Five Trends From 2021 That Changed the Gaming Space Forever

It’s been a year of extraordinary change in the gaming industry, and not only because of the pandemic and the ongoing regulatory moves to legalize sports betting and iGaming. There have been significant product and promotion developments, both of which are likely to change the industry landscape permanently.

Sports Teams Now Love Sports Betting

2021 was the year that saw legal sports betting establish itself as a mainstream entertainment product, with a growing media profile that is difficult for fans to miss.

This has been achieved not just by the spread of legalization and the availability of mobile sportsbook apps in many states, but also by the number of partnerships operators have negotiated with sports teams, leagues, and media brands.

Looking at the NFL, the league has established Caesars Entertainment, DraftKings, and FanDuel as Official Sports Betting Partners and FOX Bet, BetMGM, PointsBet, and WynnBET as Approved Sportsbook Operators. Meanwhile, individual franchises have also been busy making their own deals: the Arizona Cardinals with BetMGM, the New York Jets with Fubo Sportsbook, and the Detroit Lions with WynnBET to name just a few.

As part of their second act, iconic players are getting in on the action with Drew Brees promoting PointsBet, Barry Sanders working with BetMGM, and the Manning family advertising Caesars Sportsbook.

You can see this across leagues and teams. The message to sports fans is clear: legal, responsible betting can be an integral part of today’s fan experience.

The increased profile of sportsbooks does not end there either, as broadcasters and online media have identified betting as a potentially lucrative new revenue stream. And partnership deals with operators mean fans now have access to a huge volume of wagering-related statistics, commentary, and tips.

Having established itself in the consciousness of the wider public through these new relationships with teams, broadcasters, and online media, legal sport betting is set to remain an integral part of the U.S. sports landscape for the long term.

Contactless Payments are Becoming the Norm

One of the many lasting impacts of the pandemic has been the accelerated move away from physical cash, as health and safety considerations have caused consumers to increasingly prefer contactless and mobile payments technology.

Casinos have welcomed the trend. The technology needed to accept payments modernization at a slot machine or table did, of course, already exist, but COVID-19 created increased demand and accelerated adoption.

Suppliers have also been busy honing their contactless payments products and creating technology that works with casino management systems, loyalty programs, and all compliance requirements, while also being accepted at the machine. 

The Strip gained its first truly digital casino this year when the new Resorts World Las Vegas opened, complete with advanced technology that allows patrons to use their smartphones for digital wagering at both slots and tables, and mobile wallets to pay at restaurants, shops and bars.

The day when using a mobile app to pay for everything at a casino becomes the norm, rather than the exception, may not be far away. And that will mean not only a smoother experience for players—especially for younger demographics—but also a more efficient and trackable payment process for operators.

Log In for the Live Table Games Experience

There’s more to iGaming than slots, as many players in the seven states that have legalized online casinos became accustomed to in 2021.

While the familiarity of mobile versions of popular slots franchises may be the obvious starting point, the increasingly popular alternative is live casino gaming. Live dealers for

blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and dice creates an engaging player experience working to mirror that of the casino floor. 

Evolution, the largest supplier in the market, has already opened studios in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to meet demand from American iGaming operators, along with a dedicated studio for Penn Interactive’s Barstool brand. It stands to reason that more gaming companies will soon follow suit.

In-play is Here to Stay

The familiar pre-match moneyline bets, parlays, point spreads, and over/unders continued to be the preferred choices of U.S. bettors in 2021, but a growing number of sports fans tried out in-play betting.

The ability to react to events and read the narrative of a game before placing a bet adds an extra layer of excitement to an afternoon in a sportsbook or sports bar with friends. And that’s why in-play wagering has become 70 percent of the sports betting market in some European jurisdictions.

It is far short of that level in the U.S., but data provider Sportradar has identified live betting as the “main trend” among American players and says it expects to see “a strong acceleration” of in-play wagering in the coming years.

Perhaps surprisingly, Sportradar’s data shows that the NBA emerged in 2021 as the league that generates the most revenue for operators from in-play bets. Whether that trend continues as football fans become more accustomed to live betting remains to be seen. 

Demand for Land-based Casinos Remains Strong

Perhaps the most significant gaming industry development of 2021 was not so much a change, but rather the return of something reassuringly familiar.

Some forecasters suggested that COVID-19 shutdowns could trigger a permanent decline for brick-and-mortar casinos as more people moved their entertainment choices to digital channels, but it’s become apparent that consumers still love the in-person casino experience.

The American Gaming Association’s Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker showed that nationwide revenue reached a new quarterly record of $13.89 billion in Q3 2021. And record traditional gaming revenue led the way, as combined slot and table game revenue generated $12.05 billion.

It’s clear that despite the rise in online entertainment options now available to consumers, the full casino experience remains an unbeatable choice for many Americans.