The COVID-19 debacle has caused a paradigm shift in how gambling is viewed. iGaming added a plethora of new users during the pandemic, driving by the shutdown of live casinos and the safety of being able to gamble from the comfort of one’s own home. As the land-based casino segment continues to re-emerge, there seems to be a lingering preference to stick with digital gaming options, particularly in Asia. Recent reports produced by land-based casino operators show that electronic table games (ETG) are overwhelmingly favored by gamblers, leaving most live tables empty and unused.
Digital Gambling Becomes the New Norm
Whether online or at a casino, digital gambling has gathered significant momentum. During the just-held SG Asia Summit, Scientific Games’ Jim Preston pointed out that gamblers had “moved across from live tables to the ETGs,” adding that the company had seen a “massive increase” in ETG usage in Singapore compared to the level of ETG play prior to COVID-19. Singapore is still under strict health restrictions and, at Marina Bay Sands, live-dealer tables can’t have more than two gamblers present at the same time.
While live-table restrictions are certainly a major reason why gamblers would move to ETGs, there’s more to it. ETGs are easier to clean and easier to ensure adherence to social distancing protocols, neither of which is favorable at live-dealer tables. The COVID-19 pandemic had raised a lot of concern over the cleanliness of casino chips and the possibility of easily spreading the virus, but ETGs mitigate that concern entirely.
Not Just in Singapore
The preference for ETGs isn’t limited to the Singapore market. All across Asia, including in Macau, Vietnam and others, live-dealer tables are being relegated to last place among gambler options. Weike Gaming Technology regional sales manager Andrew Lim confirmed to GGRAsia that casino operators are more inclined to support ETGs for their lower long-term costs, in comparison to live-dealer tables, even though they have higher upfront costs. He added, “We foresee this trend may continue during and even beyond this pandemic, as players get more used to playing on the ETGs, and operators do also see the many advantages associated with ETGs despite higher initial setup cost.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean that live-deal options are going to go away. In iGaming, live-deal gambling has become a hugely successful market, with online gamblers able to interact with a live dealer based out of a studio. It’s possible and is already being considered, that ETGs could eventually incorporate the same concept, allowing the machines to integrate live dealers to bridge the gap and keep gamblers satisfied.