Europe's casinos struggling to recover in the face of strong online competition

This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
Europe's casinos struggling to recover in the face of strong online competition
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Every business sector has felt the impact of this year’s unprecedented events to a certain extent. But those in the leisure and hospitality industries  have been hit even harder than most.

Perhaps inevitably, getting businesses reopened and adapting them to the new normal has been an erratic process, especially with the ever-present threat of a second wave.

Within that leisure and hospitality sector, Europe’s casinos are facing an additional threat that is only peripherally associated with recent events. Facilities like the Grand Viage in the centre of Brussels are open with restricted hours and strict social distancing rules in place, while over in the UK, proposed reopening has been pushed back till mid-August at the earliest. 

However, across Europe, during the time casinos were closed, their customers found online alternatives. Worse, they found them to their liking and are in no hurry to return to the land-based alternatives, especially under current circumstances of face masks and limited access.

The online gaming boom

Across the continent, almost as soon as lockdowns were enforced, people started looking to cyberspace for distraction and entertainment. Online casinos saw a surge in new members from all directions. Sports fans turned to gaming as the only alternative to placing a bet on the football, while even technophobic gamblers who had previously scoffed at online casinos started to consult resources like to find out what was available. Months later, the online platforms have a whole new legion of devotees, disabused of their misconceptions. 

What is key here is that online casino games have evolved significantly, especially over the past two to three years. When sites like these first opened 20 years ago, playing online was a solitary, almost furtive pursuit, with players glued to their computer screens trying to outwit the random number generator that powered the images of a slot or roulette wheel. It was a world away from the fun, laughter and razzmatazz of a night at the Viage or the Grand Palace. Now, however, those lines have been blurred.

Staying in – the new going out

Platforms like Zoom have shown that meeting up online is a viable option for anyone, young or old, for business or pleasure. It’s not so different to the technology casino sites have been perfecting over the past couple of years to deliver live table games and social gaming options. It just took a pandemic for people to discover them.

When playing a live game, the virtual casino goer can enjoy an experience that mirrors that of a real casino. There will be a human dealer spinning the roulette wheel or dealing the cards. You can even introduce yourself and exchange pleasantries via an on-screen chat window. Likewise, there are poker rooms where you can sit down and challenge like-minded players, whether it is just for coins or for high-roller stakes. 

The key is that online casino platforms are constantly moving with the times as evolving technology gives them the power to offer more. Their land-based alternatives will be forced to think of some new tricks of their own, or their troubles might only be beginning. 

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