Last week, we began a series on the metaverse to educate and inform on what the future may hold for web interaction, digital content consumption, e-commerce, and the final frontier between the real and digital world. This week, we discuss a number of unique opportunities that the metaverse presents to the gambling industry, both online and brick-and-mortar.
Firstly, are we peering into the future of gambling?
For online gaming and wagering companies, the metaverse will certainly become the primary way that next-gen customers will want to gamble online, says Earle Hall, CEO of Axes.Ai, a blockchain and gambling technology expert.
“The metaverse will provide a media-rich, deeply personalized gaming experience that will rival the best video games in our parallel gaming segment. Moreover, the threat is that this competing segment for tokens, buy-ins, and playing credits will cannibalize the online casino gaming segment if metaverse is not embraced.”
There are already dozens of metaverse casinos in existence today, offering blackjack, roulette, slots, and poker – all of which are powered by blockchain tokens for deposits and withdrawals. However, most operators of these casinos today are not known operators in the market, and many of their licensing situations are also questionable.
“Certainly, the metaverse casinos as they exist today are embryotic and the level of 3D technology is low however the technology base is what is important,” he said. “As long as you are embracing blockchain/crypto and have a digital avatar … you are in the right direction.”
The real opportunity lies in land-based / online convergence
But the metaverse isn’t just a means to gamble in itself, say experts. The real opportunity the metaverse brings is its ability to bridge the land-based casino world with the online one.
The land-based gaming experience is largely in and out-the-door customers with low/no KYC and sporadic loyalty, rewards, and engagement said Hall.
“We at AXES are embracing metaverse so as to ensure that the convergence between online and land-based increases player engagement and loyalty so that we do not relive the online poker cannibalization and player erosion of the past decade.”
Non-gaming metaverse leisure for Macau
Tony Chan, CFO, and executive director at Asia Pioneer Entertainment, a Macau-licensed electronic gaming equipment agent, has taken the Covid-19 related downturn in Macau to explore and become a pioneer in the metaverse. He believes that the metaverse can transform the online booking customer experience, allowing potential travelers to interact and explore replica locations in the metaverse, such as major integrated resorts and tourist attractions.
“We at APE have been pioneering metaverse during the slow down of the slots supplier market. We have experimented and prototyped something that we will launch soon.”
Chan was unable to elaborate further due to listed company disclosure rules (APE is listed on GEM market in HKex), but noted that their metaverse product will be focused on the leisure side of the land-based integrated resorts business rather than direct online gambling or wagering.
Hall continues to explain that the center of the metaverse is the player and that is the primary focus of AXES. The digital twin will become the custodian in the metaverse of the player’s account, loyalty, and engagement. It will also be the haven to store KYC, AML, and any other required information to ensure the player is known and compensated for their presence in this brave new world. The Digital Twin will become the digital footprint of the player and will become the basis of jurisdictional identification.
A person playing on a metaverse version of an integrated resort could earn specific rewards, accrue loyalty points and special deals which could be used upon their visit to the physical casino in the real world.
Where a person’s physical ID will be what will be used in a physical casino / integrated resort, their virtual avatar, or “twin” will be what will be used to navigate a metaverse version of the casino when they’re playing from home.
“Metaverse will be the bridge between land-based and online where the same player will be recognized in both places,” he said. “It will replace online geofencing as the digital twin will “live” in the person’s electronic wallet and be accessible from anywhere and be able to manage how, when, where and why a person is tracked..”
Should Asia’s IRs / casinos be investing in the metaverse now?
“It’s really unfortunate that a combination of regulatory issues, travel restrictions, and a cyclical downturn in Macau gaming has left the operators facing many challenges from within. Hence they have been more focused on efficiency and less focused on innovation,” said Chan.
“Still if one were to bet that the downturn is a cycle that will pick up, then competition for visitors will pick up and the operators’ marketing machines will be seeking new ways to reach the customer.”
Allen Huie, co-founder, and chairman of APE believes that casinos will need to eventually change and adapt to the metaverse.
“It took years for the U.S. to adopt land-based casinos to online gambling, and that’s just in the infancy stages. Adopting gambling to Web 3.0, the metaverse, will be even slower because of lesser traffic flow. For the foreseeable future, the metaverse will only work on select travel/gamification/experience themes,” he said.
Will metaverse replace land-based gaming?
There is no way to completely replicate the physical experience of wandering through the beautiful architecture and luxury environment of destination resorts around the world.
However, experts believe the metaverse will give us the closest experience possible to the real world – using technology that will only get cheaper, lighter, easier-to-use, and more immersive with time.
“Technology adoption cycles are becoming shorter. It took five years for mass adoption of the internet, three years for mass adoption of mobile,” says Chan.
“With the influences of covid, travel restrictions, and added token-economics (such as play to earn), metaverse will be mainstream within two years. We are already six months down the line.”
“We are at the start of a ten-year curve like everything else,” says Hall. “Metaverse will follow the merge between digital entities.”