Back to news May 19, 2023

Casinos in the Metaverse - what we can expect

The Meta reality is fast becoming real right before us and people who partake will crave distractions. Will we see the revival of classic casinos?
Casinos in the Metaverse - what we can expect

First of all, what are we talking about when we use the word Metaverse? A lot has been, and will continue to be, written about it but for our purposes it's useful to recognize that it is the internet with an extra dimension. Instead of 2D participation and a horizontal-only plane of vision (straight ahead with images provided by our front-facing cameras, or before our eyes as we stream content), we upgrade to 3D across 360 degrees. The idea is that, utilising avatars of ourselves, we as users can participate in activities and interact with others within cyberspace. However, quite what it is in the sense of who will be using it and how is still up for grabs. The idea hasn't yet come of age in either the commercial or private domestic sphere, making it an exciting prospect with a range of possible applications across a range of business sectors. What it might mean for the gaming industry is far from crystallised but it could represent the next big opportunity, especially in terms of cryptocurrency, accessibility, and brand.

Thinking further about representation, how might casinos, as the traditional locus of gambling activity be represented within the Metaverse?

At this point, we have more supposition than case studies to guide us but chances are that casinos within the Metaverse will be land-based, allowing them to concentrate on the experiential aspect. Within that, some kind of hybrid model seems also likely, at least eventually, allowing the casino to have a wider geographical reach (with patrons not having to be there to be there) and broader demographic appeal (perhaps being able to offer niche or specialty gaming opportunities that would be otherwise prohibitively expensive to run in a physical space).

Hybridization would be an excellent way to showcase just how far the gaming industry has evolved within the digital landscape. The possible player base at the moment is fairly narrow, as buy-in to the Metaverse concept and its associated headsets, although strong and fairly steady, sits far from a level that might be called widespread. However, the scope for growing that base beyond early tech adopters comfortable with cryptocurrency or virtual currency, and gambling is huge. Spaces can be developed with a particular consumer target in mind, and one umbrella company could have several distinct brands/identities - all without the same operating hours restrictions and the same staffing needs of a traditional land-based casino. Alongside this, in-experience advertising could offer another possible revenue stream for operators.

We may be at a critical juncture for the igaming-Metaverse relationship, where legislation and regulation may be more than a few steps behind actual practice on the ground. Post-pandemic, the various pressures on governments may still lie in other areas, meaningful legislative intervention could still be some time from materialising. With that in mind, establishing some kind of formal or informal gaming industry-wide body now to monitor and self-police Metaverse ethics and practice, and to eventually advise official regulators, might be a good idea. At the moment, there is scope for less than ethical, lawless behaviour from 'crypto-cowboys' and the like. Self-policing would bring the much-needed nuance that legislators might miss and avoid draconian measures caused by "crackdowns" on - but which do not only target - exploitative outliers with a short-termist mindset.

Could there be risks involved with interacting in the Metaverse?

With the deployment of new tech, there are often unintended consequences to its utilisation: loopholes, weaknesses, or vulnerabilities that aren't recognized until exposed or exploited. Still, though we're in the early days of the Metaverse, we are no longer in the early days of the internet, which means that some of the issues that have plagued it, and the element of playing catch-up that there has been in solving those issues, can be mitigated.

From a more gambling industry-specific perspective: we know that internet use compulsions are a real phenomenon, and as an industry we can never afford to be blasé about the dangers and realities of disordered or excessive gambling. Therefore, new ways of combining the two should never be entered into without consideration of the risks. However, thinking frankly about the possible risks to vulnerable or susceptible consumers shouldn't be a reason not to explore; instead, assessing risk to mitigate it should be part and parcel of a good operational model. It is also incredibly likely that all of the mitigations and safety measures in place to keep consumers safer in the online gaming sphere will all apply to virtual Metaverse gaming. What is also incredibly likely is that, as this becomes a more entrenched part of the igambling world, new issues and their solutions will become apparent.

Will having a Metaverse offering be worth it in the end?

Almost certainly. We can, to an extent, rely on knowledge of human nature to say that the appeal of a bustling Metaverse virtual casino with a thriving social scene would almost certainly beat the idea of entering an empty, intimidating casino in real life. People who might never consider stepping foot into a physical, bricks-and-mortar site might find the virtual alternative more their style. This is true of anyone who might find accessing a casino in real life difficult or challenging.

However, it will only be worth it, in both the short and long term, if properly invested in. Delivery of a lacklustre experience, whether 3D rendered in your own home before your very eyes, or in-person surrounded by other people, does not inspire repeat custom or recommendation. For the gaming industry, testing and monitoring Metaverse rollout and engagement will be critical.

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