6 November, 2023

Online gaming’s round-the-clock advantage

Gambling Insider Editor Tim Poole reflects on the obvious benefits of online gaming – which, remarkably, were highlighted to him during a recent trip to Las Vegas...

Imagine this: when I visited Las Vegas in October for G2E, I gambled less than I would have at home. 

In one of the world’s greatest gambling hubs, this was a factoid I could hardly get my neck pillow around on the flight back. It’s not just that I was busy, work got in the way or I would have placed a far greater amount of wagers on another given week at the same location... I calculated that, through the amount of free bets I was emailed to my UK operator accounts, I missed out on more action by being in Vegas than if I had given G2E a miss. 

Let me explain why I feel this is significant. The theory of why iGaming or online sports betting is so powerful is well documented. You’ll see it throughout our publications, and not least this one given Malta is such an online hub. But I had never really experienced these benefits so emphatically on a personal basis. 

In writing this article, I am not disparaging land-based gaming – far from it. Omnichannel is, ultimately, the way to go, as very little can compare to the experience of an actual casino: especially in Vegas. But there is a reason so many land-based behemoths are moving into the online sphere. And my aim here is more to highlight the UX benefits of online gaming, which may   not be immediately obvious to those of us going through the daily hustle and bustle of industry life. 

I’m also keen to emphasise some positives. The fact that I could not use my UK betting accounts in Las Vegas was a tick – geolocation technology did its job. Land-based gaming is still going strong and, in Vegas, always will. While I did not gamble, I’m sure many others did, with much higher volumes than I would have anyway. And, finally, as many of my conversations during the week attested, Vegas is now the entertainment capital of the world – not really the gaming capital (which is Macau). So, on that front, myself and my fellow conventioneers would have still spent plenty on food, drink, events and more. 

However, back to the gambling itself, or lack of it. My story goes like this... while I received several notifications of free bets that I simply couldn’t capitalise on, I kept on telling myself I will eventually hit the casino, as I was in Vegas after all. So busy were the Gambling Insider and Gaming America teams were with the Global Gaming Awards, though, and then G2E, I was immediately restricted to just evenings. One Sunday evening, we wanted to hit Downtown – but a 20-minute Uber wait time put paid to that. 

On the Strip itself, we were next to table games, ETGs and slot machines all day. And there were players using them all the time – literally, at all hours of the night. The minimum bets on these tables or machines, though, were significantly higher than they would have been Downtown. Various evenings through the week, meanwhile, were chalked off for either being too busy, too tired or choosing not to play after a couple of alcoholic beverages (others might have gone another way!) 

Now, many make the trip to Vegas specifically to gamble – so the above would not apply to them. In this day and age, however, a huge amount of Las Vegas visitors will be just like me: from the convention circuit. Being a busy conventioneer, fate allowed me one evening without networking events where I fancied a bit of roulette. Unfortunately, it ended up a non-starter. Although cashless technology solves this very problem, the table I wanted to play on needed cash – but my trip to the ATM to withdraw immediately presented me with a problem: I wasn’t used to any of the US terminology displayed on screen. 

Having asked a member of staff at the cashier desk for assistance, I was directed to another ATM that then gave me the option of withdrawing cash for a fee of $8.95. I’m told this is standard practice for US citizens – but, personally, paying almost $10 just to withdraw $60 was a no go. Alas, my Vegas gambling journey was over before it even started this year. 

Admittedly, everything I’ve mentioned here is not that big of a deal. So I was a bit tired? Oh well. So I had to ask for help? It’s not the end of the world. So I didn’t have that much time to gamble and had to pay a surcharge at the ATM if I wanted to? You could argue that if I really wanted to play at the slot machines or tables, none of the above would have stopped me. But just consider the amount of hurdles, even if only minor, I had already faced before attempting to place a bet. 

 

Given my experience, I can only conclude that online customers have it far easier – and that, as we approach 2024, the disparity between the two experiences is now greater than ever

Compare this to a potential online wager (if I had been signed up to a brand that was legal in Vegas). At the end of a long day, if I wanted to have a spin of online roulette, I could log in and do so in my hotel room within a matter of seconds. I’m a sports bettor, truth be told, but even that is so much easier to do online at your own leisure, without having to make the often long Vegas walk to the other side of the hotel. Convenience does not equate to irresponsible gambling, either, due to the ease with which you can implement self-deposit limits online. 

I have a sportsbook-related story, too, in case my evidence was not yet compelling enough... Visiting the BetMGM Sportsbook at the Mirage on Sunday morning, as an “EPL soccer” fan I was greeted with the unfortunate outcome that Arsenal v Manchester City was not being televised. Fair enough, this was a US sportsbook, where NFL is king. But when I asked a staff member if the game would be shown, her tone was rather unhelpful when she said I’d have to ask the supervisors that would appear in a few minutes... No supervisor did so and several screens (that could have showed my game) were left empty. I’m sure it was just an off morning for the venue but, again, my retail venture had thrown up some barriers to entry. 

Given my experience, I can only conclude that online customers have it far easier – and that, as we approach 2024, the disparity between the two experiences is now greater than ever. Once again, you could dismiss all of the above as minor issues a player could move past and ignore. But in today’s market, where customer experience is so important, do you really want to be telling players that putting up with problems is okay? 

For me, given how synonymous Vegas is with gambling, and given the fact that I played the last time I was there, I found all this simply staggering. I still can’t quite believe I would have ended up betting more at home than in Las Vegas... Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, where I didn’t place one single wager – ruefully watching on as the likes of Sky Bet, Bet365 and BetMGM sent me regular promotions I could not utilise back home in the UK. Let that be a marker for how gaming has changed over the years!