iGaming is thriving. When the industry first started to bloom at the turn of the millennium, few expected it to become the financial powerhouse it now is. For all intents and purposes, online casino gaming is part of the wider video gaming industry. However, the industry’s earning potential is often counted separately for mediums such video and mobile gaming. In some respects, this is a mistake, but it does mean we can see exactly how profitable iGaming really is. While industry insiders are currently crowing about the fact mobile games generated $40.6 billion (£32.3 billion) in 2016, online casinos actually brought in even more. In fact, according to Statista, iGaming operators generated almost $11 billion (£8.7 billion) more than mobile gaming in 2016 and, moreover, the industry is expected to generate $56 billion (£44 billion) by 2018.

Naturally, with more money and players anteing up, developers and operators now have the power to invest more time and effort in improvements and upgrades. Virtual reality is one of the obvious areas of exploration for software developers and, in 2017, this trend is likely to come to the fore. Back in 2015, analysts at Deloitte predicted that virtual reality would have its first billion dollar year in 2016 with hardware sales topping $700 million (£557 million) and software making up the rest. With the release of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear and many other headsets all coming in 2016, it seems that Deloitte was right to be bullish on the industry’s fortunes.

Making Virtual Reality a Reality

“virtual reality” (Public Domain) by mohamed.hayibor

From this, iGaming developers are now looking to embrace this new technology. The first game to ever receive the VR treatment was roulette. Thanks to a prototype game from Microgaming, players can don an Oculus Rift headset, grip two Leap 3D controllers and take advantage of the profitable payout formula of European roulette over American roulette (37 vs. 38 numbers).

This innovation has been followed up by a new VR slot innovation from NetEnt. As you’ll know from our guide to slot machines, each game is fully random and each spin is independent of another. For online casino players, this dynamic is what keeps things fair and, in turn, players coming back for more. However, spinning symbols and numbers in a random way isn’t really enough to pique a player’s interest. With this in mind, games now have to involve storylines, animations, bonuses and more.

VR slots will soon become a reality. Although still in a developmental stage, Gonzo’s Quest is now available in a VR format. Players essentially stand alongside the game’s eponymous hero and watch blocks (symbols) and cash fall from the sky. In essence, this move towards VR casino gaming is part of the industry’s continued efforts to make gaming more immersive, more engaging and more entertaining.

Gaming on the Go Will Continue to Grow

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“Apple Watch & iPhone – Credit to https:” (CC BY 2.0) by Pricenfees

Another trend we can expect to see develop throughout 2017 and beyond is mobile gaming across new mediums. Wearable tech such as smartwatches such as the LG Watch Sport and the Apple Watch 2 may not have been the instant hit many assumed they would be, but that doesn’t mean we’re not seeing innovations in this area. Indeed, today you can play one of Betway Casino’s most popular slots, the Norse mythology-themed Thunderstruck II, on your smartwatch. What’s the benefit of this you may ask? In short: activity levels. As has always been the case, the more you play, the more you can earn in the casino world. Take, for instance, the online casino’s £1,000 welcome bonus. To make this cash eligible for withdrawal, you’ll need to wager 50x the bonus amount. In real terms, this means you have to play as much as possible and a great way to do this is using mobile devices such as smartwatches.

Now, the one criticism of smartwatches as a gaming medium has been that the surface area isn’t large enough to facilitate a proper playing experience. Fortunately, technology has found a way around this problem. Thanks to the efforts of Carnegie Mellon University’s research team, SkinTrack gives you the ability to use your arm to control a game. Although the technology is still in an embryonic state, it would basically change the face of smartwatch gaming. Imagine drawing your finger across your wrist, letting go and watching the reels of Thunderstruck II spin.This sort of control would make the game more tactical and, in some ways, more like the “real” thing. If that’s true, this technology would again jive with the idea that online casino games are set to become more immersive and more accessible than ever.

A United Front Will Keep Players Together

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“Bingo” (CC BY 2.0) by cote

The final trend to keep an eye on in 2017 is one that’s been in action for the last five years: homogenisation. When the online betting industry first came into life back in the late nineties, the only options available to early adopters were casino games and poker. As things evolved, sports betting joined the game and operators would typically offer three separate platforms for each. Today, however, things are not only more diverse but also more connected.

Most major online operators now offer casino, poker and sports betting in a single platform. On top of this, you’ll now find bingo has been added to the mix. As you can see from our guide to bingo, online players can now enjoy everything from Quick Shot and Table Bingo to more traditional variants like 90-ball and 75-ball bingo. So why would operators by keen to add bingo to the mix? The first reason is that the bingo industry in the UK enjoyed a gross gaming yield increase of 4.9 percent between October 2014 and September 2015 – which is the first increase since April 2011.

Beyond the financial attraction of adding bingo to their sites, operators now know that 21st century gamers now want diversity. In an age where everything from information to entertainment is available at the touch of a button, offering just one genre of games just isn’t enough. To continue satisfying the modern player, operators have to make more games available on a single platform and this means combining old and new. This trend is one that’s already in motion and will continue throughout 2017.

To maintain growth and hit the $56 billion (£44 billion) target analysts are predicting, iGaming has to continue offering more. From the number of games sites offer to the actual options available inside said games, operators must continue to diversify and innovate in order to ensure gaming stays immersive, engaging and entertaining.

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