As 2020 draws to a close, hurrah! many may gleefully declare, CasinoBeats is revisiting an unexpected 12 months full of ups, downs, and everything in between.

it was a month of significant developments to close out the year, with the not too distant past including huge moves from Flutter Entertainment the former GVC Holdings, Evolution and International Game Technology.

Alongside all of this, however, was the news many were (im)patiently waiting for, as the UK government announced the launch of the much anticipated review of the Gambling Act 2005.

Feature of the month

The future of live casino, but more importantly, boutique highroller VIP live casino action, is in unifying the online with a premium land-based experience for such VIPs, says Yolo Investments general partner Tim Heath.

“It was more than 10 years ago now that the term ‘omni-channel’ first started becoming particularly popular at gaming industry events,” he begins

“The buzzword was a favourite of industry execs promising a brave new world uniting online, mobile and land-based gaming into something greater than the sum of its parts.

“While some encouraging progress has been made in the field over the past decade, I’d argue that those solutions didn’t really address the full player experience in a complementary fashion.”

In the news

As the dust settled on news that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will be launching its review into the 2005 Gambling Act, individuals and organisations across the industry and beyond reacted to an announcement that was, for the most part, been warmly welcomed.

Oliver Dowden, secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has called for an analogue law to be brought into a digital age, and promised a comprehensive review to ensure that ‘we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people’.

Online restrictions, advertising standards and the powers of the Gambling Commission will be looked at as part of a call for evidence to examine how gambling has changed over the past 15 years. This will run for 16 weeks and will close on March 31, 2021.

December also saw the birth of Entain, as the former GVC Holdings marked its first day of trading by elaborating on its US and Latin America growth ambitions, in addition to offering further detail on its Sustainability Charter and Advanced Responsibility and Care initiative.

Europe also saw Evolution take its total holding in NetEnt to approximately 96.8 per cent of the outstanding shares, as IGT inked a €950m definitive agreement regarding the sale of its Lottomatica business to Gamenet Group.

Over in the US, Flutter Entertainment took its stake in FanDuel to 95 per cent, after announcing a $4.175bn (£3.131bn) conditional agreement to acquire the 37.2 per cent interest in the group that is currently held by Fastball. The remaining five per cent will continue to be held by Boyd Gaming.

Furthermore, Virginia was busy being tipped as the “next major sports betting market,” with projections suggesting that the state could bring in up to $412m in revenue per year, yielding approximately $61.8m in tax.

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Scientific Games: bringing a new dimension to online slots

Earlier this year, Scientific Games showcased its Jackpot Wars feature, lauded as “true innovation” by the firm at its GamesFest event and showcasing the resurrection of Jin Ji Bao Xi as its initial release.

With the product aiming to bring more millennials into slots, Jackpot Wars sees players enter a Robot Wars style event to battle against others for big wins.

With Jinse Dao Tiger recently released as the latest title to feature the product, CasinoBeats caught up with Rob Procter, content specialist director of digital at Scientific Games, to discuss offering players a different take on the existing gaming experience, incorporating esports mechanics, and social gaming within real-money gaming.

Gaming Realms: Like all businesses, we’ve had to adjust

‘Like all businesses, we’ve had to adjust accordingly to continue operating during the COVID-19 period’ stated Mark Segal, CFO of Gaming Realms, who explained how the company navigated through the challenges presented throughout 2020.

CasinoBeats spoke to Segal on the company’s highlights of the year, a look into its Freeround services, and what Gaming Realms has in the pipeline for 2021.

BitBoss: the advantages of cashless are numerous

Cashless gaming solutions have, arguably, never been more prevalent than they currently are, with a multitude of integrations, particularly across the US, evident during recent months.

Gaming in the age of COVID has certainly been a challenge, at best, with the race to adopt cashless technology, which allows funds to be quickly and safely transferred from smart devices to slots or tables, and back again, following 2020’s earlier retail to digital rush.

Earlier this year the American Gaming Association led calls for a much more rapid shift to cashless solutions across US facilities, with 57 per cent of visitors said to be in favour of such a switch in light of the health pandemic.

The AGA said that enabling the payment choice would not only improve responsible gaming efforts by equipping customers with digital tools to help them monitor their gaming and set limits, but also provide operators, regulators, and law enforcement increased transparency into matters of anti-money laundering and monitoring of financial transactions.

Manoeuvres earlier in the year also saw the Nevada Gaming Commission green-light a series of amendments, which were designed to ensure an ease of passage for cashless systems. A move that a number of properties have subsequently welcomed.

With all of this in mind CasinoBeats spoke to Matthew Dickson, BitBoss CEO, to delve into whether a translation into cashless casinos, or even cashless gaming on a more broad scale, is on the horizon: “Yes, players are interacting with their money outside the casino in many new ways. Venmo, Zelle Cash App and others are changing how people bank and pay. Nevada recently amended their regulations to allow for cashless gaming.

“Major manufacturers are rolling out their versions of the cashless casino. COVID is accelerating this trend as people view money as dirty and a possible transmission vector.”