From Vegas to Monaco to Macau, many casinos build their reputations on the old-world charm—dressing up like dandies of a bygone era, stepping into the smoke-filled parlors of yesteryear and spinning roulette wheels or throwing dice according to rules that haven’t changed since there was an actual Queen of Hearts on the throne.
Well, it couldn’t last forever. The lightspeed march of technology has upended nearly every other industry, and the gambling industry is no exception.
Here are four ways in which technology is transforming the gambling world
Cryptocurrency, and the blockchain technology that made it possible, is many things to many people—a space-age investment vehicle, an overhyped fad, a startup opportunity, a tool to buy drugs over the internet, an unassailable paper trail, a way to protect assets from “the man.”
What it means to the gambling industry is a hassle-free bankroll and a marker of trust.
Blockchain is a method of decentralized data storage. With an impeccable record of every discreet bit of data stored on multiple computers, it is nearly impossible to commit fraud on a blockchain.
With blockchain, you can create an ironclad “smart contract.” You can also create a currency that doesn’t depend on the full faith and credit of a government or central authority because storing the ledger on the blockchain ensures its legitimacy. Bitcoin is the most famous of these “cryptocurrencies.”
Governments and central authorities also tend to regulate gambling practices. How can you be sure if a casino will actually pay you your winnings as you deserve? Trust the government that gave them the license! … A government that collects taxes on the winnings with one hand and wags a finger at the “immoral” gambling industry with the other. Offshore online casinos may not even have the burden of a restrictive government to enforce trustworthiness.
Casinos and their patrons who find these options unappealing are turning to blockchain technology to sidestep government interference in two ways …
A Secure Bankroll
Regardless of the legal status of gambling in any given jurisdiction, many banks and credit card processors will not authorize transfers to casinos or websites associated with gambling.
Players are left with unappealing, backward-looking alternatives like depositing large sums of money at a casino cage or 7/11 bill pay station.
Online gambling sites like Slots.lv (based in the Kahnawake Mohawk nation outside of Montreal) have embraced cryptocurrencies as a method of deposit or withdrawal. Bitcoin is scarce, secure, and enjoys widespread acceptance of its value, even if you can’t use it at the grocery store yet. So, why not use it to gamble, instead? Learn more about Slots.lv here.
Many Bitcoin-friendly casinos offer promotions and bonuses to Bitcoin depositors.
Of course, the libertarian “buyer beware” nature of cryptocurrencies means no one will stop you from depositing your Bitcoin into bankrolls with unlicensed or untrustworthy online casinos, some of which have a spotty reputation of giving that money back once they have it.
Trust and Fairness
The other side of blockchain is the paper trail created by the hard-to-falsify online ledger of transactions. The gambling industry is leading the way in using blockchain technology to foster brand trust.
Costa Rica-based online gaming site Captain Jack Casino saw its reputation suffer after a few well-publicized player complaints.
They responded with RECORDABLE TRUST, a branded ledger that records the history of every transaction—every deposit, every withdrawal, every game played, and its result.
Captain Jack Casino and RECORDABLE TRUST provide an object lesson in how a casino can use the blockchain ledger to foster players’ credibility in a casino. Check out this review of Captain Jack Casino to learn more.
Online games are nothing new. Even ARPAnet, the 1970s Department of Defence precursor to the internet, had an online game called MUD1. Modern video slots and other video casino games utilize random-number-generating software, a technology practically as old as computing itself and easy to move into the cloud.
Wherever there’s a game, you will find people who want to bet money on it. However, online gambling faced bigger problems than whether or not their games could go online or mobile. If World of Warcraft was a thing, why not an iOS slot machine? Every Windows machine came with Solitaire … why not web-based poker?
The challenge was legality and reliability. We mentioned the power of blockchain to foster trust. Technology is making online gambling a global reality in many other ways, including …
Identity Confirmation and Geotargeting
One of the more restrictive jurisdictions for online gambling is the US state of New Jersey, home of casino-friendly Atlantic City and several racetrack-based sportsbooks. NJ-based gaming sites, however, can only operate off of servers located on the grounds of an Atlantic City casino or licensed racetrack. Not only do you have to be 21 years of age, but you also have to be physically located within the State of New Jersey to play. Otherwise, the app won’t work.
By requiring you to enable geolocation before you play, New Jersey gambling apps can determine which side of the Hudson River you are on before letting you play. While an identity check confirms your age at the time of setup, biometrics such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or retina scans—the same tools you use to unlock your phone—take the ongoing regulatory burden.
Without any of these tech leaps, online gambling would be permanently stalled.
Other gambling sites are less restrictive because they park their servers in Gibraltar or Curacao—offshore jurisdictions known for lax gambling laws, minimal licensing requirements, light scrutiny, and favorable tax laws.
Some of these sites are accessible from jurisdictions like the United States, where gambling is illegal on the Federal level. The thing is, prosecutions range from rare to non-existent. Jaywalking is more likely to get you a ticket than online gambling.
This gives players natural concerns that have yet to be resolved—including those ever-present matters of trust and fairness (blockchain, anyone?) and payment processing (Bitcoin, anyone?)
If an online casino becomes popular, that server in an office in Gibraltar may have to process millions of randomized transactions at a time, all over the world. If a site experiences delays or crashes, that’s all she wrote for its reputation. Players will jump ship to a more stable site … until that one gets popular, can’t handle the traffic, and crashes too.
Enter neural network computing. This version of artificial intelligence (AI) uses interconnected processing elements rather than a series of “ones and zeros.” In this way, it mimics the function of the human brain and its connected network of brain cells.
Neural network computers can execute billions of randomized algorithms simultaneously, giving these little servers the computing power they need to function as global gambling hubs.
Data Modeling and Risk Analysis
The house always wins. Some of the “house edge” is built into the mathematics of gameplay (how many decks in the shoe, how the slot machine is programmed, etc.) Even before the data-driven internet age, casinos monitored players and tracked their habits as closely as possible to slug the odds in their favor and prevent players from breaking the bank.
Digital data storage and analytics have shot steroids into this process. Especially as digital games like video slots become common on the floors of land-based casinos, the house can digitally track every single spin, then process those millions of bits of data in seconds to form a model of player behavior.
Casinos can then use these models to predict player behavior and respond by tweaking the gameplay to their favor. Games of chance may be exciting for the players, but casino owners don’t want that kind of excitement. They want boring, predictable profit margins. By leveraging data modeling, casinos can ensure that regardless of which player is up and which player is down, they will reap a predictable, ever-constant house edge.
Mobile gaming is so last decade. Where there’s a game, somebody somewhere will want to bet money on it. Expect gambling to make a splash in arenas outside of the boring old PC or smartphone. Keep an eye out for gambling on …
- Wearable Technology. Twirlaloop Slots and 777 Watch Slots are already available for Apple Watch. Wearable technology will take mobile gambling to the next level.
- Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality (AR) games like Pokemon Go and Portals turned the whole world into a gaming platform, with geo-specific gameplay opportunities you could unlock via smartphone, tablet, or specialized eyewear. You were still seeing the world as it was … but with some extra things digitally added. Expect land-based casinos to take advantage of AR by turning their gaming floors into wonderlands of AR-based gaming options.
- Virtual Reality. Want to go to the casino but don’t want to leave your home? Industry-leading Virtual Reality headset Oculus Rift already offers Social Club VR: Casino Nights and Slots Million, which lets you wander an expansive casino floor and game to your heart’s content from anywhere in the world.
Even more so than a game of chance, technology has the power to surprise us.
We can see ways in which the gambling industry responds and adapts to the technology of today, and predict some of the ways it will respond and adapt to technologies on the horizon.
Who can say what breakthroughs will accompany the technology of tomorrow? Today’s tech may have upended the gambling industry, only for the next big thing to spend it all over again.
If you’re the betting type, you should probably bet on it.