For a long time, the public image of a casino millionaire was typically associated with suits, cigars and nights out at some of the iconic casinos in Las Vegas. Today, the gambling meccas in Las Vegas and the rapidly growing Macau still exist, but there has been a change in preference towards the internet. If you now watch an online casino advert on television they tend to brand the concept of ‘place-less gambling’. You can now gamble wherever you want, whenever you want to, a phenomenon that has been greatly facilitated by the proliferation of smartphones and other devices. You don’t have to go somewhere to access a casino, you just have to pick one operator from a list of the best online casino sites in UK and the casino can come to you.
How Big is the Online Casino Industry?
Grasping exactly how big the online casino industry has become is difficult, but there are some official numbers that provide an indication. According to Hexa Research, a world renowned market research and consulting organisation, the entire online gambling industry could be worth around USD 73.5 Billion by the year 2024. That number is gargantuan and vastly surpasses the GDP of many developed countries.
In the UK, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission publishes a number of statistics on the online gambling industry twice a year. In their most recent assessment, they totalled the total gross gambling yield of the British gambling industry at £14.5 billion. The same report concluded that more than 100.000 people are employed in the British online gambling sector.
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission had another interesting finding: namely that the number of traditional betting shops has decreased with 1.5% since 2018. This is a trend that is supported by other studies. People are increasingly turning away from land-based casinos and traditional betting shops, instead looking to online casinos and gambling.
Safety and Security when Playing Online
In the early days of online casinos, there was an outspoken perception that there was something dodgy and shady about the industry. New casinos would attract customers with lucrative bonus offers, but customers feared that their money could disappear and thought the casinos lacked transparency. Indeed, many casinos did shut down or went bankrupt. This has changed dramatically over the past two decades and people are now far more comfortable with the idea of an online casino. There are a few different reasons for that.
Firstly, online transactions have become normalised and is now an everyday part of most peoples lives. Ordinary people buy clothes, tickets and holidays online without even thinking about it. Additionally, most websites now have elaborate security measures, which help to protect your identity as well as your payment information. Banks and credit card institutes have also introduced effective verification measures.
Secondly, the online casino market has become more regulated and the average online casino customer has become cleverer. Most people are now capable of distinguishing between the regular online casino industry and the few scams that are still there.
Thirdly, online casino reviews have created a transparency level which favours the customer. If an online casino misbehaves, the case can be found online, and getting a poor reputation is not something online casinos cherish. They are desperate to maintain a positive reputation among the customers.
The Logistical Challenges for Land-Based Casinos
Land-based casinos have a number of costs associated with running their business: buildings need to be bought and refurbished, they might have to pay a license, security arrangements need to be in place and staff needs to be paid. Running a land-based casino can be extremely expensive and those costs have to be covered. Today, most lost-based casinos belong to a particular brand or chain, which is a way of responding to the fierce competition from online casinos. Popular land-based casino operators in the UK include The Rank Group, Aspers and Genting UK.
Online casinos, on the other hand, have servers big enough to handle thousands of customers at the same time, and although software development and staff can be costly, those costs are minuscule compared to land-based casinos. As a consequence of this, online casinos have far better resources at hand and can offer more lucrative promotions and bonuses. Some of these are also logistically difficult to implement for land-based casinos – first time deposit bonuses and Free Spins are far easier to offer in an online setting.
The costs of online casinos also diminish value for the customer in other ways – for example, the RTP (Return to Player) rate is typically lower at a land-based casino. Online casino slots tend to have an RTP at around 96%, whereas land-based casino slots’ can be as low as 80%. That is an emphatic difference and something that can be felt in your wallet.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for the land-based casinos. Although online gaming has taken over the market by a large stretch, actual casinos still offer features and advantages that aren’t available in an online format. Going to the casino can be sociable and fun – you can meet new people and perhaps head to the bar for a drink. Many casinos now brand themselves on these things, as they try to address the fierce competition from online casinos.
Technological Advances and The Future of Online Casinos
Technological innovation has been key in expanding the online casino industry and we haven’t seen the end of these advancements yet. Mobile gaming revolutionised the online casino experience by making it constantly accessible; the Live Casino and Chat features helped create the atmosphere of an actual casino. Yet the operators and software developers haven’t stopped exploring new initiatives, and we are now seeing the first examples of augmented reality and virtual reality in the online casino industry.
The technology is constantly developing, but it is nevertheless difficult to see a real breakthrough in terms of virtual reality at online casinos. All the very things that people generally like about online casinos – accessibility and low costs – would be limited in a virtual reality setting, as it currently requires you to buy an expensive VR-headset. Although they could become a commonly owned item in the future, that is far from the case at this point in time. For now, augmented and virtual reality remains a minimal part of the online casino experience, but it could obviously change in the future.
Land-based casinos have been severely challenged by the rise of online casinos over the past two decades. Online casinos are easily accessible, have better and more lucrative promotions and offer a higher Return to Player rate. Technological advances have created such a rapid value gap between land-based casinos and online casinos that you even wonder if there is any future at all for the land-based casinos. The resources at hand and technological advances have transformed some of the most famous online casinos into enormous businesses, and there is little to suggest their growth will dampen in the future.
Regulation of online casino markets could hamper this development, but online casinos have generally been successful in accommodating legislative changes. They simply employ consultancy or law firms to make their business compatible with national or regional legislation. Also, some countries benefit enormously from hosting parts of the iGaming industry, and they wouldn’t want it to close down or move away. In the UK for example, the industry contributes more than £1 billion a year in taxes and a further 100.000 jobs.
Land-based casinos won’t be disappearing and places such as Las Vegas and Macau will still be nourished by their international reputation. Devoted casino fans will still be travelling to the most iconic casinos in the world to experience the atmosphere. In the same way, the local casino will always have some resonance for customers. The social element also remains much stronger at land-based casinos. But for all intended purposes, land-based casinos are now a ‘luxury good’. Online casinos are everywhere and always accessible; land-based casinos are simply not.