Can you believe how fast 2021 has been flying by? It seems like just the other day we were all waiting desperately for 2020 to come to an end. Now, we are already beginning to wonder what 2022 will bring.
But this also is a great time to push the “pause” button and reflect a bit on how the casino industry has evolved so far this year. We also can take some guesses at what will be big the rest of the year.
In fact, let’s jump right in. Here are the top casino industry trends for 2021!
Online Casino Gambling Keeps Growing in Popularity
The 2020 lockdown saw the shutdown of restaurants, theaters, and other public entertainment facilities—including land-based casinos.
Even after casinos began reopening, a lot of people did not feel safe going into crowded gambling venues. In fact, many people still do not.
For that reason, online gambling exploded. There was still some struggle for sports betting sites as many major sports were delayed or canceled, but online casinos had no problem taking over the gap left by land-based venues.
Mordor Intelligence projects a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.94% for the period starting in 2021 and running through 2026. That is for the online gambling industry as a whole.
The research firm explains, “The COVID-19 pandemic positively impacted the market, as consumers turned more toward the online platform to bridge their financial, social, and psychological crisis during lockdowns.”
As a result, a lot of people are playing online casino games for the first time. Many of these people were enthusiastic gamblers at land-based venues previously. But some also probably are relatively new to gambling altogether, and were looking for something to fill in the gap in their lives during the lockdown.
Even though the 2020 lockdown is behind us, the surge in interest in online casinos continues to grow.
We Are Entering an Era of Greater Transparency and Compliance
Both the growth in the online gambling market and changes in the overall gambling landscape resulting from COVID have led to increased pressure for transparency and compliance for online casinos.
Regulators are keeping a closer eye on online casinos because the rapid growth in the industry has captured their attention.
Meanwhile, stakeholders who used to buy into brick-and-mortar gambling establishments have now started buying stakes in online casinos instead.
The brick-and-mortar casino world is tightly regulated. So, these stakeholders expect online casinos to be every bit as compliant within the regulatory landscape as the land-based casinos they invested in previously.
With that pressure, we are observing online casinos making the following types of changes:
- Bonus sizes are decreasing where appropriate on some websites, so that customers are not as likely to be overwhelmed by rollover requirements.
- KYC is becoming mandatory on more websites, even those that are crypto-based.
- Deposit limits are not as high on many online casino sites as in the past.
- Gamblers under 18 are being barred more aggressively from participation.
- Self-exclusion tools are available on more online casino sites.
- Online casinos are working harder to educate players about problem gambling, gambling psychology, and money management.
This transformation to a more compliant and transparent online casino sector is something we are very happy about.
Focus on Problem Gambling Has Increased
Just as there is an increased focus on regulatory compliance for online casinos, there also is a bigger focus on problem gambling issues than in the past.
Transparency Market Research writes, “The Internet sports betting market is estimated to clock a robust CAGR of 12.1% during the forecast period. However, in a research suggested by the National Council on Problem Gaming, gambling problems may increase as sports gambling grows explosively at the changing rate of mobile & online technologies. Allegedly, suicide by hanging is growing in India due to online betting and is causing concern among parents & gamers. Hence, stakeholders are increasing their research about the financial, mental health, and addiction risks associated with sports gambling.”
Basically, a lot of people who were bored during the lockdown last year found online gambling. We are willing to wager that most of those have been gambling responsibly and having a good time.
But naturally, with such a huge influx of interest, there were bound to be people who did not learn proper money management before they started playing, or who did not understand the nature of a game of chance.
Plus, unfortunately, there were probably people who were financially desperate who decided to turn to online gambling to try and make ends meet (not a good idea).
So, this year, stakeholders, regulators, non-profits, and other groups are working harder than ever to combat problem gambling.
Like the tightening of regulatory compliance, we see this as a very good thing, and long overdue for the industry.
The Popularity of Online Gambling is Growing Among Women
Here is an interesting observation from the Mordor Intelligence report on online gambling: “The rise in the number of the female population in casinos and the convenience of the cashless mode of payment during gaming are likely to boost the online gambling market during the forecast period.”
It seems that a growing segment of online casino players are women.
If you are curious, men are more likely on average to be problem gamblers than women. Nevertheless, we have seen some articles over the past couple years mentioning “rising numbers” of female problem gamblers.
It seems most likely to us that it is simply that more women are gambling in general than in the past, and the struggles of the past couple of years have led to more problem gambling behavior all around. Likely this has affected female and male gamblers.
Regardless, with female players growing as a market segment, we may see online casinos directing their marketing campaigns toward a more gender-diverse audience than in the past.
New Technologies Like Machine Learning and Virtual Reality are Enhancing the Casino Experience
New technologies are opening up new possibilities in the world of online casinos in 2021.
Mordor Intelligence writes, “Artificial intelligence, Chabot, and machine learning have taken over the market.”
What do online casinos do with machine learning and AI?
Gathering data and analyzing it with AI is helping online casinos to understand player behaviors and interests. This helps online casinos to cater more effectively to their players as a whole, and even to provide more targeted marketing and promotional offers to individual players.
AI can sometimes detect when players are veering into problem gambling behaviors. The casino can then take action. In some cases, a site may decide to exclude a customer temporarily or place limits on their deposits and bet sizes. In others, they might simply inform the customer and leave it up to that player to decide what to do.
The data that online casinos derive through their increasingly sophisticated software can help them to increase their ROI.
AI support bots are becoming more sophisticated. They are better able to understand user intent when receiving an inquiry than they were in the past, and can provide more precise answers. Indeed, a chat bot can even reference a customer’s individual history as part of its analysis of a query. It can offer personalized suggestions and solutions.
It is not easy to cheat an online casino. But it is possible. Artificial intelligence can help casinos to detect hackers and other cheaters rapidly. By removing these players quickly, the casino protects itself as well as honest players.
Alongside artificial intelligence, virtual reality also is revolutionizing the online casino experience.
The online gambling industry is beginning to see the potential in devices like Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and other virtual reality headsets.
The result is that we are just now starting to see VR slots, roulette tables, blackjack tables, and poker tables starting to spring up.
So far, it is a pretty restricted selection. Indeed, VR technology still has not really been embraced all that widely by gamers. So, a bit of lag in the online casino industry’s adoption of that technology is not unexpected.
Virtual reality casino experiences can take any of the following forms:
- Full online casinos with virtual reality floors that you can walk around and explore, moving seamlessly from game to game.
- Individual online casino games that are available with virtual reality interfaces.
- Free versions of individual online casino VR games.
We expect that this trend in virtual reality casino gambling will probably be fairly slow to start out. But over the long run, it seems like it might become a major part of the online casino experience. Plus, it does make sense that the VR sector of online casino games might take off more rapidly now than it would have if the pandemic had never happened.
Even though gamblers are embracing the convenience and safety of the online casino experience, it does not stop them from missing a land-based casino environment.
The thirst to replicate that experience will probably drive faster adoption of VR technologies in the industry.
Live Dealer Games Are Gaining Traction
Live dealer casino games have been popular for a number of years now. But during 2021, we have seen an increase in enthusiasm for live dealer experiences online.
Just as gamblers miss the ambience of a physical casino environment, they also miss a human connection.
Live dealer games bring that connection back to some degree. In doing so, they can offer a deeper level of immersion and authenticity than games with pure software interfaces.
Plus, stakeholders in US-based online gambling companies are buying physical real estate right now for regulatory reasons.
It makes sense to make as much use as possible of that real estate in order to maximize ROI. Indeed, if you want to offer live dealer games, you need a physical room in which to record the dealer’s end of the interaction.
Doing that is convenient and affordable if one already has the real estate, which should also feed into continued growth in this area of online gambling.
Crypto Casinos Are All the Rage
If there is one word on everyone’s minds these days when it comes to risk and reward, it is probably “crypto.”
In fact, during 2020 and 2021, cryptocurrencies really hit the mainstream. Who doesn’t want their shot at buying low and selling really, really high?
With the public mania surrounding cryptocurrencies, casinos are cashing in by:
- Accepting more cryptocurrencies for deposits and withdrawals.
- Offering fast, affordable transfers, often with higher limits for crypto customers.
- Making huge bonus offers available to crypto gamblers (it is typical for crypto bonuses to be a lot bigger than regular bonuses).
- Marketing more toward crypto customers.
Another advantage of betting with bitcoin is Provably Fair games.
Provably Fair games have been around for some time now, but now more players are aware of them.
Not sure what Provably Fair is? It is a way that you can check whether a casino game you are playing is fair or not.
Basically, you can take a look at the math for yourself. The system is 100% transparent.
Minimum Bet Requirements Are Falling
The world of offline casinos has become a somewhat frustrating one for a lot of players—especially Millennial players.
The issue is essentially this. Millennial gamblers want to play table games. Casinos would rather them play slots. So, to try and push gamblers away from table games and toward slots, they have raised the minimum table stakes.
As a result, a lot of games that players are interested in have become less affordable to play in brick-and-mortar establishments.
But online casinos have lower overhead costs and more flexibility. They can thus operate differently.
There has been a lot of demand in 2021 for lower bet minimums at online casinos, and we have been seeing plenty of operators willing to meet that demand.
So, if you have previously avoided gambling online or offline because of minimum bet requirements, you might want to take another look.
You will probably discover a lot more online casinos and online casino games in 2021 that you can afford even on a modest bankroll.
Some Players Are Gambling on Their Smartwatches
Smartwatch gambling is the latest thing in the world of mobile casino games. Actually, gambling on smartwatches dates back as far as 2014. But the trend really did not start picking up until recently.
Even though a smartwatch has a small interface, being able to essentially wear a miniature casino is undeniably convenient and fun.
So, we expect to see more iGaming companies developing games that are optimized for smartwatches in the near future.
Don’t be surprised if you also notice more of your friends pushing “spin” now and again with a quick glance and tap at their smartwatch.
Social casino games will continue to exert a draw
Social casino games have become a massive trend lately. Don’t know what we are talking about? Head to Facebook or another social network, and you will find “casino games” like Slotomania and myVegas Slots.
These games look like real casino games. On the surface, they also play like real casino games. You press “spin,” some reels turn, you get a result, win or loss.
But they are not real casino games. Why not? Because,
- You are not going to win any money and
- They are not truly random.
Nevertheless, folks are crazy about these games. Seriously, over 170 million people around the world reportedly love pushing “spin” and not getting paid.
We are not big fans of this concept. First of all, winning money is awesome. Not winning money is, well, not.
Secondly, these games lack transparency, and mislead a lot of players into thinking they are random. That is not cool.
We have written a full guide to the social casino game phenomenon that you can check out here.
We are hoping that somehow the greater call for transparency and compliance among online casinos will somehow translate to the same for social casino games as we move forward through 2021.
Of course, many online casinos are regulated. The same is not true for social casino games.
Still, an atmosphere in which transparency is strongly encouraged might “rub off” on social casino games — especially any that real casinos end up investing in as a means of outreach for expanding their potential player bases.
Enjoy the Best of 2021 Online Casino Trends
That sums up what has been going on in the world of online casinos during 2021, and gives you a hint of what trends might continue to grow as we progress through the remainder of the year.
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