The future of gambling is not only in its convergence with social gaming, but also in the complementary development of online and offline channels, according to decision makers and industry experts.
In some places this is done by necessity, as certain jurisdictions require online operators to team up with brick-and-mortar establishments before they can offer their services over the “local” internet.
In the absence of federal level American gambling laws regulating this matter, those states that have taken steps to authorize online gambling are doing so with the aim of propping up their existing land-based casinos. Consequently they have been setting rules that often demand a physical presence in the state.
This is neither unprecedented (Belgium, for example, has gone down that road), nor unexpected. In anticipation of legalization in New Jersey, UK-based Poker Stars submitted a bid to buy Atlantic Club (a hotel and casino in Atlantic City) months ago.
What seemed like an unusual move at the time may become regular practice as online operators begin eying existing venues in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware and possibly further US states as legislative efforts develop there.
In fact, it is likely that all states with existing casinos will set such requirements, while those without and existing brick-and-mortar scene (e.g. Hawaii) will not. Companies wishing to establish a strong and undisputed presence in all of the newly opening US markets, however, are unlikely to be able to avoid some level of classic, land-based casino presence.
According to Poker Stars spokesman Eric Hollreiser, “the future of gaming will require a mix of online and offline expertise.”
Expressing his views to ABC News Hollreiser insisted that parallel presence can be exploited to the benefit of everyone involved and online gambling need not have a negative impact on land-based casino operations. He also cited international precedents to show that casinos and online poker sites in the US can support each other’s business.
“We drive traffic from our online tournaments to our major casino partners around the world. This drives a poker tourism business in cities such as London, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, (and) Rio,” said Hollreiser, adding that “the traffic runs both ways as we introduce new audiences to poker in these live tournaments.”
Other experts tend to agree.
“The casino-going population is older. You have this huge bubble of younger people who have never gone to a casino or intend to go to one, but spend half their waking life on smartphones or computers, playing games, social networking,” according to the vivid picture painted by Joe Brennan, director of the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMega).
Brennan believes that the optimal industry response lies in the very convergence of American internet casinos and land-based ones, advocated by the various stakeholders, of which the Poker Stars bid is just an early indication.