In March 2011, one of the major online casinos announced that it had dealt its one billionth blackjack hand. And when you think of how many web casinos exist, it gives you some idea of just how popular visiting casinos online is. When the first online casino went live in 1996, nobody could have predicted the twists, turns, and huge growth the industry would experience, particularly when you add in smart mobile devices, which are finding their way into more hands every day.
Statistics by Nielsen Media Research in 2010 showed that in the UK alone, online gambling traffic was up by 40% over 2009. It also found that 46% of online players were women and about 50% were middle aged men with above average salaries. And in the US, the National Annenberg Survey of the Young found that some 16% of college-aged men visited online casinos at least once a month, up dramatically over 2008 figures.
Many online gambling venues credit the increase in popularity to the development of industry standards by groups like eCOGRA (eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance), better responsiveness to customer service, and a commitment to providing players with safer, higher quality sites. Newer payment methods are coming online, and more currency and language options are also assisting in the worldwide growth of gambling websites.
One of the biggest world regions for expansion of online gambling is Latin America. These 33 countries, with a population of around 570 million, are ripe for investment by web gambling firms. In fact, investors in areas like financial service providers and online server operators are keenly eying Latin America as a front for expansion.
A chief reason for the appeal of expanding online gaming into Latin America is the existing telecommunications infrastructure, including widespread availability of broadband and mobile internet. In 2009, internet access reached nearly 200 million Latin Americans, and it was growing at a clip of 30% per year.
Mobile online gambling appears to have the greatest potential for growth in Latin America, because device penetration in the region was at 80% in 2009, which was above the world average, with mobile networks reaching nearly 500 million people. Couple this with the rapidly evolving graphics and game features specifically for mobile devices, and it is clear why any casino online looking to expand would do well to consider this region.
But mobile device gambling isn’t just a Latin American phenomenon. Mobile devices are rapidly growing in popularity everywhere, and the web casinos that develop applications for it are the ones who will be first in line to take advantage of this market.
Online gambling has come quite a long way since 1996. More regulations are in place to help reassure consumers, and more payment and currency options are available. The graphics and software platforms are better than ever, casinos are taking a new look at customer service, and mobile handheld devices like Android phones and iPhones are opening up a new sector in online gambling. In short, it is a very exciting time for the online gambling industry.