When we talk of digital disruption, i.e. the idea of a traditional industry being upended by a new digital competitor, we often think of things like Netflix, Uber, Amazon and Airbnb. These companies have disrupted the old ways to become the de facto solution in our lives.
Online casinos are also regarded as an example of digital disruption, but there is a big difference between that industry and the companies listed above: Whereas the likes of Netflix ended the DVD rentals industry (Blockbuster) or Amazon led to the decline of the high street book store, both online casinos and real casinos are thriving.
The question, then, becomes one that asks whether online casinos are challenging the resorts of Las Vegas and so on, or if they are opening up a new market entirely for themselves? One could argue that it’s a little bit of both, but it’s not altogether easy to pinpoint why both industries see expansion when the laws of digital disruption would suggest otherwise. Yes, there is always the factor of the luxury casino lifestyle, but online casinos cater for high rollers too.
Playing games is not reason enough to visit a casino
To get to the crux of the matter, we should really look at why one goes to a casino resort? The overarching answer is: We go to be entertained. That takes in the process of gambling, drinking, eating, social interaction and everything else. In short, the reason most people go to a casino is not just to play casino games.
However, there is a counterargument here. Online casino sites are evolving to become overarching entertainment sites. If you visit a popular online casino these days, you will find that they offer games that could be defined as ‘solitary’, but also live casino games with real dealers. We played live baccarat at Casino.com, and we ended up being surprised at how immersive the experience was. The key word here is ‘immersion’, which has always been key to the idea of online casinos disrupting the land-based resorts.
When we talk about immersion, we are not talking about a blackjack game with good graphics. Instead, we mean bringing players into the game itself through interaction with real dealers, other players and the real world. Live dealer online casino is a good example of this, but it is starting to push the boundaries even further by offering digitally-enhanced extras – imagine live roulette with an interactive bonus boardgame – that real casinos can’t compete with.
Can the social element be truly replicated?
Of course, if you are booking a bachelorette party, it’s unlikely the maid of honor is going to ask everyone to log into a computer for the weekend. But to understand the way online casino is moving, you have to look at the overall trend of how entertainment is changing. In short, digital entertainment is increasingly challenging the physical.
So, when we say that online casino gaming can’t really contend with the social aspect of a trip to Vegas or a night out at a casino in Montreal, we are perhaps selling short the changes in how we experience entertainment. Increased connectivity, VR and so on will mean that in the future logging into a casino online will be just like visiting a real one, except it has a digital armory for offering some extras.
In the end, there is perhaps only one area where the online world might not be able to conquer the physical one – hedonism. Hollywood movies are littered with casino-based references where the playing of games is secondary to the drinking and debauchery. Can the digital world ever compete with that? Probably not.