Does the increasing success of Bet365 and its ilk herald a shift in gambling that will sound the death knell for casinos and betting shops?
There is a dystopian future that is often trotted out by the usual sci-fi fantasy brigade in which the entire world becomes one giant computer system with everything and everyone just part of whatever trendy name they’ve decided to call the data-sprawled system this time. Human existence would be so bound up with technology it would render us mere entities in a simulation, our physical forms withered or in suspension, our every whim provided instantly by the system to which we’ve surrendered. Some even point to the internet as being the beginnings of that future.
Bet365‘s Prophetic Profits Present Problems
• Physical gambling locations under threat
• Online entities setting the agenda for the gambling news
• Gambling may split in the future
Obviously this is a dramatized exaggeration of the social and cultural shifts that the globalization of information has wrought upon the world, in the same way zombie movies are rather blunt commentary on consumerism. Just like the shuffling masses in the shopping mall the techno-nightmare genre merely takes to extremes the level to which people have adapted to provision of services and information via a ubiquitous network. From home shopping to TV on demand the internet has changed how we spend our down time, with both practical and recreational uses.
Due to the inability of humanity to see the future, as evidenced by any British weather forecast, as a species we are inherently conditioned to gamble. There will always be risks to measure and consequences unseen, and of course that provides ample reason for us to have turned it into a favored and long lived recreation that has stood the test of time despite efforts to eradicate it by means of religious edict, national laws and local ordinances. It has been portrayed as morally dubious, damned as a sin and yet still thrives in every corner of the world despite it all. We’re a planet of gamblers and the internet has merely helped us do it more easily.
Does that instant accessibility add up to the disconnected inhuman world of a plugged-in planet? Does it really threaten to do away with the physical mainstays that have sustained human interaction? Certainly no one expects the internet to be able to replace a bar or pub any time soon, but print journalism has seen the internet gnaw away at its markets, as have book publishers, and both are beginning to slip away from the physical paper and massive presses that once spread word around the world. There are, it would appear, some parts of the physical world that are under threat from the internet but does that mean Online gambling sites in the UK and their ilk are a threat to casinos?
Stability Of Participation Rates Could Be An Issue
Casinos and betting shops have long been centers of gambling with the positives and negatives that are part and parcel with this physical presence. As Las Vegas demonstrates all too clearly, and it’s a concept Macau is building upon, casinos can massive attractions that can bring international tourism and gambling business to where none would exist without them, but below this super-status level are the more local casino markets likely to become victims of an inability to compete with the accessibility of gambling that online sportsbooks in the UK, like Bet365, provide? Certainly there is some evidence to suggest so.
In the northeastern United States where the casino market is seen as all but over saturated (and yet they still wish to build more) the reduction of operating profit margins have seen investors pull the plug on casinos that are no longer viable much to the cost of Atlantic City which has seen the brunt of this collapse in confidence as the market contracts. These closures are mostly due to the pressures of increased competition in a market of stable size, more casinos dividing up the same number of people, and those on the edges are being squeezed out.
Online gambling might not be responsible for the closure of the Atlantic Club, Showboat, Revel and Trump Plaza, but their closure is in of itself an indicator of the limiting factor in physical casinos that aren’t international destinations; catchment areas. As new casinos opened there was not a direct increase in the number of players overall, indeed some saw a fall due to prevailing economic conditions, and some doubt they’ll return. This stability of market size indicates that there is a ceiling on these localized casinos.
On the other side of the Atlantic figures show an ever increasing percentage of gambling occuring via mobile apps and online sites, by 2015 this will reach 17% and if this increase continues it will inevitably eat into a gambling market that as the US proves has a participation level that is to all extensive purposes stable. As there is a rise in this online segment there will inevitably be a knock-on decrease in the available market remaining to casinos and betting shops. But does that really mean there will eventually only be super-status casinos left?
Is There An Antiquity Of Experience?
Certainly there is something to be said for this new wave of mobile betting swinging some of the occasional gamblers towards a more frequent use that has bolstered figures, but is that too limited to sustain both the physical presence and online availability? Can the increasing social acceptability of gambling that sponsorship and advertising trends indicate translate into a growth in the gambling market per se, or will there come a point of stark choice? By no means can the internet replace the atmosphere and occasion of a visit to a casino, but how many will now never make the effort to compare the two?
A new generation of gamblers that have no inclination to visit a casino, seeing it as perhaps old hat or a tad seedy by comparison with the gleaming clean pixels of the online universe, will simply not know what they’re missing out on, and not wish to spend the money to find out. Their attitude towards casinos may well mirror that of people today who no longer buy newspapers or physical books. There is simply no need and whilst the experience is different the end result is the same. Progress may yet render the casino a dinosaur of a by-gone age.
Of course there will always be those centers of affluence and opulence that are in of themselves an attraction, there is no future in which Las Vegas and Macau aren’t huge international draws for the very wealthy gamblers of the US and China, nor will Monte Carlo lose its sheen for the well heeled wagerer and perhaps it will become merely another social divide where only the very rich visit casinos and the rest of us become content to bet online without ever stepping onto a real bricks-and-mortar casino floor in our lives.
The success of Bet365 demonstrates that the market for online gambling was there to be leveraged and the public at large were willing to make their lives easier at the cost of the old traditional gambling methods and locations. Casinos are expensive and precarious as Atlantic City has shown, they will undoubtedly feel the pinch first, it only remains to be seen if there will be a division of gambling and whether that will be between the haves and have-not-so-muches or it will become a generational thing split along the lines of age. Whichever will come to pass, Bet365 heralds a future the onset of which we can neither see nor stop, merely gamble upon.