plus, it’s not just the personal gameplay that mirrors that environment. Augmented reality technology is a 360-degree environment, meaning people can wander around and watch other games without placing a bet.
However, players still need to invest in hardware that’s both expensive and difficult to obtain. In addition, because software and platforms are not yet available on a widespread scale, we’re still a few years away from augmented reality revolutionizing the marketplace.
#2 Virtual Reality
Similarly to augmented reality, virtual reality looks set to take the online casinos by storm. Although still in its infancy, unlike augmented reality, some virtual reality games are already available, with options on the marketplace since late 2015.
So far, VR has proven popular in the adapted slots market, but it still has a way to go before it reaches the mass market. At face value, there are two key advantages to virtual reality: an improvement to the overall standards of gameplay and limitless gaming. Virtual reality allows any player to travel to any casino in the world without leaving their front room, while also enjoying real-time graphics and improving their overall engagement.
Looking to the future specifically, online casinos need to improve their virtual reality offerings to match the customer demand for innovation and creativity. In particular, we’re yet to see a VR-based poker game capture the attention of the mass market. However, with rapid strides being made, and with the headsets already available, it appears as though virtual reality is much closer to the mainstream than augmented reality. It won’t be long until a player can judge the real-time ‘poker face’ of an opponent in a casino or attend a horse race they just placed a bet on without getting dressed.
#3 Cryptocurrency Payment Solutions
As online casinos improve their product offering and their gameplay, it’s also undoubted that they need to make further improvements to the security of their websites and transactions. The rise of PayPal and Skrill transactions have led to greater market security (which has further expanded the user base), but many market analysts believe that cryptocurrencies are the future of payment online, as they provide greater anonymity for the user. Plus, their encryption techniques also help to regulate the security of the money.
However, the security of cryptocurrency payments is just one of the advantages that the new payment solution will provide, as it will also speed up deposits and withdrawals for customers. Currently, if customers pay and withdraw funds via credit or debit cards, it can take days for the money to reach their accounts. Although eWallet solutions such as PayPal have shortened this transaction time, cryptocurrencies will make them near instantaneous.
Additionally, because cryptocurrencies are not centrally regulated, the middleman is completely removed from the transaction, which also means that customers do not have to pay fees, making the whole process cheaper.
Overall, the future for online casinos appears bright, as innovation is bringing new products and increasing security while providing customers with new thrills. Plus, as an added extra, land-based casinos are looking to counteract the trend of people moving online by adding their own technological flourishes. This includes robot card dealers, according to The Manufacturer.
Much like the casino games themselves, the future of online gambling is hard to predict, but one thing’s for certain: the industry certainly won’t be standing still any time soon, so look out for augmented reality, virtual reality and cryptocurrency payments coming to a provider near you in the future.