The past year has proved to be immensely challenging for the majority of businesses in the Santa Clara Valley, and indeed across the USA and the world. Yet for a minority of sectors, business has been booming during these times of lockdown and social distancing like never before.
Some are easy enough to identify – 2020 was definitely a good year to be in the virtual conferencing business, for example, while others are a little more surprising at first glance. The growth in popularity of online casinos is a case in point. On the one hand, you might think that in these times of uncertainty, the last thing people would have an appetite for doing would be spending money on virtual casino games.
But look at it another way. Land based casinos were either closed or drastically restricted, sports betting options disappeared as the leagues were put on hold and people were sitting bored in their homes. Suddenly you can see why playing some games on a smartphone, become such a popular diversion, especially when it includes the possibility of winning real money online. The question is whether that popularity is now set to wane as the world returns to some sort of normality.
A continuing trend
To answer that question, we need to look beyond the headlines of 2020. Back in 2018 and 2019, lockdowns were things that happened in prisons and a face mask was something worn by hospital staff. But even then, online casinos were growing in popularity and their land-based brethren were feeling the pinch.
It’s a little like the phenomenon seen in other retail sectors over the past decade. eCommerce and mobile banking, for example, have reduced footfalls in towns and cities, and that has nothing to do with any pandemic.
Clearly, technology lies at the heart of online casino success. But it is about more than just making casino games available via a desktop or a mobile device. The way the technology is deployed has also been instrumental. For example, look at live casino games. These actually eschew some aspects of technology in favor of the human touch, using real dealers and croupiers with whom the player can interact via instant chat and webcam.
There is no technical benefit to this, and from an efficiency perspective, it would be far better to use a simple piece of software to deal with virtual cards or spin an on-screen depiction of a roulette wheel. But live gaming captures some of that unique experience of really being at a casino.
The popularity of casino gaming has not gone unnoticed by the legal decision makers. California has one of the richest choices when it comes to regulated online gambling options, with a wealth of casino sites, poker rooms and so on. Over the past couple of years, there has been a wave of legislative reform sweeping across the United States, and this is likely to accelerate over the next 12 months.
The reason is simply that budgets have been hit incredibly hard by recent events and legalized online betting presents the potential to generate eight or even nine figure sums in tax revenue. It’s an opportunity that is just too good to ignore, and there are signs that even traditionally conservative states like Texas are seriously contemplating legalization.
The blockchain factor
Crypto payments are becoming the norm in today’s online casinos, and there are rumors that some might even stop accepting other forms of payment over the coming months. It provides a unique selling point for online casinos that the land based versions cannot easily replicate. But even more importantly, transactions on the blockchain resolve the potential trust issues that can leave players dubious about sharing their personal bank details with the online providers.
Online casinos are here to stay
There’s no doubt that the pandemic directly led to a surge in online casino revenues over the course of 2020. However, that increase is something that is not going to disappear when the world returns to normal. In fact, all that last year’s extraordinary events really achieved was an acceleration in a process that was already well underway.
The iGaming industry is, itself, in a constant state of evolution that is influenced by social, technological, economic and political factors. If the past year has shown us anything, it is that it can rapidly adapt to changing market conditions in order to thrive when other business sectors are struggling.
Las Vegas and Monte Carlo will always remain popular destinations, as will the stores on Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue. But like other businesses that are predominantly internet based, the casino sites have now become a part of our lives, and that is not going to change when the rest of the world fully reopens for business.