Virtual gaming versus the luxury casino

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Virtual gaming versus the luxury casino
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Gaming from home or betting at a casino? Either way, the sector is on the rise – and here's why both can coexist

Digital disruption is a phrase that everyone who runs a business should be acutely aware of. In its simplest form, it constitutes an existing business model being challenged and, ultimately, transformed by a digital upstart.

Some of the famous examples include the rise of Netflix and streaming platforms, which paved the way for the demise of the DVD rental store. But there are countless other examples, ranging from Google Search ‘killing’ the physical phonebook to Airbnb challenging the existing marketplace of hotels and hospitality.

But it is always much too simplistic to suggest the digital alternative will always win out. One of the most famous examples of digital disruption – Amazon ending the bookshop – didn’t transpire. Sure, some large chains closed their doors when Jeff Bezos found a way to undercut the market, but there has been a renaissance in bookshops, with numbers rising steadily in the UK after years of decline.

The reason is simple: a bookshop is more than just a vendor of books, and it can offer many things that a website cannot.

Two casino sectors coexist peacefully

When the first internet casinos appeared in the 1990s, there was also a suggestion that this would eventually signal the end of brick-and-mortar casinos, or at least change the industry so significantly so that there would be a marked decline in physical casino locations.

While online gaming – known as iGaming – did change the industry significantly, it didn’t disrupt land-based casinos in the negative sense. In fact, the two arms of the industry became, more or less, complementary to each other.

There are, of course, many reasons to choose an online casino over a physical one. Lower overheads mean that you can find generous casino bonuses online that are more than a match for the free cocktail or two you might receive on the gaming floor.

Technically, there is an unlimited amount of space on a casino platform, so you can choose from thousands of games instead of hundreds. There is also the convenience factor too: why travel to Las Vegas to play high-stakes when you can play from your own sofa?

Both sectors continue to grow

But, by and large, the physical casino sector has remained strong. Gaming arcades with physical slot machines might be disappearing from the high street, but more sophisticated venues continue to flourish.

Online casinos can provide all the gaming attractions a player might want, but it is difficult to match the atmosphere of a luxurious casino building. Talk to the patrons of Les Ambassadeurs or Maxim’s Casino, or even the Ritz private member’s club, and there is nothing that the virtual world can offer to replace it.

And yet, some believe the journey of disruption has not yet been completed. Today, proponents of new mediums, such as the metaverse, claim that a new wave of disruption will challenge our preconceptions about entertainment.

The metaverse might seem like an idea sketched out in Mark Zuckerberg’s mind at the moment, but in the not-too-distant future it could lead to revolutionary experiences. At its heart, the metaverse is about blurring the real world with the virtual world. It’s not a stretch to say that, one day, a card sharp could use a VR headset to take a seat at the blackjack table at Les Ambassadeurs Club, albeit remotely.

A digitally rendered city with numbers

Indeed, we have already seen evidence of green shoots in that respect. Evolution Gaming, one of the most important developers of games for the online market, has begun to partner with both physical and online casinos to deliver remote play at real tables. Rolled out in a handful of locations in North America, you can play at a ‘real’ table side by side with in-person players in a casino venue using your smartphone.

Of course, even if the metaverse is to fully bloom in the way that staunch advocates of the technology hope – and that is in no way guaranteed – it’s not certain that it will ever replace in-person experiences. There is room for all types of casino entertainment, and that includes the sights, sounds, and smells of a casino club. Like bookshops, they offer something more than games.

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