The casino world went through some rather large changes in 2020 – how have the first few weeks of 2021 panned out? And what can we safely predict about the rest of the year ahead? Let’s take a look at 3 scenarios which have a high chance of panning out in 2021.
More and more countries will go down the licencing route
The past year has seen several major jurisdictions insist on online casinos registering for a licence if they wish to sell to local residents. Apart from a dozen states of the US, local licencing requirements now exist in Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy and Czechia. The Netherlands and Canada look set to follow suit in 2021, meaning that online casinos need to follow regulations and pay tax in more and more countries of the world. On one hand, the casinos benefit from possessing a local licence – as this allows them to advertise on social networks, TV, and on paid search. On the other hand, some of the required regulations are extremely onerous. For example, Germany now requires online casinos to only offer slots, with the live casino vertical effectively banned in the 16 federal regions. For this reason, many black market casinos prefer to hide out in the Caribbean region, paying no tax, and offering any product range they choose. The debate about whether casinos would be better off going the offshore route will grow in 2021.
Consolidation in the industry will continue
The biggest two pieces of industry news in 2020 were all takeover-related. NetEnt was swallowed up by Evolution Gaming, and 2019’s Flutter/Stars Group merger was confirmed, leading to a company with an estimated 40% market share in the UK. How that latter deal made it past the competition regulators is anyone’s guess, but now it is a done deal, we expect more mega mergers in 2021. Already, it looks like Caesar’s bid for William Hill is going to be given the green light. Intriguingly, though, Caesar only plans to absorb William Hill’s US business, leading to a subsequent deal with an as-yet unknown suitor for the rest of the company’s brands. Respected Irish casino websites such as https://www.mrgreen.com/ie/ will pass hands once again, as the takeover/merger activity is set to reach a fever pitch in 2021. Will we see a situation where the gambling market at the end of 2021 is dominated by three of four mega-players? We could.
The $2.1 billion takeover of slot developer NetEnt by the live casino upstarts of Evolution Gaming was a stunning move, especially since Evolution only came into being in the late noughties. It just goes to show how live casino versions of roulette, blackjack and poker have superseded slot games in popularity in recent years. Video slots powered by random number generators will never have the same charm as watching a real live dealer spinning a roulette wheel or dealing a hand of blackjack. What could be really interesting is how Evolution integrates the NetEnt product range into their own stable of games. Could we see Evolution come out with a live version of a classic NetEnt slot in 2021?