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Come Together

Everyone needs to figure out how to blend online gaming and land-based gaming.

Come Together

Last month, IGT declared that its Wheel of Fortune slot games in certain states will accumulate a jackpot by using play from both land-based and online casinos, meaning a player has a chance to win the top jackpot by playing in either a bricks-and-mortar casino or online. I say it’s about time that land-based casinos figured out ways to attract online players to their properties.

We’ve not seen any major declines in land-based revenues in states that also allow legal online gaming, despite the fears. New Jersey was the first to try this experiment, and the results have been heartening. While in some months, the land-based revenue has declined, it has usually been made up by online gaming revenues.

Now, would some of that online revenue come to the land-based casinos were online gambling to be banned? That’s unclear, but it seems to be that online revenues are dollars that casinos would not have gotten should land-based gaming be the only choice.

But should online gaming not be permitted, would those players opt for casino games offered by illegal offshore operators? There’s no concrete proof yet, but given the presence of illegal online gambling advertising on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and other platforms, and also given the fact that those who are able to play on those sites do so without any interference from the authorities, one can only assume that those illegal sites are going to grow and proliferate as long as that continues.

Since the growth of legal online gaming has not spread as quickly as the industry would like, there’s going to be continued growth of illegal gaming. And that includes sports betting. In this issue, our Five Questions page with premier sports bettor Spanky shows that legal sportsbooks shy away from sharp bettors, who therefore look offshore for their action. That will continue to happen with sharps and squares when legal online casinos open, but with odds that are not attractive to the players.

Meanwhile, in states where legal land-based and online casinos exist, we need to link the two so players get rewarded for playing on any of their products. This is where land-based casinos that also offer online gaming can beat the betting sites that don’t have a land-based option. By offering rewards that can only be redeemed in person—free rooms, meals, cash back at real machines and contests—land-based casinos can gain an edge over the DraftKings and FanDuels of the world.

BetMGM, Caesars and Hard Rock sportsbooks and online casinos will be able to cut into the massive market shares enjoyed by online-only entities by showing players the two sides of the equation. Nothing can match the hands-on, face-to-face, personal service that customers receive at the bricks-and-mortar casinos, and if that extends to the online reception, then casinos that can blend the two experiences in a seamless manner will have the leg up on any online-only gaming competition.

So far, however, it seems as though land-based operators are just pleased to have another revenue stream that they stumbled upon. They were glad to give up large pieces of that stream to technology providers along with other “skins” that are online-only and don’t produce as effectively as they should.

It took some of the technology companies like IGT to grasp the possibilities of how a dual approach to land-based and online players could increase their profitability. Operators are still lagging behind. And it’s not just a matter that the operators will lose out on a revenue stream—if they don’t respond soon, they will be left in the dust of the more sophisticated online-only sites, even if they don’t have a land-based alternative.

But it isn’t just operators. Regulators also need to get up to speed quickly. There still is a lot of frustration coming from both operators and suppliers that regulators are too slow to respond to innovative ideas. Both New Jersey and Nevada have programs where new technology can be recognized and utilized but other states and jurisdictions need to follow.

And it’s not just the U.S. Online play is exploding in Asia with almost everyone playing some kind of game on their mobile devices. Yet the operators in Asia seem to have ceded that space to new and unique companies that come in under the radar. When is the last time you’ve seen any online gaming options from the big Asian conglomerates like Crown, Sands China, Galaxy, SJM or others?

So everyone needs to realize that online gaming is going to be at least as big if not bigger than land-based gaming, and figure out how to blend the two so you not only get a loyal land-based player but one that you can follow home to create a full customer experience. The time to do it is now, not tomorrow.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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