Gaming from HomeSince the passage of the June 6 Nevada legislation agreeing to examine Internet gaming, there’s been a general feeling of uncertainty in the air. Questions are coming from attorneys, businessmen, legislators and casino operators - How will the gaming industry look two years from now? How do we get there? What’s the best way to handle security and e-border issues?
As state and federal legislators examine the gaming issue, answers to these questions will slowly become clearer. In this example, legislation will most likely follow available technology. But who is directing online gaming technology development? Before those charged with this responsibility make industry-wide decisions, they may also want to query consumers. Consumers are the ones who will be (or will not be) playing after all.
In an ideal world, asking consumers what products they want would help drive the technology which would help define necessary legislation. Using this process, the end-case business model would result in consumer applications that are realistic, desirable, profitable, and within technological and legislative capabilities.
Recently, online casino and sportsbook software development firm Interactive Gaming & Wagering (IGW) conducted qualitative consumer research in effort to help guide the development of their technology as they build a product that enables land-based casinos to bring gaming online. Let’s explore some of IGW’s findings in the germane areas of security, product definition, and consumer expectations.
To begin, IGW learned that a majority of consumers don’t realize that it is possible to play casino and/or sportsbook products on the Internet. And, for the subset of consumers who know they can game on the Internet, a majority of those are understandably confused on whether or not it is actually legal to do so in North America.
The survey showed that consumers are further confused the issue due to the myriad of banner ads for online casino sites that regularly show up on both Yahoo and Hotmail. One noted “How can it be illegal for us to play casino games on the net if large companies such as Yahoo and MSN are allowed to receive advertising revenue for these banner ads? This leads me to believe that it is legal to play casino games on the Internet.”
Security and e-border control is a hot topic among legislators. They understandably want to ensure that no one under legal age would be gaming on the Internet. Additionally, they want to ensure, in the case of Internet gaming being legal only in Nevada, that only those people who are in Nevada (and not in a illegal state) are gaming.
In effort to solve the above problems, articles written by security experts tout biometrics as a primary solution. This involves applications including fingerprint ID and facial photo recognition technology. Although this technology may prove effective, would consumers actually want to use it? It is an obvious tradeoff between security and anonyminity online.
The IGW qualitative survey showed that consumers had adamant ideas about the biometrics issue. General responses included “No, I wouldn’t want to have to give finger prints or be observed while I am playing casino games on the Internet. This would persuade me not to do it in fact. I would be very leery of those methods- I think it could be possible for someone to then ‘steal’ my fingerprints. Just think about it- even if they have my finger prints or my photo, yes, that would tell them that it is me, but they still wouldn’t be able to tell where I was gaming from.”
Along the same lines, other consumers proposed that a trusted password system be used in place of finger prints or facial photos- “I mean, they allow the use of passwords to move thousands of dollars through the Internet banking and brokerage systems. Can gaming really be that different in terms of moving money?” Consumers suggested that ISP identification be used as a way to confirm location or e-border control, although they realize that this method is not yet flaw-proof.
Should online gambling be legal in the US?
A final question posed to consumers in this qualitative survey was “Do you believe online gaming should be legal in the US?” 85% of the consumers in this qualitative survey replied yes. The general response was “Absolutely, it should be legal. In the U.S. we have lotteries, casino boats, Indian casinos- why say that we shouldn’t be allowed to game in the privacy of our own homes over the Internet? It just isn’t logical.” Admittedly, this result would be better justified through a quantitative survey, but this query does provide valuable guidance into consumer temperament.
When elaborating on the legality issue, consumers expressed concern about the temptation of Internet gaming for problem gamblers: “As a society, we do need to be concerned about this, but in reality, everyone has their vices. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”
Interactive Gaming & Wagering has taken steps in the right direction by surveying consumers and players. It is not known whether the gaming commissions at the state and federal level are making efforts to do the same. If the regulatory commissions can look outward and take the opportunity to ask consumers what they want, industry risk will be reduced. This way, the risk of launching an online gaming product in a few years time that consumers don’t want to play will be less probable.