Online gambling fears overblown, say gaming industry experts

5 October 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The fear that players will eventually only gamble at home due to changes to technology and possible legalization of online gaming in the U.S. are overblown, according to gaming industry experts.

"Casinos will be ready when (legalized) Internet gaming hits the U.S.," said Tom Doyle, vice president, product management at Bally Technologies Inc. in Las Vegas. "It's going to be part of the overall experience."

Doyle said there will always be people who want the live experience of gambling in a casino. In fact, the growing trend of offering free play online can enhance a company's land-based operations.

"It's a matter of retention," said Vahe Baloulian of eGaming Partners Inc. in Los Angeles. "It's also a matter of bringing new clients in by using online gaming."

Baloulian said many novice gamblers play online because they don't feel comfortable playing in a casino for real money.

"Once they learn for free, then it trickles down to live games," he said. "We see it in Europe, where free play is used to teach them the game and then invite them to the casino."

Baloulian said there were several business models casinos could use to build brand recognition, and connect with current and new players. One is to create a website that is supported by advertising that allows them to play for free, while another model is to charge monthly membership fees which can support a prize pool.

Another business model was to reward players for time spent on their website, he said.

Doyle said for most of their clients free play websites was about building brand recognition.

He said a website designed to look like a casino allows a resort to work with its existing customer base to give them the opportunity for better players club status or to drive them to the casino with offers of seats in slot or poker tournaments.

Doyle and Baloulian, along with Jeff Jordan of Jordan Gaming Consulting Group LLC in Las Vegas, took part in a panel discussion on driving business to land-based casinos through online gaming on Tuesday at Global Gaming Expo 2011 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

Doyle said gambling in Nevada continues to move beyond the casino floor following the gaming commission's recent decision to allowing wagering in hotel rooms via mobile devices.

"You can now play casino games on your iPad in your hotel rooms," he said. "You can use mobile devices throughout the resort to play slot or table games."

Doyle explained that online or mobile technology allows a gambler to customize their experience, while it also allows the casino to augment the casino floor.

"Free play is important because casinos learn about their players and who will spend money with you down the road," Baloulian said.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2011
Nevada Online Gambling

Copyright GamingWire. All rights reserved.