HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveVolume 26Issue 20Gambling In Crisis Webinar Highlights "iGaming In The COVID-19 Era"

Yesterday, three experts on iGaming issues discussed the evolution of gaming into the online gaming space, and the impact that the COVID-19 virus crisis has had on this evolution.  In a panel hosted by Roger Gros, Editor in Chief of Global Gaming Business Magazine, Sue SchneiderVP, Growth & Strategy, Americas, Sports Betting Community, Kresimir Spajic, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, Online Gaming and Sports Betting, Hard Rock International; and Dermot Smurfit, CEO of GAN all provided different perspectives on the growth of this segment of the gaming industry.  

Sue Schneider of SBC began the discussion with a historical perspective noting that the United States has “come late to the party” when it comes to online gaming.  The first online casinos opened in 1996 in Antiqua and in 1998 poker trend started.  Thereafter, a number of other companies came online.  Australia launched online sports betting, and the UK launched online gaming in 2005.  The US took another tack with the passage of a prohibition bill (the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), yet online gaming started to proliferate.  In 2013 Nevada licensed online poker sites, and New Jersey then later became the first jurisdiction to really open with all sorts of products.  Since then we have seen casino games go online, live dealers, fantasy sports and sports betting.  Because of the overturning of the Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Protection Act, there are now a number of states getting into the sports betting field (20 plus states plus the District of Columbia).  

The growth of online gambling, even before the onset of the current crisis, has been very significant.  The crisis has brought on another significant increase in growth, with poker becoming increasingly popular online.   She noted that older people were not doing much online gambling before, but the crisis has made them more technologically aware as they have needed to adapt to be able to communicate with relatives (grandkids, etc.).  This has created new users that may not have turned to online gambling before.  She noted that it is somewhat ironic that the growth of sports betting has occurred at a time when there are no sports to bet on and observed that the net result has been a greater growth of online gaming and online poker in the recent past. 

Kresimir Spajic, of Hard Rock International, discussed the history and future of online gaming.  Although Nevada authorized the first online gaming in 2013, it took until 2019 until another state (Pennsylvania) regulated online casino gaming and poker.  In comparison, in the past two years, 18 states have moved forward with operational sports betting either online or retail, and many other states that are pending launch.  Historically, the most successful brands in the gaming field were brands associated with bricks and mortar casinos.  Yet, since the introduction of sports betting, this has changed.  He noted that both Fanduel and DraftKings are now top three performers in the space as a result of their ability to leverage their database from sports related operations to bring players into casino gambling.  In addition, a number of the bricks and mortar brands are successfully cross promoting and leveraging their database to get players to expand into new forms of gaming.  He noted that there are four “X factors” for casinos:

1. Brand—either earned through legacy or by spending money to build a brand.

2. Database—either from bricks and mortar casino operations or by acquiring a database by spending money;

3. Product—a casino only channel product which means connecting your loyalty program with brick and mortar and online operations; and

4. Marketing—a willingness to spend money to wait for a return on investment.  

Dermot Smurfit, CEO of GAN discussed the growth of “Simulated Gaming" noting that his company has moved 14 different operators online in the past two years.   He noted that simulated gaming is a way of extending the relationship between the casino and its retail patrons.  By having the casinos own relationship, it positions the casinos for the eventual authorization of online platforms with real online wagering (once it is approved).   He noted that there has been a significant and immediate increase in the number of participants during the past two months as retail operations have tragically had to shut down.   “The momentum shift of retail gambling into online gambling, and even online social casinos or simulated gaming has been widely reported in the industry”, he noted.   “We have seen similar increases in real money online casino gaming throughout the month of March and in April, and continuing into May.  It is a tragic consequence of the retail casinos shuttering, and I think it is something that going forward the industry needs to generally accept ---that this is a real risk -- and that having an Internet gaming experience whether it is simulated or real money is probably a new and essential part of your strategy going forward,” he further stated.   He indicated that there is a true value to a casino operator offering online gaming.  “You will see that you will greatly reduce your patron’s promiscuity in the online channel, you will actually see your highest value gamblers come back and visit you on property more often as a consequence of engagement online.  . . . By extending your brand reach and your relationship with your carded patrons through the online channel you have the exceptional opportunity to retain them and to make them more loyal when they come back to the property more often” he said. 

During the Question and Answer portion of the discussion, Mr. Smurfit also discussed state Lotteries getting into the online gaming business.   “I think some of the operators, including some of our clients, are rightfully furious and there is a degree of legitimacy in their fury because the definition of online lottery ticket sales is being stretched to an extremity and if you just experience some of these online scratch cards they are eerily and spookily similar to the entertainment experience offered by traditional online slots or traditional slots in the retail casino properties.”

Regulatory Management Counselors, P.C., Global Gaming Business Magazine, and The Innovation Group continue to join forces to present timely and informative webinars designed to help gaming companies, casino operator, manufacturers and suppliers, executives, employees, investors and customers navigate the “new normal” as the World struggles through and emerges from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.  The series now includes four webinars which have all been recorded and are available at www.casinowebinar.com, along with information on upcoming webinars and registration details.



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