FRIDAY AUGUST 18, 2017
 
Blog TECH
THE CHANGING FACE OF IGAMING
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If there’s one particular industry that’s benefitted most from the internet boom, it’s iGaming. 15-20 years ago, it used to be the case that if anyone fancied a game of poker or a flutter on the roulette wheel, they had to nip in to their nearest casino. However, the advent of iGaming has put traditional casino games quite literally in the palm of people’s hands.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle the iGaming industry has had to overcome to date is the regulation of online casinos. The UK Gambling Commission is now very strict with online casino websites, but in the past it has been difficult for the iGaming industry to reassure potential players that their personal details and playing funds were under appropriate security.

Yet once the concept of financial transactions online become commonplace, it was the legalities of the iGaming industry that would become the next biggest challenge for many leading brands. Some nations sought to prohibit the sector, with iGaming going through a lot legally in the United States, but there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel for American players, with a few select states now regulating the sector and prohibiting play.

Nevertheless, thanks to a combination of lightning-fast technology advancements and pure timing, the iGaming sector has exploded into an industry worth $41bn – some success story when you consider the first online casino sites only went live to the masses just before the turn of the millennium.

There is no better example of the role timing played in the evolution of online gaming than the success story of then-amateur poker player Chris Moneymaker. A qualified accountant, Moneymaker qualified for the World Series of Poker Main Event by playing an online satellite qualifier from the comfort of his armchair, earning him a shot at a $2.5m first prize for the cost of just a $39 satellite ticket.

What eventually transpired would shock the poker world, with Moneymaker brushing hundreds of poker pros aside to claim the Main Event bracelet, inspiring a generation of online gaming enthusiasts in the process.

Subsequently, the iGaming industry exploded from a $7bn economy to an $18bn economy within just four years of Moneymaker’s success, with many iGaming pundits labelling the sector’s expansion the "Moneymaker Effect".

Online gambling has captured the imagination of players from all four corners of the world. In the United Kingdom, online gambling now accounts for a third of all gambling transactions, with online gambling operators reporting a Gross Gambling Yield of £4.5bn in 2015-16. The UK Gambling Commission’s 2016 report on British gambling trends found that the number of gaming machines in betting shops was down 0.4% on the previous year, due largely to the ease of access to online casino sites that offer juicy customer bonuses and immersive gaming experiences.

In more recent times, the iGaming sector has benefitted hugely from the addition of mobile gambling on smartphone and tablet devices, thus making it ever more accessible for players loyal to specific brands to carry on betting from the confines of their living room. Mobile technology, coupled with live streaming capabilities, has certainly brought the concept of real-life casino action into the hands of players without the need to venture out to a bricks and mortar casino.

Almost all of the leading iGaming brands now incorporate live streaming into their online casino games, connecting their players to a casino-like real-life table, where they can interact with human dealers through a chat box and watch the dealers deal their cards or spin the roulette wheel for them in real time.

How can the industry get any better, we hear you ask. Well, two words: virtual reality.

Virtual reality headsets are already on sale and could solve the age-old concern that iGaming removes the social benefits of gambling. VR would give players the ability to communicate with fellow players in a similar way that they would in a real-life casino. It’s only a matter of time before VR makes waves, spawning the next phase of the iGaming revolution.

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