- With more states across the US opening their borders up to the possibility of a regulated online casino framework, what would you say the excitement is for slots online in the US?
The US is certainly the most exciting online casino market right now and I am confident it will also be the largest regulated market in the next few years. That said, it won’t happen overnight, and companies must manage their expectations that this is a mid to long term play, rather than a silver bullet that will solve all their problems. Only a small number of states have regulated online casino so far and it will require a significant investment of time and resources to make them work. Slot providers need to be strategic with the states and partners they choose and be prepared to invest upfront and reap the rewards later on.
- How can the US successfully emulate the land-based slot experience for an online audience?
Fundamentally, all markets started as retail only. Land-based slots have been around for decades, whereas online slots have only been on the scene for the last 20 years. The US market is unique as online slots are still a novel concept and only a small percentage of the population has been exposed to them so far. The American Gaming Association estimates that 44% of Americans visited a casino in 2019. However, that percentage probably drops to a single digit if we talk about online gaming. The opportunity for casinos and providers alike is to tap into this cohort and establish their brand and games with them before looking to grow. Traditional land-based providers are believed to have an edge, as casino goers are already familiar with their games, but we see some native digital providers already performing very well too.
- How complicated is it to enter the US regulated online market and what benefit does this have for operators and suppliers?
It is not that different to entering any other regulated market. You need to obtain a licence, get your games certified, and solve the technical requirements puzzle. The challenge is in the details, though. Having the right product, compliance processes and a full grasp of the requirements is key. Your game framework should be flexible to allow localisation with minimal effort. The benefits of this far outweigh the cost. You get access to large, untapped markets that will extend your brand reach, diversify your risk, and have infinite growth potential.
- Comparing the UK slot scene, where players prefer Fruit slots from their inspiration from the British pub, do the US players prefer titles which are reminiscent of Vegas? If not, what titles do US-players prefer to play and what is the reasoning behind it? Additionally, what platform do US players prefer to use and how does this impact the titles you launch?
Consumer preferences in the UK and the US are constantly evolving, so I would hesitate to define them by one theme. US players have yet to experience the large variety of slots themes, features and math models that we are used to seeing in Europe. Naturally, they tend to stick to what they know from land-based visits. This is likely to change, as more new providers enter the market. There are also players for whom digital will be the first casino experience, so their taste can be somewhat influenced by casinos using smart lobby management and promotional offering. Mobile user experience is and will remain key.
- Moving forward, will we see more states which allow sports betting to introduce and promote more online slots and what impact would this have on the land-based sector?
Adding the casino vertical is crucial for operators, as it provides additional opportunities for acquisition, cross-sell and overall EBITDA growth. The lack of sports at the beginning of the pandemic led to an increase in slot gameplay, which remained steady even after sports returned. Operators who offer both will have a great advantage over sports betting only ones. Land-based casinos are in a very tough spot right now, with major limitations and significantly reduced revenues. As I see it, they have two main avenues for growth: focus on providing extraordinary customer service and entertainment in their properties; and starting/expanding their digital operations aggressively across regulated states. We’ve already seen this with a plethora of M&A activity from Penn National, Wynn, Caesars and Bally among others.