Virtual reality is the future of mobile gambling

Paul Swaddle, CEO of Pocket App, outlines how virtual reality can shape the course of mobile and online gambling in the near future

 Virtual reality is the future of mobile gambling

It’s no secret that virtual reality technology is gaining serious momentum. Across various industries and sectors, virtual reality, or VR to those in the know, is being extensively developed for a host of different uses.

Organisations such as Sony are developing the technology to be part of their video-game and entertainment offerings, Facebook has acquired VR developer, Oculus Rift, to expand its social media experience, and businesses are even working on ways to integrate VR into their daily operations, such as for virtual employee training programs.

VR’s adoption rate has simply rocketed over the last 12 months, with the number of active users expected to reach 171 million by 2018, and recent forecasts suggesting that revenue from virtual reality head-mounted displays will grow from $685 million in 2015 to $3.89 billion in 2018. I attended Mobile World Congress in February of this year, where you couldn’t move for techies competing to show off their strides in VR, and it was clear to me that while this explosion of interest may have come from seemingly nowhere, it’s not going away anytime soon.

Online gambling is one industry in particular that may not have been quite as vocal as others in the VR conversation, but it’s an area in which I believe we will see some very exciting developments over the next few years. In the UK alone, online gambling generates around £3bn annually, and this figure is only expected to climb as online casinos and mobile gambling apps continue to become more sophisticated and widely used. Mobile gambling itself presents a significant opportunity for the industry to engage with new players, growing by 10 per cent annually and predicted in recent forecasts to account for 40 per cent of all online gambling in the next three years.

I therefore see no reason why online and mobile gamblers couldn’t find themselves, in the not too distant future, using VR headsets to sit across from each at a table in a virtual casino, playing a game of poker or blackjack with a stack of virtual chips, when in actuality, they are connecting remotely from the comfort of their own homes.

Sound farfetched? Not too long ago, so did the notion of an application on your mobile phone that could connect directly to your bank account and provide you with instantly updated odds, news and a platform for betting on virtually every major sporting event in the world. We already know that participation in online gambling is snowballing, so if the entertainment industry can use VR to simulate the experience of being inside a video game, or social media sites can give you the opportunity to not just see your friends’ pictures, but to walk through them, why shouldn’t online casinos be able to do the same?

VR may actually be the hook that mobile and online casinos need to draw in more millennials, with the average age of players in mobile casinos currently being 40, and the average age of mobile gamblers in general being 35. Millennials simply aren’t engaging with mobile and online casinos to the same extent as older generations, and I suspect that this is down to younger players being much more used to immersive and sociable gaming, as a result of the cutting-edge developments that are being constantly rolled out in the video gaming industry. Online casinos can often appear less engaging to a younger player who is used to regularly gaming on a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.

The recent success of wearable technology, such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit, clearly demonstrates that millennials connect more enthusiastically with the gamification of tasks that they usually find less engaging, such as the use of targets to make exercise more rewarding. By using VR technology to transport players and their friends to exciting locations for their online gambling experience, such as a famous casino in Las Vegas, or a smoky basement room in 1920’s New York, or even to the poker table in the James Bond film, Casino Royale, mobile and online casinos may stand a better chance of drawing in younger audiences if they use VR to gamify the casino experience.

VR may have largely lain dormant for the last 20 years, but with the groundbreaking progress that is being made today, and the growing availability of VR devices to consumers, I think it is very possible that this kind of online gambling experience will be commonplace in the next few years. With Sony not far off launching a new PlayStation that hinges on its implementation of VR technology, and headsets such as the smartphone-compatible Samsung Gear VR retailing toady at the incredibly affordable price of around £79.99, this technology has well and truly landed, and the gambling industry needs to make sure it is firmly seated on the bandwagon.   

In short, here at Pocket App, we are big believers that virtual reality is here to stay. The ball is rolling and we expect to see a flood of increasingly sophisticated offerings making a mark on every mobile development in industry over the next few years, including online gambling. So position yourself comfortably in your armchair, put on your headset and pick out your sharpest virtual suit. The VR casino will soon be open, are you ready to be dealt in?

Paul Swaddle is the CEO of PocketApp.

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