The challenges facing the land-based casino sector are well-documented. The explosion of iGaming over the past decade and the recent COVID pandemic has put unprecedented strain on bricks-and-mortar operators.
To survive, many land-based casinos have embraced online gambling – for some floundering operators, the revenue generated from web-based play has been a lifeline.
But what of the patrons who frequent physical casinos? Are operators doing enough to target their traditional customer base? Let’s begin by looking at demographics.
Land-Based v Digital Gambling
The differences between traditional land-based casino play and iGaming are obvious. Online play is easier, more accessible and safely anonymous. Conversely, bricks and mortar gambling is a far more sociable, physical experience, often involving face-to-face interaction.
You might assume then, that both forms of gambling appeal to very different demographics. Rewind fifteen years and you may have had a point.
In the early days of web-based play, internet gamblers were considered distinct from land-based counterparts. In fact, studies into online gambling of the early-to-mid 2000s found that a ‘digital divide’ existed between land-based and internet gamers.
Research indicated that internet gambling was higher among skilled professionals who were more competent users of the internet.
This is certainly not the case anymore. The mass adoption of the internet and the rapid refinement of mobile technologies mean that today, online gambling isn’t just the preserve of the upwardly mobile. Most everybody has access to the web as well as a mobile phone.
Thus, many land-based casino-goers are well-versed in online play. They’re also younger. Theoretically, these demographic changes afford land-based operators a great opportunity to successfully expand their offering to the web.
But expanding online has certain challenges.
The most obvious hurdle facing land-based casinos has been the sheer level of competition. iGaming is dominated by dedicated online casinos that are already well-established and trusted by players. How to compete in such a saturated space?
Partnering With Online Specialists
The approach of many traditional operators has been to construct new online casinos that are branded in partnership with leading iGaming specialists.
Hippodrome and Genting offer fairly typical examples of this strategy. Both feature iGaming platforms powered by Betway and Skill on Net Ltd.
By working with such companies, it’s possible to serve games from the many online developers with which they’ve secured distribution agreements.
As a result, the bricks-and-mortar operator is then able to offer an expanded range of online casino games while reinforcing its brand on the web.
Live streaming is another strategy for land-based operations. With such an arrangement, the tables at a physical venue are streamed live to online players.
Hippodrome offers its online players this option. To tie in with its famous Leicester Square venue, gamers have access to the venue’s roulette tables.
Genting, with no less than 32 casinos across the UK, has taken the same approach. Players are able to try their luck on roulette tables beamed live from the floors of its Birmingham, Kensington, Mayfair and Manchester venues.
Live streaming is a powerful tool for land-based operators looking to target their traditional patrons. Allowing players to try their hand at their favourite games from any location is an effective way of appealing to the land-based crowd - it’s about as close as you can get to taking a seat at a physical venue.
Omni-Channel has been mentioned a lot by industry insiders in recent years, especially in the US. Basically, the term describes how land-based operators build a digital presence by offering a seamless gaming experience that fuses both online and off-line play.
Grosvenor, for example provides its online members with a web-based wallet that can be credited with instant access funds for online and land-based use.
Then there’s Les Ambassadeurs which offers online members access to their exclusive Mayfair casino, albeit by invitation only.
Cross-promotion is another potential strategy that could help operators to recalibrate their product to attract both gaming demographics. But its potential remains relatively untapped by UK operators. Rialto Casino is the only casino that offers a hybrid bonus for use at its casino and website.
It’s the same with shared loyalty schemes too. Here, a player collects points by playing slots or casino games online which can then be applied to land-based gambling. This is a great opportunity for casino establishments to encourage brand loyalty across both channels. Unfortunately, it’s a tactic that’s not really used on this side of the Atlantic.
The impact of COVID, the massive shift in gambling behaviour and now the cost of living crisis means it’s no longer feasible for land-based casinos to rely solely on their bricks-and-mortar offerings. And as we have seen, most UK outfits now target web-based gamblers to varying extents.
Offering customers live streaming and seeking out the help of online specialists are effective strategies for widening appeal.
Further gaming innovations on the horizon should provide additional opportunities for targeting traditional gamers– augmented reality is perhaps the most exciting.
So as traditional casino gamers become younger, the need for land-based operators to serve a compelling, Omni-Channel offering has never been greater. As it stands, UK bricks-and-mortar casinos need to be doing more.