Raising the Stakes: The Casino Industry Is Going Through a Major Transformation

Visitors can expect new betting opportunities, technology optimizations, and more personalized experiences when they return to casinos.
a woman holding a video game

In 2019, the casino industry generated $43.6 billion in revenue – a historic high that translated into large tax revenues and strong local economies for the markets where casino activity was most prevalent. However, the pandemic hit the industry hard, with gaming revenue reaching its lowest in 17 years in 2020. While the impacts to the industry were significant, COVID-19 accelerated the need for casinos to improve the guest experience, specifically from a digital and contactless perspective.

Digitization initiatives like data transformations and loyalty program enhancements are in the spotlight as casinos explore how to best accommodate changing consumer behaviors from the aftermath of a global pandemic. Whether it’s on a mobile device, desktop computer, or in-person, casinos must strive to create a seamless, unified experience no matter where guests are playing.

Here are three of the major transformations that the industry is embracing, and what consumers can expect when they return to casinos again:

  1. Accommodations for sports betting

    With the recent legalization of sports betting in various states, the industry is seeing rising demand for sports betting programs. In 2019, sports betting revenue was $909 million, and in the first quarter of 2021, alone, revenues hit $961 million. Analysts are predicting $7 billion to $8 billion in revenue for the U.S. market by 2025, presenting a great opportunity for expansion. Digital platforms like mobile apps and websites already exist for this capability, specifically with companies that specialize in sports betting. As casino brands compete with these digital companies and fight to win market share, they are following two approaches: Some are working to build up the internal capabilities and infrastructures to support the business model, while others are buying and acquiring companies that specialize in fantasy sports and online sports betting. These new sports-related digital channels appeal and attract a new, younger customer for casinos.
  2. Introduction of online gaming

    n comparison to sports betting, online casino games such as blackjack and poker are less available across the country due to regulatory frameworks. However, it has been legalized in five states, with some others showing signs of activity in the coming months. With this regulatory advancement, casinos have started to prioritize development of online gaming capabilities. As these platforms develop and become more widely used, gamblers will not have to go to a physical casino location to play, but can do it from the comfort of their hotel room or home, as well as in a car, train, or on the go. For casino brands, the focus remains on creating an experience that is similar to the one casino-goers have grown to love on their properties, while also providing a seamless and convenient user experience that allows customers to access the games they want through a user-friendly interface.
  1. New online and application capabilities 

    With the expansion into sports betting and online gambling, there is urgency to provide a more seamless experience across all properties and jurisdictions as well as physical and digital channels. Casinos are restructuring online and application capabilities to meet this need. Enhancements include location-based destination tracing, allowing gamers to find sites specific to what type of gambling they are looking for, and integrated reservations systems, creating unified reservations across all platforms. 

    Restructuring, modernizing, and upgrading online and digital capabilities allows casinos to leverage data across touchpoints. Guests can expect improved loyalty programs and more personalized experiences. Through location-based customer insights, casinos can present loyalty members with tailored, real-time offers and recommendations. For example, a loyalty member that is playing blackjack may receive an offer relevant to their current blackjack game, while a customer that is enroute to the poker room will receive a poker offer. Even if someone isn’t a registered loyalty member, they may be offered promotions that align to their specific gambling interests based on playing data, patterns, and behaviors. Additionally, casinos are transitioning to a lower-touch, higher-digital model for payments with technologies that enable enrollment, funding, transacting, recording, and closing out without the traditional tokens, chips, and cash counters. This will further integrate loyalty programs across all channels and customer touchpoints.

The legalization and regulatory structure around sports betting and online gaming, coupled with the aftermath of the pandemic, has accelerated a transition for casinos. As they explore expansion options and roll out new capabilities to support a digitally enabled business model, the foundation and center to their approach will be seamless customer experience. Though the industry is transforming, the recent enhancements made to the guest experience while customers visit slot machines and table games are here to stay. The casino is now at your fingertips, where legalized, anywhere and at any time – and the industry is adapting accordingly to reach its loyal customers and provide the experience they hope to have – whether that be in person at the machines and tables, or on their mobile devices.