Emerging technologies are calling into question the relevance of land-based casinos, with punters shifting online due to COVID lockdowns, enjoying the ease and the experience. But could this online revolution be pushed even further to include virtual reality casino play? And would this be a challenger to land-based operations and online casinos in their current form?
A panel of experts at Sigma Manila debated exactly to what point VR could have an impact on the industry, all arriving at the conclusion that the technology is not yet up to par to be able to deliver an experience that could lure punters away from either sphere, due to the bulk of headsets, their expense, and the type of experience so far created.
Daniel Long, Chief Commercial Officer for QTech Games, notes that “operators in the past invested heavily in VR and it was a total flop.”
This doesn’t mean, however, that the online offering isn’t currently more attractive than the land-based experience, with Long noting that “now that gamblers are used to gambling online” – in large part due to COVID lockdowns – “they don’t feel the need to go back to land-based casinos”.
Long is of the opinion that land-based casino gaming is on the decline, and that “only the top casinos will survive in the future,” stating that “there’s no incentive for gamblers to go to land-based casinos”.
Darryl Manning, CEO of Wicked Games, agreed with the point – noting that “the top casinos will get bigger but be reduced in number. They will need to reinvent themselves”.
Not all panelists agreed with the slow-down in land-based casino operations. And particularly the growth within Asia – with new regions such as Japan and Thailand opening up – and further abroad, with expectations for the UAE, calls into question why this could be the case.
In addition, the overall experience of gambling in person – particularly in an integrated resort – provides a buffet for the senses that is as-yet unrivaled by any online offering.
Earle G. Hall, CEO of AXES.ai and Chairman of the International Gaming Standards Association, notes that there are thousands of legally registered casinos and millions of players which have registered with them as loyalty players.
“I’m not seeing a decline, I’m seeing record numbers,” notes Hall.
And the resurgence of Macau, Singapore and the Philippines after COVID – albeit at very different paces and due to very different markets – appears testament to this point.
Hall notes that land-based operators are facing more of a data problem than a demand problem but notes that VR does have strong potential also as an overall experience.
This encompasses much more than an individual game but rather an entire environment, one which could be shaped in the metaverse.
Metaverse, VR and the threat of major tech companies
Hall points out that the major platform developers today are the tech behemoths – Apple, Meta, Alphabet (Google) – and that essentially their role within the VR gaming revolution would be as real estate developers (in the metaverse).
This, in fact, poses a real threat to any gaming company wishing to dominate the space – as they must compete with multi-billion-dollar publicly-traded companies.
Daniel Long furthers Hall’s point that “it won’t be a standalone casino online, it will be part of online shopping, an overall online experience – where you will travel through the metaverse to get to the online casinos […] if Meta decides to start building metaverse casinos where you can walk in with your VR goggles, that could be the end of both land-based and online casinos”.
Hall points out that the current largest online gaming platform in the world is the Google Playstore, noting how youngsters are buying “thousands of dollars in tokens and powerups” for their non-gambling-defined games.
“I hope next to see all online gaming being regulated the way gambling is, so that there’s no difference between the two […] As soon as the gaming companies get regulated as gambling companies, the whole landscape will change,” notes Hall.
But current online offerings just don’t provide the same experience, with slot machine play still a 2D experience – whether in the casino or online.
Table games could be the first to make the cut for VR success, notes Long, stating that “if land-based operators are willing to invest in VR, there will be a place for them in the future”.
No matter what, keep your eyes, and goggles, on the space – as technology has already far outstripped adoption and the future is no longer around the corner but right in front of our faces.