After a rollercoaster two years which saw everything from mandated casino closures to record revenue figures, the gaming industry can look ahead to 2022 with real optimism.
It can also expect another period of change as technology continues to evolve, legal sports betting and iGaming spreads in the U.S., and a new generation of players with new tastes arrives.
Here, we examine some of the major trends set to make waves in the industry over the next 12 months.
Go to the Game, Have a Bet
When the Caesars Sportsbook opened at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. in May 2021, it marked a milestone for the sports betting industry.
It was the first time that a sportsbook had been allowed at the home of a major sports team—in this case the NHL Washington Capitals and NBA Washington Wizards. In many ways, there is no more logical location for a sportsbook than at a stadium or arena and the legalization of sports betting has opened the doors for more integration.
In September 2021, FanDuel opened a sportsbook at the Footprint Center, home of the NBA Phoenix Suns, while BetMGM and Gila River Hotels & Casinos are set to build a sportsbook adjacent to the NFL Arizona Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium. Penn National Gaming and NASCAR are teaming up to bring a Barstool Sportsbook to Phoenix Raceway, and DraftKings also has plans to open facilities in Arizona at TPC Scottsdale golf course, as well as in Chicago at Wrigley Field, home of the MLB Chicago Cubs.
With luxury sportsbooks, complete with hospitality facilities, becoming a great new way for arena owners to drive traffic seven days a week, more of these partnerships will inevitably follow.
Increased Focus on Responsible Gaming
Legalization of mobile sports betting and iGaming in the U.S. has many benefits for the industry and players, including an increased focus on prioritizing responsible gaming.
For decades, the U.S. has led on responsible gaming in traditional gaming, and you can see how operators are working with the latest technology and player data to extend this to sports betting and iGaming.
A host of start-ups are now working on safer gambling software systems that enable behavioral modelling of individual players and flagging of behavior changes, such as betting more frequently, increasing stakes and deposits, and chasing losses. These markers of unsafe gaming allow operators to make early interventions to protect their customers, including suggesting a timeout, helping players to set affordable limits, organizing a discussion about their habit, or even excluding players.
Out of the gate, the industry has invested heavily in responsible gaming and player education to build sustainable sports betting and iGaming markets. Donations from companies like DraftKings, Entain, IGT, and MGM Resorts have established the Sports Betting Research Fund at the International Center for Responsible Gaming. And sports leagues and teams, media companies, and gaming operators are partnering with the American Gaming Association’s Have A Game Plan campaign to educate their customers on the fundamentals of responsible wagering.
As Fiona Palmer, CEO of the UK’s national online self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP, says, committing to educating and protecting players is a great way to develop customer loyalty.
iGaming is Set for Significant Growth
If there were any questions about whether U.S. players would take to iGaming, they have surely been dispelled by the revenue generated by online casinos in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Even as land-based casinos have reopened and began their resurgence, the popularity of mobile gaming has continued to rise.
VIXIO Gambling Compliance’s U.S. iGaming Outlook report predicts that the regulated iGaming market will grow from $1.55bn in gross revenue in 2020 to $6.4bn by 2025. That forecast uses a conservative scenario based on legalization in just four additional states, but the report’s “Bull Case” scenario suggests the figure could be as high as $8.4bn if a further six states legalize online gaming.
As the market grows, so will demand for games that appeal directly to audiences in specific states. Expect to see official slots and skill games carrying the branding of local sports teams, and a greater selection of live dealer casino games in both English and Spanish.
Expect a More Personal Approach to Promotions
Casino and sportsbook operators have a vast, growing amount of customer data, and marketers are beginning to understand the full potential of that information to personalize messaging.
Advertisements can be targeted based on each individual loyalty program member’s previous behavior, which could mean offers around their favorite slots, sports, and teams, what they like to eat and drink, or whether they use other resort facilities. Mobile sportsbook and iGaming players also generate huge amounts of data that omnichannel and pure-play mobile operators can use to inform promotions for free bets or spins, enhanced odds, or special props themed on players and teams.
This is no arduous spreadsheet-based task for the marketing teams. The latest CRM systems can profile customers, create personalized promotions, and learn from how the player interacts with them to hone future offers. It represents the best opportunity yet for marketing teams to both generate and demonstrate a healthy ROI from promotional campaigns, so you can expect 2022 to be the year of innovation in loyalty.
Esports is the Next Big Betting Market
The lucrative video games industry is influencing the betting and gaming sector in a number of different ways, from providing examples of best practice in developing brand and franchise loyalty to delivering valuable lessons in player engagement, user experience, and game design.
However, the most obvious interaction between the two industries is the growth in the popularity of esports and the rising interest in betting on professional leagues and tournaments. Esports attract a very different audience to traditional sports and offers a route for sportsbook operators to engage with sections of the 21- to 30-year-old demographic.
In the states where it is legal to do so (some states, such as Indiana, prohibit wagers on esports), operators have already rolled out betting markets on the biggest professional video gaming tournaments: Call of Duty, Counter-Strike:Global Offensive, Dota 2, and League of Legends. There are also a growing number of suppliers developing platforms for esports-specific sportsbooks that cater directly to the tastes of esports fans.
Having spotted the trend, Entain, the UK-based gambling giant that is MGM Resorts’ partner in BetMGM, has acquired the specialist esports betting business Unikrn to help “launch innovative new esports products for customers in 2022.”