Online casino gambling is definitely thriving anywhere in the world but in spite of their pervasiveness and popularity, the fact remains that brick and mortar casinos have remained steadfast and continue to be patronized by players of all levels and budgets.
Casinos are well aware of the challenges they face and the best way to rise up over the said hurdle: to innovate. While online casinos are having their own difficulties trying to produce an immersive experience that looks like the real thing, land-based operators meanwhile, have elected to go the other way – and that is to use the latest technology to make their physical games more enjoyable and their premises a lot more secure.
As both online casinos and land-based ones strive to keep their existing cache of players and draw in new ones, the real winners are the consumers who now have more and better choices than ever before.
It’s a fierce battle out there and land-based casinos are holding their own. Let’s take a closer look into how they are managing to keep their relevance in a space that is increasingly becoming more and more digital.
But before we get to that, let us first take a trip down memory lane and trace back the history of casinos.
The History of Casinos in the UK
While there are a lot of historians that would argue this, it is widely believed that the first legal casino was set up back in 1961 over in Port Talbot, South Wales. The facility was named Casino Club and was established by George Alfred James, who was a recognized name in the industry. He then went on to build more establishments in the area.
Not long after, some of the largest and most popular brand names soon emerged on the high streets of Britain while more exclusive casinos, like that of the John Aspinall-owned Clermont Club over in London’s Mayfair, first made their appearance.
It was a raucous time for the industry and when the Internet finally came along in the 1990s, land-based casinos hardly felt the squeeze – with the games too basic to even pose a serious cause for concern to the dominance of land-based casino. Online operators, however, were initially, sluggish to take advantage of the digital landscape and they did not hit the ground running until the mid-2000s.
The very first online casino, InterCasino, was based in Antigua and was introduced in August 1996. That online casino featured 18 games. These days, there are thousands upon thousands of online gambling websites and games to bet on and play. Total profits from online casinos have gradually grown over the last decade or so, from $12 billion in 2005 to $15.2 billion in 2006 to $29.3 billion in 2010.
In the early days, online casinos were not ordinarily linked to traditional land-based casinos because the land-based casinos didn’t want to have traditional revenue streams cannibalized by online gambling. However, that trend appears to be shifting, as traditional casinos are now creating their own online casinos as an additional revenue stream.
Many teenagers and young adults play on “free” Internet gambling websites. Studies have shown that young males are the ones most likely to participate in online gambling. It is projected that 4% teenagers have a gambling problem, and 20% online gamblers may be habitual gamblers. Those who decide to play on online gambling sites basically do so at their own risk; money-back guarantees are essentially non-existent, and most times, age verification checks are lax or non-existent. Thus, it is relatively easy for habitual gamblers and others interested in it to access online gambling sites and bet real money.
The Rise of Online Casinos
It was not until 2005 when the real competition between online and land-based casinos really started to heat up. With more residences being fitted with high-speed Internet connections and smartphones starting to grow faster and stronger, both in volume and in power, online gameplay started to really take off in the UK and in most parts of the world. Online casinos did not hesitate to jump on the wagon and with developments in digital technology, the games that were being produced became faster and a whole lot better.
This is where the gap between the two really started to widen as online casinos had the ability to introduce a wide range of games. With the larger bandwidth available, gone were the days that only a handful of options could be listed. These days, thousands of slot titles can sit alongside all primary variants of roulette, poker, and blackjack.
In the last few years, the quality of gameplay online operators have been able to deliver has grown in leaps and bounds. Their most popular product is live casino, which connects players with real-life dealers, adding the all-crucial human element to the experience gamblers can enjoy from the comfort of their own homes.
Not only are these dealers actual people but they are also using real casino equipment like that of roulette wheels and blackjack cards. This meant that players also got the benefit of utilizing strategies often used in land-based casinos. As an example, you’ll be able to count cards if you’re playing blackjack, or estimate the ball velocity if you’re playing roulette – both approaches of which would have been impossible with a standard RNG-powered online casino game.
With a plethora of online operators now hosting live casinos, it’s imperative that each operator sets itself apart from the pack to try and win players over. Design is a massive element in how operators can differentiate their services from one another.
What are the Risks of Online Gambling?
With the advent of digital technology, it’s no surprise that online gambling has risen to grab the spotlight from their land-based counterparts. Whether you are a serious player or just a recreational one, the fact is one can play in the comfort of their own homes or offices, can play in secret where and when no one knows they are playing and can replicate much of the gaming excitement found by playing in traditional casinos.
Just like traditional gambling, online gambling has a lot of inherent risks and can actually cause dire problems for those who gamble online. There are even some unique risks associated with online gambling not found in traditional gambling. Let’s discuss these in the section below:
A habitual gambler can easily access an online gambling site. All he or she has to do is log onto a computer or a mobile device, access the site, approve the payment method, and voila, the player can already start betting and playing. This can be done at any time, and it’s difficult for others to notice and prove that the person is gambling on a consistent basis. However, people would definitely notice if the player is habitually paying a visit to a land-based casino.
Because of this easy access to online gambling sites, online gambling can really end up becoming a lot more addictive than conventional gambling. If a problem gambler is trying to cut back on the habit, he or she could just avoid a land-based casino. But with online gambling, that may prove to be downright impossible as an Internet connection is all that is needed to get onto a site and start playing.
In today’s world, it’s virtually impossible to avoid devices that can connect you to the Internet as these are also the very same gadgets that we use for our daily activities, whether it is for work or for school, for research or communicating with friends and family members.
In today’s connected world, it’s really impossible to do daily tasks without either a PC/laptop, smartphone/tablet, or both. Thus, there’s no tangible way for an addicted gambler to avoid online casinos like he/she can traditional casinos.
3. Ease of Access to Funds
Additionally, there is easy access to one’s bank accounts or PayPal accounts when the player is online. Thus, if the player needs to fund one’s online gambling account, all that person needs to do is just log into the bank account or PayPal account and transfers the funds from that account to the gambling account.
4. Uneven Regulation
Another hazard with online casinos is that most countries outlaw them, but the ones that do permit them are not usually well-regulated. And because of this, it is extremely challenging to know who actually operates the actual business, whether the stated odds of winning are in fact, precise, or to pursue legal action in the event the gambler is cheated out of money, whether in betting or in claiming the prizes.
The Technology that Land-Based Casinos Use
As mentioned above, land-based casinos are taking the fight to online casinos to either keep their clients or even grow their consumer base. One of their finest weapons is technology, which they are using to provide players with both great gaming experience and perhaps more importantly, a more secure one.
Casino crime is a huge enterprise and a bane to both online and in the real world. This is one area where the land-based casinos hold an advantage over their online equivalents. State of the art technology has been in place for quite some time to tackle the cheaters and to ascertain those who have been barred from different establishments.
1) Facial recognition.
Among these innovations, facial recognition technology just might be the most relied upon by land-based casinos. Usually, land-based operations have utilized manual scanning to sort through undesirables but this is quickly becoming a thing of the past as imaging technology could now identify possible wrongdoers before they’ve even perpetrated a crime.
2) License Plate Recognition
This particular innovation can actually stop the cheaters before they enter the premises, assuming law enforcement officers know their vehicles. However, if the miscreants do manage to make their way to a table, high-end tech can even identify card switching and the issue of counterfeit chips. Safety and security in seizing criminals see land-based casinos way out in front on this one.
Land-based and online casinos alike have taken to adopt a specialized technique called Non-Obvious Relationship Analysis, or the NORA. This radical software is able to distinguish otherwise concealed links between people combing the Internet for information and identifies any dubious relationships and flags them with the operator. Initially developed for land-based casinos in Las Vegas, it’s now been picked up by online casinos as well as the US Department of Homeland Security.
4) Chips security and RFID technology
Radio Frequency Identification can automatically track labels that are attached to casino chips. This means that land-based casino operators know where their chips are at all times and re-activate them at any possible time. One fine example of the importance of this innovation is back in 2010, when someone tried to pilfer chips from the Bellagio, they were quickly deactivated, thus deeming them basically worthless. RFID technology can also be utilized to determine how much players are betting, letting casinos establish profiles of their clients and use the information they’ve gathered to target players with offers, comps and promotions.
5) Customer Service
Another huge advantage land-based casinos have is that can provide clients with food and drink, which contributes to the service they receive beyond the table games themselves. Some land-based casinos have their own mobile apps that allow users to have waiters deliver a tipple or snack of their choice directly to the table.
It’s plain to see that the increase in online gambling has had a revolutionary effect on the gambling industry in general. As players have moved there in their droves, no doubt enticed by the expedient and high-quality nature of the gameplay they offer, a lot of land-based casinos have been forced to close their doors. These alarming closures may, however, may not last for long as bricks and mortar casinos have begun using technology as part of their arsenal.