Ever since its creation in 1994, the iGaming industry has enjoyed growth as it reached fresh markets and expanded operations in existing ones. Twenty-six years later, this growth is continuing all around the world.
In 2017, online casinos, sports betting and other forms of iGaming generated around $45.8 billion of gross gaming revenue (GGR). It is expected that this will almost double to $90 billion by the end of 2024 and could breeze past the $100 billion mark before the end of the decade.
Gaming, as old as human civilization, and evolving technology
In just about every recorded human civilization, people have enjoyed betting on sports and playing games that require wagering. In China, the Tang Dynasty is believed to have been using playing cards before 1000 AD.
Before then, the Romans were playing games with objects that look similar to dominos with wagers placed on the outcomes. They also enjoyed betting on sports like horse racing, chariot racing and gladiator battles and regularly took part in municipal-run lotteries.
Playing casino games is therefore not a recent phenomenon but in the 21st century, the games we play and how we place bets have changed significantly.
The evolution of the iGaming industry
Casino games like roulette and blackjack have been popular for centuries but you would need to travel to a casino to play them. For many, this was too far and the only option left was to enjoy traditional home games and that changed in 1994 with the passing of Antigua and Barbuda’s Free Trade and Processing Zone Act, which made it possible for online casinos to operate.
Within a year, dozens of online casinos had swung open their virtual doors and were letting their customers bet on these classic games. The rapid widespread adoption of computers and the internet around the same time helped to bring even more people to these businesses.
In the 2000s, the Poker Boom created a lot of interest in both poker and other online casino games. As this boom fizzled out, Apple released the first, feature-rich iPhone and the smartphone revolution got underway.
Smartphones and tablets have helped to bring casino games, poker and bingo to new demographics, particularly women who are targeted by TV ads featuring other women playing these games on mobile devices.
Internet-enabled phones have also helped iGaming brands to penetrate regions where computer ownership rates are low. Combined, this has resulted in $1 trillion being wagered online each year.
Sources of future growth
To reach the forecasted $90 billion annual GGR, the iGaming industry will need to see growth in several crucial areas.
These can be categorized into two groups. These are growth in existing markets and the creation of new ones.
New markets in India, Africa and the United States will add billions to iGaming revenues in the coming years. In particular, the U.S. will be a significant driver of growth.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was unconstitutional, allowing states to set their own rules for online betting. Currently, 12 states allow wagering in some form over the internet, with more expected to legislate for it by the end of the year.
By 2025, more than half of U.S. states are expected to have allowed online sports betting. Some are also allowing online casino games.
Growth in existing markets, particularly in Europe, comes from the diversification of products to reach new segments of customers. Main brands have heavily invested in live casinos that help to create a more realistic and immersive casino experience.
Live games are controlled by human dealers who are broadcast over a video stream to the players’ devices. The dealer will talk to the players, telling them when to place bets and in some cases, even chatting with them.
Leading companies in the sector, like 888 Casino, offer popular live games such as live roulette, live baccarat and the exciting live blackjack game. This version uses some of the best-trained dealers in professional video studios.
The dealers behave just as they do in a real casino, making the same hand gestures as they draw cards to show that they are playing fairly. This gives superb playing experience that is one of the closest you can get to being in a land-based casino.
In markets like the United Kingdom, sports betting has delivered a large proportion of the industry’s growth in recent years. Now, around 40 perecent of all GGR comes from wagers on sporting events and this figure is expected to grow.
Most brands operate both a sportsbook and casino, allowing them to cross-sell their products. For example, a bookmaker could acquire a new customer who wants to bet on football but then encourage them to play blackjack or baccarat.
The prevalence of this can be seen from the fact that 10 of the teams in the English Premier League have iGaming companies as their shirt sponsors and with another 7 having signed other sponsorship deals with betting brands. TV ad breaks during sports programs often feature bookmakers, often promoting their in-game markets.
Since its inception in 1994, the iGaming industry has continued to grow. The drivers of this growth have varied over the decades as new technologies and changing legislation have created opportunities for online casinos and bookmakers.
The pace of this growth does not seem to be slowing down. Global GGR is expected to double between 2017 and 2024.