In this product-by-product breakdown, Shaun McCamley, managing partner at Euro Pacific Asia Consultancy, argues that games promoting responsible gambling and social interaction will do best through the Covid19 crisis.
As we move into prolonged lockdowns and increased social distancing measures, the ability to connect through social media platforms has become increasingly important. So will platforms that offer a combination of social interaction and gambling be winners in this time of immense disruption to our normal daily lives?
History tells us that every major crisis has its winners and losers. Covid19 is no exception and from all reports the majority of the online gambling industry has been hit hard. But which online gambling segments are going to be the winners or losers and what will be the key reasons behind success or failure?
Sports has been particularly hard hit with all of the major betting sports being forced to cancel events, leaving punters with very little to bet on. Operators have been left with football from Belarus, Russian table tennis and horse racing from Sweden.
Step forward virtual sports. The most sophisticated products mash real archive video footage together to create realistic virtual events based on historical statistics which are impossible to predict.
Sports data feed companies have started offering sports book operators ‘virtual’ betting which use sophisticated AI algorithms. Simulated markets can be created which produce results as close to the real thing as possible by trawling through the archives of historical data. Punters can bet on final results or even participate in ‘in-play’ markets, while bookmakers benefit from 24 hour play in place of scheduled events.
Tennis is one of the most popular virtual sports for the simple reason that it is data-heavy in terms of statistics that can be analysed and the fact that there are so many different things to bet on. Apart from overall results, bets include the number of aces, second serves or total points won by either or both players.
Betting on financial markets is largely unaffected although the volatility is certainly an issue when attempting to evaluate risk. But stock market indices, individual equity spread betting and currency betting should continue to do well, albeit in a volatile manner.
Bingo and Poker
The demographic of bingo and poker will remain the same and even increase slightly with individuals self-isolating or in lockdown seeking social entertainment at home.
Lottery will probably be unaffected unless household income is severely diminished as people continue to seek the life changing win.
Slots and classic RNG table games are likely to be unaffected with demand perhaps increasing as boredom sets in at home. Likely chargebacks will increase as a result of players betting over their heads. Operators therefore need to put in place responsible limits and protective procedures to minimize harm to both players and operators alike.
Live Dealer platforms are threatened by the social distancing requirements, with many operations already shutdown.
After looking around at just what’s available a beacon in the otherwise depressing landscape is a IOM licensed social centric platform called Live Solutions, a B2B provider, whose casino table games platform seems eerily well suited to the current environment.
The system has been built from the bottom up over the last two years to be completely managed and run in a distributed network using the company’s proprietary software. This means that all of the staff, and there are more than 1800 of them, work from home all over the world and log in to the virtual office using chrome browsers. They have access to video meeting rooms and ip telephony and it seems to replicate every aspect of office life except the actual building.
The firm operates “Casino Floor Live” which is an infinitely scalable table games environment, with each table hosted by a live presenter. The players all get to video chat with each other and the host which creates the social interactions and activity which is craved by individuals forcibly in lockdown these days. It’s been described as “Zoom for casino”.
The tables can be hosted in any language and using any currency, with local presenters, speaking the local language, with local knowledge, working from home.
With many individuals in lockdown, craving social activity, the product seems to tick all the boxes and is already reporting very high demand from revenue starved operators.
As I mentioned before and wrapped up in all of this is the need for online operators to act responsibly with a duty of care to staff and players alike; this is absolutely paramount. Most regulated and responsible operators realise the increased risk that loneliness through self-isolation will have on players. Trust is key and earning that through providing responsible gaming measures is vitally important. Platforms whose model is heavily skewed toward real time social interaction and who have responsible gaming policies will definitely be the winners. This will become evident when we eventually come out of this crisis and start getting our lives back to some sort of normality.
Social isolation is going to be with us for quite some time, so the key message to operators is to act responsibly and look toward the long game. Players should look for responsible sites where they can safely have fun playing and interacting with other users and remember, bet with your head, not over it.