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Fast-forward to 2024 and the pace of change is accelerating

In an earlier issue of this publication, we observed that in order to write, one must first read. The absorption of knowledge from elsewhere provides a foundation upon which we build our own opinions.

Such is the case with predicting the future. Very few of us are blessed with a functioning crystal ball, so we must read, digest and learn before applying this acquired knowledge to the art of forecasting.

The winter seasonal break always sees industry reporters such as us inundated with both backward-looking reviews of the year just ended and forward gazing views of what may or may not come to pass. This year has been no different and, in terms of being thorough, a fascinating and comprehensive analysis is provided by the SOFTSWISS document entitled iGaming Trends 2024. One of several good reads that provided reference prior to writing this look forwards into 2024…

The wider landscape

In terms of the wider landscape, the most notable change will be a continued shift from international to national regulation. Localised regulations reflect the economic and social aspirations of specific territories, and the coming year is bound to see a reduction in the dominance of Malta and Curacao, and a further shift towards alignment with specific regional certifications.

Another certainty is that artificial intelligence (AI) will become a cornerstone technology for the industry. There is no longer any point in being slow to embrace AI, its impact is now a fact of life. Whether it be marketing (predictive analysis, player segmentation etc), or personalisation, behavioural study, game development and testing, fraud detection and security or responsible gambling, AI and machine learning will be at the heart of all that expands the discipline.

This will in turn be linked closely to gamification, as players continue to expect and demand more, and player welfare, as regulators tighten up and media scrutiny increases.

Esports and Live Casino

From a product evolution perspective, there are two nailed on certainties for continued proliferation in the is new year, esports betting and live casino. Both will have a transformative impact the sports betting and iGaming sectors respectively.

The past couple of years have seen esports gain a respect that they didn’t always hold. And this acceptance of competitive gaming as ‘sports’ in their own right has coincided with the North American explosion of sports betting and more recently, legislative changes in the explosive Brazilian market.

Esports betting is still largely in its infancy, with many regulatory positions still vague, but this will improve. In the US, almost 20 states now permit esports betting, but growth is inevitable.

The most exciting aspect of esports betting is its capacity for growth. Its popularity among the younger generations, with streamers not facing the physical limitations of traditional athletes and an audience – and bettors – that are not restricted by fixture lists that are limited to one or two games each week.

These factors promise massive potential for esports betting growth, with hundreds of popular streamers playing thousands of matches every day all around the world. There is only one way this can go.

Within the ever-evolving iGaming landscape, live casino gaming stands out as a transformative force that can reshape the iGaming industry. With its blend of cutting-edge technology, immersive experiences and real-time interaction, live casino gaming is revolutionising the way players engage with online casinos.

Transforming the experience

Live casino gaming bridges the gap between land-based and online casinos. The use of high-definition video streaming and the ability to interact in real time, with real dealers and fellow players, provides an authenticity and immersive experience that is unprecedented.

The ability to play your favourite game wherever you are and at any time of the day or night, experiencing the excitement of live casino action whilst at home or on the move, is a true revolution for the industry.

Combining the convenience of online gaming with the live and social aspects of the land-based casino environment is a marriage between tradition and technology that opens up a new user experience and can only grow and broaden the wider gaming audience.

As millennial and Gen Z consumers reach adulthood, so the demand for what is ‘second nature’ to them grows and this includes an expectation of continuous technological advancement. This is reflected by both the esports and live casino sectors, where live streaming, AI, AR and VR are now standard elements. If an offer is not tailored, engaging and immersive, then it is surviving on borrowed time.

Live casino gaming has also expanded the portfolios of available gaming content. Automated versions of traditional table games have been a staple feature of online casinos from their first arrival, live casino technology has introduced not only dramatically enhanced versions of the classics, but also countless new creative variants and concepts, impossible to viably deliver in the past and catering to an infinitely more diverse range of player preferences.

Enhanced trust and transparency

Unlike many iGaming options, live casino gaming also establishes unprecedented levels of transparency and trust for players by virtue of its real-time gameplay. Players enjoy the entire gaming experience before their own eyes. Whether it be live dealers shuffling and dealing the cards or spinning the wheel, being able to watch them as they work cements the feeling of trust in the fairness of each game. Furthermore, being able to interact with these dealers, asking questions and being assisted, significantly adds to the credibility and has undoubtedly established and continues to build a loyal player base.

Driving revenue growth

Live casino gaming has already emerged as a substantial revenue driver iGaming, and this will only grow exponentially through 2024. Its format attracts both seasoned players casino and countless newcomers, increasing both engagement and retention. Its fully immersive nature attracts a new demographic, delivers longer playing sessions, higher betting volumes and therefore increased operator revenues.

Payments and marketing

Further seismic advances that are set to occur during the coming year will be in the areas of payments and marketing. When paying for pretty much anything, the ‘next-gen’ consumer demands speed (immediacy) and localised convenience. As this sector very quickly evolves, we will see streamlined gateways, increased versatility, further enhanced security, unified analytics and absolute regulatory adherence.

In terms of the latter, the current payments trend towards BNPC (Buy-Now-Pay-Later) will be a delicate pathway to tread within iGaming, but a diluted route through this potential minefield would not be a huge surprise.

The SOFTSWISS research forecasts that local and regional solutions are the most popular, with traditional Debit/Credit cards still remaining more widely popular than cryptocurrencies and digital wallets. It is inevitable that the cryptocurrency sector will mature, in terms of consolidation, currency image and perception and content provider preferences. 

With player marketing, we should expect to see further growth of both affiliate activity and influencer collaboration. Despite all of our best corporate efforts, the old adage that ‘people buy from people’ is one constant that remains, and the influence of influencers and affiliates will continue to expand.

Relentless pace of change

In conclusion, let us examine the analogy of the printing industry. The first printing press was invented in Germany in around 1440. It was a further 350 years before an ‘automated’ steam-powered press was unveiled. Inkjet printing arrived as recently as the 1950s and the first digital printer just over 30 years ago. The point is that the pace of industrial change and evolution is relentless. That which was new a couple of years ago is now old, standing still is moving backwards and every year sees greater and more rapid advancement than the last. 2024 will be no different and the prospect is both challenging and exciting.