Online casinos have become a huge sector of their own in the wider gambling industry. Many people favour them for the convenience they afford – you can hardly rock up at your local casino in your underpants and expect them to let you in! With mobile casino gambling, this convenience is further extended. You can have a punt wherever you have your mobile phone these days.
Online casinos first appeared over 20 years ago and in that time they’ve become notable for their vast game selections amongst other things. You are often invited to choose from a much wider collection of table games and slots than would be possible in a brick-and-mortar venue. Many casinos feature a huge variety of blackjack games, video poker simulations, and exciting slots with spectacular visuals.
However, many don’t realise that online casinos often offer much better value for money than their traditional, real-world counterparts. This is mostly down to the fact that it costs a lot less to run an online casino. This saving is frequently passed onto the player in the form of bonuses and higher return-to-player ratings. In this article, we’ll look at some of the techniques used by online casinos to lure players away from brick-and-mortar casino and why they’re even possible to begin with.
As mentioned, online casinos are much cheaper to operate than a traditional casino. Real-world casinos require huge, lavish buildings to offer the kind of luxury visitors are used to. These venues are obviously not cheap and it’s the casino’s profits (or expectations of them) that are used to pay for the grandiose structures commonly created.
Once you have a building, it needs furnishing and staffing. Staffing is a particularly severe drain on the resources of a casino. You need bar people, security guards, croupiers, cashiers, and floor managers. Understandably none of these come cheap. Moreover, there are utilities to pay. The casino needs electricity, water, gas, and a licence. Again, they’re all paid for using the money that the casino makes from you, the punter.
Of course, running an online casino also has its own set of staff, buildings to pay for, and utilities (including server costs) but since the entire thing can all be run from a single office unit, the overheads are far lower. This allows for online casinos to be much more competitive in terms of what they offer to their players. This includes extra bonuses for their games, as well as high return-to-player ratings.
Another important aspect of the online casino industry is competition. We’ve already discussed the competition an online venue faces from the traditional industry; however, they also must compete with every other online casino that a player can access.
With brick-and-mortar casinos, it’s likely that you will be limited to one or two venues. Excluding the likes of Macau or Las Vegas, most cities (even huge ones) often only offer a handful of casino options. Your selection is based on your geographical location.
This is not the case with online casinos. Right now, I can access many hundreds of different gambling platforms without leaving the house. This too incentivises the casinos to offer the best possible rates and bonuses to attract players to game with them.
How Do Online Casinos Offer a Better Edge?
Online casinos will strive to offer a better deal to the player in a variety of ways. The most common are bonuses and higher return-to-player ratings.
If you’ve ever joined an online casino, you’ll know that they’re often very forthcoming with their promotions. Since they face the tough competition mentioned earlier, their first contact with a player is all important. That’s why you’ll often see words like “100% first deposit bonus for new players” on their popups.
Compare this with traditional venues. Have you ever signed up to a real-world casino and they’ve offered you more than a few dollars or pounds to try their games? Sometimes they don’t offer any welcome promotion, or just provide a loyalty system where $500 waged might earn you a free trip to the bar or a meal voucher.
Free spins are also common at online casinos. These are like bonus cash promotions but are even more lucrative since they actually offer positive expected value to the player. Even if the terms and conditions attached to the spins make it less than one in ten thousand players that receives a pay out, it’s better than negative expected value. Again, these are incredibly rare in brick-and-mortar casinos.
Every time you play with the casino’s cash (either literally with bonus money, or figuratively with free spins), you have a higher house edge than you would if you played the same game with just your own money. Since the traditional casino typically offers fewer promotions than the online one, the house edge is higher at the latter.
The games offered at different types of casinos are important to consider too. First, let’s look at slots.
In a traditional, land-based casino, you are lucky to see a slot machine with a 90% return-to-player rating. Compare this to the 97%+ you are likely to find at an online venue. Such a huge difference equates to an extra $7 on average for the player with every $100 waged!
Even games like blackjack and roulette often incorporate different rules to increase the house edge. This is a rather extreme example, but I remember once playing blackjack in a casino on a cruise ship. I sat down at the table and got dealt a few hands. All was well with the game until both the dealer and I hit 18. In typical blackjack rules, we’d both take back our stakes as the hand is tied. However, this was not the case according to this warped ruleset. Instead of chopping the stakes evenly, the casino won! Needless to say, I cashed my chips immediately and took up a more comfortable seat in the bar.
This rule change is seemingly a small one. However, in terms of the house edge it’s massive. Since both player and dealer are constantly striving to reach over as close to 21 as possible and players are often incentivised by perfect strategy to reach over 17, the chances of a tied hand are rather large. Therefore, for the dealer to win these hands represents a massive advantage.
Despite offering a better deal to the player generally, the brick-and-mortar still offers something that the online casino cannot – the experience. They simply cannot replicate the social element of getting glammed up in your finest finery and attending a casino for real. Well, at least not yet. Virtual reality might well try in the not-to-distant future!