Amidst rapid technological advancement and a global shift towards industry regulation, the iGaming industry has established a strong precedence for growth over the past 12 months. At the time of writing, approximately 80 states across the globe have legalized iGaming. Europe remains the largest market but the continued entrenchment of emerging players - namely the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Asia Pacific - can’t be ignored.
The worldwide casino and online gambling market is forecast to reach 261.8 billion U.S. dollars by the end of 2022 and this upwards trajectory shows no signs of slowing. European associations predict a 34% average increase in global gambling industry revenues in 2023. One thing’s for sure, iGaming is going places. 2023 is set to be a time of continued evolution, opportunity, and no doubt some surprises.
So, what iGaming trends and challenges can we expect the industry to encounter in 2023? We sat down with our resident iGaming expert, Jamie Daniel, to get his thoughts on the year ahead.
The last few years have been challenging for land-based casinos. In the wake of Covid-19 and growing economic instability, 2022 saw a significant drop in the number of patrons visiting brick-and-mortar casinos in the US. Analysts at Slotegrator identified a 15% rise in interest in opening online casinos in 2022 which goes to show that gambling, like so many industries, is going digital.
Mobile betting is up, social casinos are thriving, and gamification is on the rise. Mobile-first platforms like Pro Indian Casinos are simple to use and make gameplay increasingly accessible. More digital casinos are integrating social media portals so players can compete and share results, and the integration of traditional gaming features like level traversal, missions, and tournaments are expected to reach new audiences and widen player demographics.
Combining the convenience and comfort of online gameplay with live human dealers has proven to be a winning combination. Throughout 2022, live dealer games have become one of the hottest iGaming trends. An increasing number of online game developers have chosen to launch live dealer games, the popularity of which has soared across both Europe and emerging markets.
For example, after launching in nine new markets over the past 10 months, live casino studio OnAir Entertainment is looking to start doubling its global footprint in 2023 with an additional five regulated live casino states. Gaming supplier, Evolution Gaming is also growing. The name behind popular live dealer games like Blackjack Grand VIP, Blackjack Fortune VIP, and Salon Prive Baccarat recently announced the launch of its second live casino studio which will provide operators with access to a wider range of live casino games.
The popularity of live dealer games has grown steadily off the back of online gambling expansion in the US. Now, the public’s growing appetite for mobile-first experiences and the development of immersive VR technologies is set to reinforce the transition to live, online gameplay even further.
The success of live dealer games has already laid a solid foundation for more immersive iGaming experiences, and virtual reality casinos are set to become the next evolution of this iGaming trend. Some online casinos already offer players the option to join a virtual environment (much like a 3D video game). Social Club VR, designed for the Oculus Rift, offers single and multiplayer interactive games. Likewise, SlotsMillion invites players to don their headsets and enter a virtual casino lobby.
For the time being, most platforms are still in trial stages and opportunities for real-money games are few and far between. It’s also worth remembering that VR uptake is far from being a given. If online gamblers behave anything like gamers, then uptake is likely to be stifled by a healthy dose of skepticism. According to data published by YouGov, 32% of American gamers and 24% of British gamers see no practical application for VR, due in part to the high price tag and lack of compatible content.
On top of these uncertainties, Meta’s disappointing third-quarter results for 2022, which saw share prices drop by 25% alongside mass layoffs, don’t exactly inspire confidence in a VR-first future. That said, this is certainly a space to watch in 2023.
The integration of cryptocurrency within online casino environments is rapidly gaining traction. Crypto casinos let users play, deposit, and withdraw using crypto as their primary currency. As 2023 approaches, more online casinos are expected to offer crypto transactions on their platforms. Stake.com, which was founded in 2018 by the team responsible for Primedice, currently accepts a range of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dogecoin, TRON, Ripple, and EOS.
Licensing is still catching up with crypto adoption. To process payments and obtain bank accounts, online casinos are required to obtain a gambling license from a recognized authority but there are currently no laws regulating crypto use for gambling or transfers. Stake.com holds a Curaçao eGaming license which, at present, remains one of the standard licensing frameworks for crypto casinos.
Despite its relative infancy, crypto casinos are becoming widely regarded as the safer alternative to gambling with fiat currencies. This is mainly due to the increased layers of security attributed to transactions and heightened personal data protections (crypto casinos typically require less personal information from players than traditional online casinos).
Gambling on streaming platforms hit a blockade in October 2022 after Twitch prohibited the streaming of gambling sites without official licensing from approved jurisdictions. As reported by The Guardian, the ban followed a series of controversies surrounding popular streamers the likes of ItsSlicker who “admitted to scamming other hosts out of thousands of dollars”.
Numerous platforms including Trovo, Mixer, and DLive, have tried to fill the gap. DLive has been actively promoting Twitch’s former gambling stars on social media under the hashtag #YourStreamYourRules. Post ban, AussieSlots has become one of DLive’s top streamers. But whilst DLive is providing a safe space for Twitch’s excommunicated, it’s yet to be seen whether the platform can sustain demand.
Two months later, former Twitch streamer Trainwreck announced his move to a brand-new streaming site Kick, a subsidiary of Stake.com. Trainwreck, who has been vocal in his criticism of Twitch, recently took to Twitter to sing Kick’s praises. In an update posted on the 5th of December 2022, he comments “I choose to work with Kick because their investors are willing to listen to creator input to make their platform better. Kick understands that a successful platform starts with a successful streamer”. Only time will tell whether Kick will take root within the streaming community to become Twitch 2.0.
The esports betting market has experienced massive change over the last decade. In 2010, Pinnacle became the first bookmaker to facilitate an esports betting market, allowing official bets on StarCraft 2. Many more have followed, and key players now include the likes of William Hill, GVC Holdings, and Bet365 to name a few.
After booming popularity during the pandemic years, esports continues to enjoy a recurring customer base. So much so that Pinnacle recently delivered its very own tournament franchise, the Pinnacle Cup Championship 2022, which attracted 200,000 peak viewers. Head of Esports at Pinnacle, Alex McBride, remains confident that esports is “going to be bigger” according to Esports Insider. McBride forecasts that the key to continued industry growth lies in forging successful relationships between operators and the esports community at large.
Pretty much every industry right now is set to benefit from artificial intelligence technology in some way. iGaming is no different. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies into online gambling platforms promises everything from enhanced customer service (think automated chat bots) to highly personalized gameplay in which players receive the most relevant jackpots, bonuses, and rewards.
AI is also helping to legitimize the industry which, let’s face it, experiences its fair share of controversy. AI is contributing to the continual improvement of platform security by flagging high-risk behavior, fraudulent transactions, and protecting users’ financial information with automated encryption software.
Internet primacy, increased iGaming compliance, and changing attitudes to online gambling are making iGaming platforms more accessible than ever before in emerging markets. The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) predicts that iGaming revenues in Europe will grow by 19% in the coming year on the back of emerging European markets in Bulgaria, Greece, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, and the Czech Republic. With the adoption of iGaming legislation in the US and Canada, we can expect some equally impressive stats from these regions.
Online gambling in Latin America is showing even greater promise. Key developing markets in the region include Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. With a population of 212 million and upwards of 163 million internet users, it is speculated that Brazil’s iGaming market alone could accrue a worth of $10 billion by 2025.
That said, much will depend on the uncertain regulatory landscape in the country. Though a proposal for the regulation of a legal framework for gambling was approved in February 2022 it is still waiting for approval by the Brazilian Senate. In light of the recent election, which saw Lula re-elected, we will just have to wait and see.
Looking elsewhere, the Asia Pacific market is currently responsible for over 50% of U.S. esports revenue and is home to a growing younger generation of esports betters. Africa accounts for less than 2% of the global online gambling market at present, but with mobile fast democratizing access to the internet, it’s a space worth watching. A case in point, Twain Sports recently announced that it will be making its South Africa debut with a new partnership agreement with Major Betway.
One thing's for certain - the iGaming industry is primed for growth. But where this growth will come from is still up in the air. As brick-and-mortar casinos make way to online platforms, we’re experiencing a period of industry diversification and watching the emergence of promising new markets first-hand. With so many new technologies breaking through and the regulations that influence them still up for debate, we’ll have to wait and see which of these iGaming trends emerge supreme in 2023.
What do you think will be the top iGaming trends in 2023? Get in touch with Jamie to share your thoughts.
Jamie Daniel is our iGaming expert and understands the unique challenges faced by the industry. When not cultivating a magnificent beard, he’s working from our UK office.