When Las Vegas reopened its doors a few weeks ago, it was the strongest signal yet that life was returning to some sort of normality. Yet as the weeks go by, we are still having to redefine exactly what normal really means. Vegas will always be a draw for tourists from across the USA and the wider world. But the casinos that are synonymous with Sin City are facing a less certain future.
Online alternatives looking more compelling
The casinos in Vegas are certainly looking very different to six months ago, with their sanitizing stations, facial masks and distancing rules. It is the same story in other famous casino locations the world over like Monte Carlo or Macau, while in the UK, operators are still awaiting the government go-ahead to reopen their doors.
However, that is only part of the challenge that casinos are facing. While their physical doors were closed, the online alternatives were winning new business left, right and center. Gamers have found that far from being a short-term alternative, the best online casinos can offer an experience every bit as good as the real thing, and arguably one that is even better under current circumstances.
Why play in cyberspace?
There are numerous advantages to online casinos, and they go beyond the fact that you don’t need to wear a face mask or monitor your proximity to other players. These are, we hope, short-term measures. What really has the traditional casino operators on edge is the longer-term picture.
Live gaming has revolutionized the igaming experience. 10 years ago, nobody could have suggested with a straight face that playing a casino game on the internet was as much fun as being in the Golden Nugget or the Bellagio, sitting at the blackjack table and exchanging a joke or two with the dealer. Today, it is not so clear-cut, as you can effectively do exactly that by logging on to any one of a hundred casino sites and joining a live table.
Choice is also an important factor. Getting the latest slot game installed in a physical casino involves complicated logistics and is subject to available space. A virtual casino floor is practically infinite in size, and a new game can be installed with a few keystrokes at the backend of the site.
Lower costs mean bigger prizes
An online casino has one other inherent advantage in that it is far cheaper to operate. Even with the live casino games, staffing costs are significantly lower, and expenditure on maintenance, utilities and the like is negligible. This provides the opportunity for online casinos to operate at significantly lower margins than the land-based versions, passing savings on to their members by offering bigger bonuses, more generous promotions and games with a lower house edge.
Las Vegas and Monte Carlo will be around for a good time yet, no matter what the world throws at them. In the broader industry, however, the tide is turning towards online casinos, and the sector faces permanent change.