Over the last decade much has changed in the iGaming market. This transformation has been so significant that Mark Wollard, business development director at platform provider Pragmatic Solutions, finds that legacy platforms no longer have the ability to support businesses that wish to enhance their services to meet the demands of the modern player.
Mobile gaming has created a shift in focus that has also led to a push for more flexible platforms. In an interview with iGaming Business earlier in 2019, he commented: "We've reached a stage where operators need to have more control over their business. What we're seeing is the ongoing demand from operators to have more control over who they integrate with and how quickly."
In essence while legacy online gaming platforms were created with the same code as their modern descendants, the way they were coded means that they are no longer fit for purpose. Today, iGaming platforms are built with modular application programmable interfaces (APIs). This permits platform providers to avoid have to review and edit source code to make platform changes. With APIs, iGaming providers have a greater ability to respond to changing demands of players and the wider market. Wollard says this can be achieved very quickly.
APIs allow platform providers to either build on existing technology, or to create new platforms to deliver on a need's basis. The days of operators having to wait for months on end for a new casino vendor, or for a new payments provider to be integrated have dissipated. The switch to mobile gaming and the increased number of integrations and mobile operators has inspired innovation.
Less than a decade ago, operators only had between 50-100 games on their websites across one tab, but now it's possible to have thousands of games across several tabs. All of these games need to run on one system.
The focus, today, is supporting integration within a matter of weeks rather than months. This also needs to consider the impact of the increasing burden of regulatory compliance. Subsequently, iGaming platforms must be agile enough to swiftly adapt to new regulations and changing demand.
Despite the seemingly unending onslaught of regulation, most media and industry reports suggest that the industry is thriving. Louis Teoh, Senior Analytics Technology Consultant for SAS Canada, writes that iGaming is globally worth an estimated $20bn a year. In the era of big data and artificial intelligence (AI), SAS sees big data analytics as the way to prepare for the next generation of players. Big data analytics and Ai will enable operators to analyse, spot and respond to players' trends and demand more quickly.
A November 2018 press release by Hexa Research also claims: "The global online gambling market size is anticipated to reach USD 73.45 billion by 2024 owing to rising prevalence gambling across the globe. Technological advancements and addition of new regulations are expected to boost market demand over the forecast period. Furthermore, growing adoption of smartphones and tablets and easy access to online platforms are anticipated to drive the market."
A newzoo.com report also offers a view of the global games market: ‘Mobile Revenues Account for More Than 50% of the Global Games Market as It Reaches $137.9 Billion in 2018'. This doesn't seem to simply talk about games for gambling, but the potential market value for all mobile gaming. In its 2019 report Newzoo says: "There are now more than 2.5 billion gamers across the world. Combined, they will spend $152.1 billion on games in 2019, representing an increase of +9.6% year on year."
While this may not focus on the gambling market alone, it shows the potential market. More and more people have access to mobile devices. Subsequently, many of them may represent a potential growing market for mobile gambling games.
Innovecs goes on to report that consumer demand is peaking: "According to Rutgers Centre for Gambling studies, 10% of players in New Jersey spend $500,000 annually on betting, with the largest bet during one single day [being] around $36,000. There's an untapped demand for visually stimulating games, online and mobile – easy to use, colourful, with seamless UI and animation, recognisable and popular characters, and most importantly fair play."
There is intensifying competition and innovation within the market. This is not just created by iGaming player demands, but also by the arrival of new market entrants. iGaming players want fresher and more demanding user interfaces, prompting operators to want platforms with interfaces that have add-on features. Innovecs also reports that there is a demand for mobile versions of familiar offline casino, slot games, and bingo (in the UK, for example).
The trends are spurring on "business strategies…centring around tapping into addressable markets in mature and emerging (unregulated) markets, but also identifying and retaining high use consumers." Innovecs also reports that blockchain technologies and virtual reality featured less than previously at this year's ICE trade show. Innovecs thinks they've been overhyped.
An industry source adds that operators are having to change what they offer, claiming the days of online casinos offering just free spins are over. Instead, operators are now offering more casino cashback bonuses to align with the interests of iGaming players. The aim is to gain customer loyalty – particularly in eSports betting, which is gaining in popularity. It also predicts that there will be a rise in titles, and in cryptocurrency casinos that permit payments with Bitcoin or Ethereum.
Yet the attempt to attract the younger players focuses on technologies such as virtual reality. Hype or not, technologies such as ‘VR', blockchain and cryptocurrencies are here to stay. Live casino gaming and skill-based gaming are other ways in which the operators are working hard to meet changing iGaming player demands. With some industry sources finding that video poker is dying, there is also a need to address need to use analytics to consider how to either revive a game, or to find new ones that will attract and retain new players.
So, not all is rosy. Despite the market's growth, iGaming Business reports that ‘UK Operator Complaints Rocket to 5,000% in five years'. The UK wants to promote more responsible gambling, and so there is not just a need to respond to demand for more iGaming with the latest in tech. There is also a demand for the operators to act in a sociably responsible way by restricting access to gambling addicts, and those with serious gambling debts. The need to meet player demand is therefore not one-sided, but multi-faceted – going far beyond decisions about which iGaming platform to deploy.