For centuries, the casino business meant real world gaming. From the river boats of the US to the high stakes glamour casinos of Monte Carlo, casino gaming was all about mingling with other people and playing your favorite roulette, slots or blackjack variants.
That began to change in the mid-1990s, with the arrival of the first online casinos. While those early platforms were no-frills, basic casino offerings, they signaled the beginning of a trend that has seen the online casino business rapidly make up ground and overtake the real-world sector.
It is not hard to see why the online casino has proven to be so attractive. Online casinos like this one offer the ability to play a huge range of your favorite casino games without ever having to leave your home. Thanks to increasingly sophisticated mobile technology, you can play casino games at the beach, on the train or anywhere you like.
The result is that the online casino sector has been booming over the last 25 years, while the land-based casino business has lost ground. The picture globally is patchy. For instance, in the second quarter of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown were hitting all sectors of the economy, revenue from land-based casinos was recorded at $2.3bn while the online casino sector hit an impressive, but smaller, $402m.
Yet, while the US economy is the world’s largest, it also features some historical quirks that are not replicated around the world. For many decades, gambling of all kinds was strictly limited in the US, but casino gambling was the exception, and not just in Las Vegas. Tribal Nations across the country operated casino venues, and the land-based casino sector was deeply entrenched in many states.
By contrast, the Wire Act and the PASPA Act put a block on the development of online gaming and sports betting. Although the PASPA Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2018, states have been slow to offer online casino gaming and it remains available only in a few states.
In other parts of the world, where there are no such restrictions and where real world and online casinos can compete on a level playing field, the dominance of the online version is readily apparent. In the UK, for instance, the financial year 2019-20 showed that 25% of casino revenue came from real-world casinos, a drop from 30% three years earlier. The effect of the pandemic, which saw land-based casinos close their doors across the world, will only have accelerated that trend.
The advantages of playing online casino games as opposed to visiting land-based casinos are significant, which helps to explain why this trend has continued.
With online casino gaming, there is none of the dress code rules or membership applications associated with playing at a real-world casino, nor do you have to go to the trouble of travelling physically to a location that may be many miles away. No matter how big a land-based casino is, it cannot possibly offer the full range of games that you can find in the online casino sector either. There are literally thousands of slots, table games and other types of game available to online players.
That isn’t to say that real-world casino gambling will be disappearing. In some parts of the world, such as Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Macau, it has a strong foothold, often featuring as part of a tourist or leisure complex, featuring hotels and many other attractions.
There will also always be people who prefer to play their casino games in the company of others, as a relaxing and entertaining leisure pursuit. It is fair to say that however convenient and easy the online casino sector may be to access, it cannot recapture the unique casino atmosphere. Depending on which casino you visit, you may also find that there are complimentary drinks and food available, something that definitely doesn’t apply to the online world!
That said, the arrival of VR and AR technologies have opened up the possibility of virtual casino gaming, which may eventually be able to recreate the casino atmosphere in a virtual platform where you can mingle with other players and guests, which really could see the end of real-world casino gaming.
Such a development may be a source of regret for real-world casino fans, and problem gambling charities may also be concerned, given that it is far easier for gambling addicts to feed their addiction online than at a real-world casino. For now though, it seems inevitable that the online casino sector will continue to expand at the expense of its land-based counterpart.