The online gambling industry has been riding the crest of a wave for some time now, and its upward trajectory is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
Annual revenues have continued to increase rapidly and have been forecast to reach around $93 billion by the end of 2023.
From betting on sports to playing slots on sites such as Wink, the practice of gambling online has undoubtedly become a mainstream entertainment activity.
With the landscape in the sector still evolving, we take a closer look at some of the critical online gambling trends to follow during 2021.
A respected iGaming expert believes that independent software companies will come to the fore in 2021 as the industry strives for greater diversity in its offering.
Jan Ridenfeldt, head of business unit content/games at Oryx Gaming, has overseen a successful year that including his company agreeing to an exciting deal with 888 Holdings.
He has been eager to drive towards a culture of independent innovation in recent months and says that those efforts will continue next year.
“We see a lot of game providers gearing up for rapid and frequent releases, but that means a drop in quality as well,” Ridenfeldt said.
“So rather than competing on that, we will focus on fewer releases with much higher product quality and more additional features to support and expand traffic to our existing games. We think this is nicely visible in the showcased games Crystal Strike and Sheriff Colt.
“The second part of our 2021 plan is increased collaboration with new RGS studios – focusing on helping new studios build high-quality games.
“This will bring diversity to Oryx Gaming’s offering but will also add more choice for the players. Our view is that it is these independent studios that are driving new ideas and innovation to the market.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been increasing the online gambling industry in recent times, and experts believe that this will continue during 2021.
AI can be used in numerous ways, including marketing, customer retention, ensuring fair play, odds generation, and more.
The tech has become incredibly prominent in sports, providing data that can be leveraged by broadcasters, gambling operators, and other outlets.
Jagdish Mitra, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Growth at Tech Mahindra, says that AI will be a game-changer over the coming months.
“In the last 12-18 months, there has been an increasing focus by multiple niche players to leverage data and content and monetize this by enabling new layers of information inference and visualization through AI/ML and AR/VR,” he told Insider Sport.
“While this is predominantly being used by broadcasters and actual sporting bodies (content owners), there seems to be a trend to elevate the use of AI/ML technologies to new areas.
These include fan engagement, sports betting, player performance management, and analytics. We believe this is an area where exponential growth is expected over the next few years.”
Cryptocurrencies have been part of the online gambling scene for a while now, although they have yet to make what would be considered a significant breakthrough.
However, that looks set to change in 2021 as an increasing number of operators become switched on to this innovative payment method’s benefits.
The recent announcement by fintech company Zytara that it is launching a new stable coin (ZUSD) is the latest development that could impact the online gambling industry.
Its integration into the Zytara platform is designed to promote financial inclusion and literacy, particularly amongst gamers and eSports enthusiasts.
“We are excited to partner with Prime Trust for the ZUSD launch,” said Al Burgio, Founder and CEO of Sitara. “ZUSD will be a quintessential link to the traditional banking system as well as a major step forward in connecting the gaming industry with cryptocurrencies.
“ZUSD users will be able to transact in real-time, 24/7/365, simplifying payments, and replacing cash with something more flexible and powerful!”
The old adage that ‘size doesn’t matter’ tends not to apply where online slots are concerned, with bigger often seen as better from a gameplay perspective.
Software giants Microgaming has embraced that ethos ahead for 2021 by agreeing to a deal with Big Time Gaming (BTG) that will see them use their Megaways mechanic in upcoming releases.
First on the Megaways treatment agenda is Shamrock Holmes, which is scheduled for network-wide release during the early part of the year.
The link-up between Microgaming and BTG is expected to drive a more significant shift towards Megaways slots over the next 12 months.
John Coleman, CEO at Microgaming, said: “Megaways has had huge success, and we’re excited to be integrating the mechanic into some of our future games.
“Big Time Gaming are proven innovators, and we are delighted to extend our relationship with them and grow their presence on our platform.
Marketing has played a massive role in the online gambling industry’s success, and the sector will continue to push the boundaries during 2021.
The shift in consumer habits towards using mobile devices to place bets and play games offers operators the opportunity to cash-in.
Studies have shown that people will spend around four hours per day on their smartphones in 2021, highlighting why mobile advertising could be so effective.
Abhay Singhal, co-founder, and CEO of InMobi, believes that in-app marketing will become increasingly prevalent in the future.
“Time spent using mobile apps rose to new heights in 2020, and apps will likely be even more popular in 2021,” he said.
“After all, Americans have been spending more time looking at their mobile device screens than they’ve spent watching TV since 2019, according to eMarketer.
“For media and entertainment companies (and really all advertisers), it’s critical to reach their target audience where they are: using mobile apps.
“Savvy marketers will increasingly leverage mobile in-app advertising in the coming months, taking advantage of its visibility, addressability, and scale, among other benefits.”