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The most significant gambling innovation of modern times

The most significant gambling innovation of modern times


Historians may say that gambling’s most game-changing innovations were the deck of cards, the roulette wheel or the casino chip, maybe even the early fruit machines. And, of course, they are correct. But without doubt, in the 21st century, the innovation that has done more to catapult the industry into another stratosphere is the smartphone.

The humble and now virtually universal smartphone has put the gambling industry into the pockets of billions of people in every corner of the world – the industry has now come to them, rather than them having to come to the industry.

Back in the early days of what we now know as iGaming, or online gambling, access to a desktop computer was required. This meant that players needed to indulge their passions either at home or in their place of work. The sector was very much dominated by sports betting and early online casinos were something of a crude and awkward novelty, enjoyed by only the most committed enthusiasts. Then, some time not much more than a decade ago, everything changed. And the reason for this was simple, the industry got ‘smart’ (literally) and embraced the almost limitless potential of the most universal technological development of our lifetimes, the mobile telephone.

Game players, especially gamblers, dislike and reject obstacles. Aside from excitement and entertainment, their primary needs are convenience, ease of access and speed. Early online casinos were revolutionary in their time, but they required downloading to hard drives and the early games were little more than replicas of the simpler slots we saw in land-based locations. This was never going to be enough for those we know as ‘millennials’, who were already starting to enjoy the delights of the early days of social media.

The entire world was increasing its dependence on the mobile telephone. This small device was becoming an essential ‘organ’ within everyday life. The innovative minds within the industry saw this unfolding and realised that what had to happen was the creation of websites that were optimised for mobile operating systems.

Enabling players to gamble on their mobile phones resulted in a rapid growth spurt, as more people enjoyed the convenience and simplicity of this new opportunity. And once the industry went further and developed mobile applications that were compatible with the iOS and Android operating systems, the snowball was pushed off the top of the mountain and the momentum became unstoppable.

The introduction of HTML5 enabled the industry’s brave and creative developers to step up to the plate and take ownership of the future, unveiling games that had multiple layers, exciting bonuses and an array of secondary feature opportunities.

As operators began to introduce native gaming apps and new games with a frequency that the land-based studios were never configured to match, the growth of global iGaming and online betting had become an explosion. The concept of being able to play wherever you were, or on the move, was so simple it was perfect.

It is expected by many that gambling on smartphones, be it iGaming or betting, will ultimately account for 90% of the total market. And because the technology effectively presents a ‘blank canvas’ to developers, the quality and creativity of the experience should only continue to improve.

Countless land-based gambling locations are wonderful locations, and the smart land-based operators know that their way forward is to offer the kind of ‘experiential’ package that a phone can never rival. We love going to a casino because it is an ‘event’, that includes drinking, dining and live entertainment. And live play, at real tables, will always be the crème-de-la-crème gaming. But if I want to simply play, on my own, while I am sat at home or on a train, then I pick up my phone, as do millions and millions of others, every minute of every single day.

So next time somebody asks you which invention has made the greatest single contribution to the growth of the gambling industry over the past 20 years, reach into your pocket and show them. And it’s that universal and instant accessibility that is the whole point.