Happy New Year everyone and welcome to 2017! Getting back into the grind after the holidays is never easy, but hopefully you’re feeling refreshed and ready to plan your attack for the upcoming year ahead.
While I was attending gambling conferences around the world in 2016, I noticed four areas of piqued interest and potential that continued to arise despite what country I was in. Based on these observations, I would like to suggest four top sectors to watch because I think 2017 will be the year each of the below will truly explode onto the scene.
Bitcoin, Bitcoin and more Bitcoin
I know, I know, we at CalvinAyre.com have been talking about the greatness of Bitcoin since 2012, but after five years of getting familiar with Bitcoin and the Blockchain technology behind it, I think the gambling industry is finally ready to embrace the revolutionary currency.
In late 2016 we saw the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) classify Bitcoin as a cash equivalent, the right way to go about it, according to crypto-currency expert Jon Matonis. This move by the UKGC helps to legitimize the use of Bitcoin amongst the regulated online gambling industry and will likely encourage other regulators, such as Malta, to follow suit. Prepare for many more jurisdictions to give the green light on Bitcoin in 2017; operators, suppliers and customers are finally asking for it.
Bitcoin’s consistent rise in value is also another positive step, especially considering the devaluation of the British Pound and the predicted crash of the US Dollar. One of the main arguments of operators against using Bitcoin was its fluctuation in value, but how can this be a valid argument if the almighty Pound and Dollar behave the same way?
Latin America as the latest and greatest hotspot
I can remember traveling down to Panama City in 2012 for GES Panama and we were all aware of the potential of the Latin American market, but the timing wasn’t right- we were too early. In 2016 the iGaming industry started to see a lot of movement in this fruitful market with the World Cup in Brazil, iGaming regulations developing in Columbia and Brazil, more events in the region such as Juegos Miami and Brazil Gaming Congress plus more LatAm-focused sessions at almost every conference.
Coupled with a healthy appetite for gambling in Latin America, the region’s booming economy and improved infrastructure make it ripe for online gambling offerings and technology. As an additional bonus, relocating to this part of the world as an operator or employee shouldn’t be a hard sell as a low cost of living, tropical climate and proximity to beaches are common for a number of the major cities.
Intersection of eSports and land based casinos
eSports is another sector we’ve been discussing for a few years now, however we’re just starting to notice a real intersection between eSports and gambling develop. Where I’m seeing the most potential for eSports in 2017 is with the land-based casinos, a perfect location to host all sorts of tournaments for eSports enthusiasts. Casinos hosting tournaments will then be able to cross-sell their other offerings to the eSports players and fans such as restaurants, hotel rooms, bars, poker, slots, etc.
I do think there will be a big opportunity for iGaming operators should they decide to offer odds on eSports games, but I don’t think we’re there just yet. For one, I think a lot of the eSports enthusiasts out there are simply too young to gamble legally. Also, iGaming operators need to dedicate significant staff and development into building a solid eSports offering and this requires time and education. I’m guessing the demand for eSports betting today isn’t big enough for all operators to scramble, but as the fan-base grows and the fans themselves get older, we will most certainly get there.
Augmented Reality (AR) to overtake Virtual Reality (VR) as the hot disruptive technology
When it comes to technological innovation in iGaming and beyond, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are surely on the list. I’ve even heard a new term recently, “Mixed Reality”, a technology at the intersection of VR and AR using holograms. The issue with disruptive technology like this is the requirement for a headset or some sort of expensive hardware in order to enjoy the magic, but not necessarily with AR.
AR is the technology responsible for Pokémon Go and all we needed to enjoy the magic was a smartphone. There are plenty of ways land based casinos and online gaming companies can take advantage of this tech and I believe 2017 will be the year when it really takes off. I do think VR and MR have great potential for our industry as well, but not until those headsets become smaller and much less expensive.