As a year in which normality has returned for many draws to a close, and increasingly fleeting glances begin to be taken towards what lies ahead, CasinoBeats is once again revisiting an unexpected 12 months full of ups, downs, and everything in between.

With the world very much looking forward to getting back to at least a degree of normality after a challenging 12 months, or so for many, the industry endured one of those ICE London-less February’s.

As financial reports began to litter the inboxes of many, a new Las Vegas casino was capturing attention in the US, with European attention turned the way of the Netherlands and the UK’s enhanced protections for online slots, as well as the government’s review into the 2005 Gambling Act.

Feature of the month

In what was notoriously a week of desperately trying to make space in a bursting at the seams schedule for the aforementioned London-based event, CasinoBeats once again took to Zoom. Everyone’s best friend, or best of enemies, during those times.

As the early evening darkness engulfed northern England, it was mid-afternoon on the east coast of the US where our latest guest, Yaniv Sherman, SVP and head of the US at 888, awaited.

The online gambling giant had made its intentions in the US crystal clear, with a trifecta of market access deals, for Colorado, Indiana and Iowa, sealed towards the culmination of the previous year, which were followed up with a multi-year extension to an exclusive B2B poker partnership alongside Caesars Interactive Entertainment.

Addressing a tumultuous year, Sherman made no secret of a belief that “strong momentum” built up through investments in the product, technology and people have stood the firm in particularly strong stead.

In the news

As the new year began to gain momentum, the UK Gambling Commission detailed a raft of strict measures to be implemented by operators, with an aim of strengthening protections and controls for those who gamble through online slots games.

These include the introduction of limits on spin speeds and a permanent ban on features that speed up play or celebrate losses as wins, which needed to be fully applied by online operators by October 31, 2021.

Sticking with the UK, Ulrik Bengtsson, chief executive of William Hill, issued a pair of warnings to lawmakers that the black market must not be taken lightly, as well as noting that the government review into the 2005 Gambling Act could be good for the industry.

Furthermore, this month also saw April 12 set as the date for betting shops in England to reopen, with adult gaming centres, bingo halls and casinos scheduled to follow on May 17.

In Sweden, the Spelinspektionen issued a warning and penalty fee to four of its licensees, each of which are brands of the ComeOn Group, totalling SEK 75m (£15.12m) for what it called “unauthorised bonus offers”.

Elsewhere in Europe, a white paper, compiled by Online Casino Ground, signalled that the then emerging Dutch online gambling market was set to become one of Europe’s ‘biggest,’ with local players already spending more money on gambling activities compared to other major European jurisdictions. 

In the US, Golden Nugget Online Gaming and PlayStudios unveiled agreements to go public, as Virgin Hotels Las Vegas set March 25 as its official opening date.

Recommended reading

This month saw the industry react to the aforementioned UKGC measures, as Evoplay explained why easy and ‘onboardable’ entertainment would help online casino to sit alongside sportsbook during the summer.

Elsewhere, in the first part of our latest edition of the CasinoBeats 100 Club, we asked our members whether there should be an increased focus placed on the ways in which online casinos will retain the new cohort of players?

Video of the month

Simon Hammon, CPO, Relax Gaming, talks to CasinoBeats to delve into what made Money Train 2 one of the hits of 2020, as well as giving his perspective on what could be expected for the casino games space during 2021.