As the business year comes to a close, it’s safe to say that online gaming is enjoying unprecedented popularity, creating steady profits for the operators. New Year will certainly bring new developments – here are some issues that will likely be in focus in 2017.
End of the year is the perfect time to draw a line and take a look at the state of the industry. 2016 was big for online gaming, as global popularity is soaring at the moment and new customers are flocking towards best sites in huge numbers. This multi-billion business is well adapted to the mobile era and has decisively proven its staying power. Of course, nothing stays stagnant for long, and we can expect further changes triggered by the development of technological and business aspects of the gaming operators.
Based on recent events, we can speculate about trends that could be expected to pick up steam during the next 12 months. Each of the discussed tendencies is already underway, but is yet to reach its full realisation and could become a true driving force that changes how we perceive the entire industry. If the present pace of growth continues, that breakthrough could happen at some point in the near future.
Here are the most important storylines that are worth monitoring throughout the year:
Ending the rivalry between online and offline gambling
During the early stages of the industry’s evolution, gaming sites were perceived as competitors to traditional casinos and bookmakers. That’s simply not the case any longer, as the online channel has grown into an indispensable tool for reaching the customers and old-guard of gaming providers are now embracing it wholeheartedly. Indeed, online and offline gaming are increasingly becoming two sides of the same coin, with all the betting content available through both channels. It isn’t unusual for land-based establishments to allow their visitors to interact with games through their mobile phones even while they are on premises, as online casinos such as William Hill Vegas are fully synched with their mother companies. It is a good bet that we will see the expansion of this concept in the coming years.
Using Bitcoin as the currency of choice
Right now, online gaming operators accept several major currencies – typically US dollar, Euro and Pound Sterling. The system allows customers to upload and withdraw their preferred form of money, but that doesn’t completely eliminate the need for costly conversions. Doing business with so many currencies also exposes the operators to significant risks in case of serious devaluation, introducing an element of uncertainty into the business model. That’s why some experts predict that digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, might be a better solution for this type of transactions. In addition to being independent from any central bank and thus resistant to certain market shocks, Bitcoin is suitable for maintaining anonymity on the network and can thus be helpful in preventing identity theft and other problems.
Wagering on competitive e-sports
The success of sports betting is undeniable, so it would be logical to expect e-sports to fair just as well if major bookmakers decide to fully back this nascent industry. Over the previous couple of years, games such as DOTA, Starcraft, Counterstrike and League of Legends have built armies of players and fans, as well as impressive tournament systems, with rewards for the winners sometimes ranging in the millions and live audiences that numbers thousands. It is only a matter of time before e-sports achieve equal footing with traditional sports, with all the associated implications for the gaming operators. It is already possible to place bets on virtual sports with certain providers and as the demand goes up, this is likely going to become the new standard. Of course, this expansion will bring new security challenges that gaming companies will have to answer before they can fully benefit from the intense interest.
Balancing regulations around the world
One important factor slowing down the global growth of the gaming industry is uneven legislation that forces international operators to pick and choose their target markets based on administrative procedures rather than purely economic considerations. For example, most European countries have relatively permissive laws regarding regulated online gambling, but in a majority of U.S. states it is illegal to participate in games of chance administered through electronic means. Additionally, taxation levels are still unsustainably high in many jurisdictions, severely limiting the operational range of the gaming companies and ensuring that governments can maintain control over the money flows. Industry insiders are calling for a more consistent solution and are working to present a unified front in these matters, but they are still facing an uphill battle since all regulations are subject to approval on national level.