When we think of examples of digital disruption, online casinos are an interesting case study. One would think that they are a perfect example of the type of digital solution that would disrupt an entire industry. While online casinos and digital sports betting platforms have been successful – hugely successful – it’s not as if they have stopped people going to casinos; Vegas is still booming and people love a day out at the racetrack. Put simply, physical gaming properties do not look like going the same way as Blockbuster Video or many high street bookstore chains.
Yet, the arrival of live casino in the middle of this decade was expected to be a turning point. The idea that you could stream real live dealers to your PC or smartphone was – is – revolutionary. The amount of work that has gone into building huge studios to deliver these games is extraordinary, with the likes of Playtech, NetEnt Live, Evolution Gaming and Yggdrasil investing millions in places like Latvia, Estonia and Romania.
Live dealer has replicated casinos’ offerings
Live dealer has been a success, of course. If you check out some of the top places to play live casino games in the UK, you will find incredible gaming options. For example, live roulette will use several HD camera streams, providing different angles and close-ups, replicating all the sights and sounds of a real casino. The same goes for the likes of blackjack, baccarat and poker. While the cameras are important, console technology, i.e. the ability to place those bets in real time, is one of the key elements to bring that immersive experience into existence.
Online casinos and real casinos aren’t really in direct competition with each other. Indeed, often there is some overlap with ownership, especially in the quickly expanding US market, which has been buoyed by the recent Supreme Court ruling on legal sports betting. However, there is arguably a way that online casinos can really start to chip away at the market share of real casinos – by offering something truly different.
You see, online casinos have spent most of the 21st century believing that the key to success is realism, i.e. trying to replicate what you would find at a real casino. That has, of course, been successful. Yet, one might argue that the future might be about creating a sense of ‘unreality’. That means moving a way from offering what a casino can offer and giving players what a casino can’t offer.
Casino gaming world will expand with VR
We are already starting to see some evidence of this with Monopoly Live from Evolution Gaming, which is part wheel of fortune casino games and part interactive board game. The success of this game will push the likes of Playtech and NetEnt to look at even more creative ideas to bring to their live dealer platforms. The possibilities are limitless, with casino developers able to use VR to create fantasy worlds and skill games. Indeed, expect some tie-ins with the world of eSports and the idea of skins betting.
In the end, online casinos would still remain successful, even if they stood still in terms of new technologies. They don’t need to replace real casinos, but it might simply be the case that they will one day. That’s probably a long way off, but you can make a certain bet – something rare in any casino – that the tipping point will come when online casinos offer something completely different to their land-based counterparts.
Nicole Hicks a graduate of UFT. She’s based in Toronto but travels much of the year. Nicole has written for NPR, Motherboard, MSN Money, and the Huffington Post. Nicole is a financial reporter, focusing on technology, national security, and policing.