The omni-channel dream is one that has been much talked about, and intensely debated, with no signs of that coming to an end any time soon.
However, the necessity for land-based entities to adapt and welcome its digital counterpart was elevated to heights never seen before over two years ago, with igaming innovation now perhaps considered a key fundamental strategy for some where that wasn’t previously considered the case.
In the latest edition of the SBC Leaders magazine we looked at the potential blow delivered to land-based gaming entities as a result of COVID-19, and, with the help of Matthew Sunderland, Vice President of Gaming at BetMGM, tackle challenges at bridging a perceived divide and the need to effectively strategise a union between these two worlds.
If you’re not moving forwards you’re either standing still, falling behind, or moving backwards, depending on which iteration of the famous quote you have a penchant for.
However, whichever your preference may be, all carry a very similar meaning. Maintaining pace with competitors and avoiding stagnation is absolutely crucial, and never has that been more evident than with the rise and rise of digital following a seemingly never ending bout of retail closures.
The new kid on the US block is threatening to take the country by storm, building on the successes already enjoyed across numerous states and further afield. But where does this leave those land-based establishments, and how do you best bridge a gap between the retail and online counterparts to enable long-term, sustainable growth and gains for each?
With this in mind, the appeal and overall pull of such retail venues cannot be underestimated, be that pint-sized establishments in a nearby town or a sprawling mecca boasting countless amenities beyond casino gaming that could keep one occupied for countless hours.
“online continues to charge across any jurisdiction that permits its entry”
When thoughts are cast towards that of land-based casinos many will undoubtedly be instantly transported to hot spots such as Las Vegas or Macau, with images of grandeur, luxury, and glamour, as well as a little dose of eccentricity, around many a corner.
The influence of the big screen can also not be ignored in placing thoughts of red carpets, champagne, and opulence in the forefront of our minds, with a little known British secret agent, and numerous more, think Robert De Niro, George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman, Bradley Cooper et al, all culprits to this end.
Despite this, online continues to charge across any jurisdiction that permits its entry, with thoughts that igaming can’t compete with this aforementioned splendour very much being proven to be untrue.
Upon the fall of PASPA in the US during 2018, slot machines pinged, reels began their endless revolutions, bright lights shimmered, and a multitude of musical melodies roared into action.
But this time it came via the numerous devices possessed by individuals in legalised states, which, as of writing, includes New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and Connecticut.
No longer was a retail establishment your sole destination to almost instantaneously become transported between futuristic landscapes and ancient civilizations, plus everything in between.
Overthrowing this legislation enabled players to try to win big on Deal or No Deal, spin the Wheel of Fortune, join Slash and Axel in Guns N’ Roses, or encounter the world of Jumanji, all from the comfort of home.
May 2018 saw the race to online begin, and despite the pace of sports betting’s roll-out across the nation far eclipsing that of its igaming counterpart, the numbers produced by online casinos are vast.
“Having a true omni-channel presence is an important pillar”
As competition continued to heat up, traditional land-based enterprises were faced with their own set of unique challenges from this date almost four years ago. That being not only to get offerings online, but how best to align these with retail offerings in a bid to ensure the sustained success of both.
“Having a true omni-channel presence is an important pillar of BetMGM’s growth,” remarked Matthew Sunderland, Vice President of Gaming at BetMGM, upon being quizzed on the difficulties encountered when it comes to trying to bridge the gap between land-based operations and online casinos.
“By connecting our world-class online platform and games portfolio to a player’s physical touchpoints at MGM retail properties we’re able to offer a truly optimised player experience.”
In 2021, online casinos across New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia are reported as producing $3.8bn in gross operator revenue, contrasted to the $1.5bn by sports betting operators.
This disparity is also said to have been witnessed across state and local tax contributions, with the former’s $976.8m dwarfing the $222.4m of the latter.
The 2021 revenue performance across the aforementioned four states is also said to be more than the $3.6bn in revenue that all US online sportsbooks generated in the same year, despite sports betting being legal in five times as many jurisdictions.
Despite this, player confidence hasn’t always been placed in the online side of gaming, with Sunderland suggesting that it took players time to acknowledge the potential possessed by going digital.
“That said, delivering a flawless player experience isn’t always easy,” he continued. “Our jackpot winners tell us that, though they love our product, they previously weren’t sure it was possible to ‘win big’ through igaming.
“We’ve seen great growth in this space and expect much more innovation to soon follow”
“Sometimes, familiar games from retail property floors might not have online counterparts. And, traditionally, land-based players are used to cashing out their winnings after every session, while a BetMGM player’s funds can conveniently remain in their account until their next gameplay.
“Our live dealer strategy is one way we’ve connected real-world and online gaming. Today, BetMGM has the top live dealer offering in the United States – with private studios in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and one soon to follow in Michigan.
“These studios provide the feel of being at a live casino table while a player is at home or on their couch. They can see the cards being dealt, the hands being won and lost, and a running chat between players. We’ve seen great growth in this space and expect much more innovation to soon follow.”
This ability to deliver a stellar online performance sees BetMGM as the “consistently leading” online casino operator in the US with a 29 per cent market share according to Entain, which operates the 50-50 joint venture with MGM Resorts.
Nevertheless, the importance of aligning these two worlds to allow as seamless an experience as possible for players is an ongoing task for many, but, as suggested by the CasinoBeats 100 Club, perfect coexistence is “very much attainable”.
To end, Sunderland offered a brief insight into the BetMGM game plan when it comes to effectively strategising land-based and online gaming unity.
“Aligning a seamless player experience, through promotions, rewards, and other brand touchpoints, is best for our players and critical for our business,” he closed.
“Through these various mechanics, a digital operator can encourage online players to visit retail properties, and vice versa, so that both parties benefit.”
iGaming Innovation is to form one key aspect of this year’s SBC Summit Barcelona 2022, which takes place at Fira Barcelona Montjuïc on 20-22 September.
This will see 6,000 delegates enjoy a 12-track conference covering all aspects of the international sports betting and online casino industries, an exhibition with 200 companies showcasing their latest innovations, and a programme of spectacular evening networking events.
Visit the SBC Summit Barcelona website to book your all access or discounted group pass.