Insight: Is gambling ready for the VR explosion?

Insight: Is gambling ready for the VR explosion?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 Totally Gaming
Alexandre Tomic believes that VR is simply an evolution of existing technology and platforms

Open a discussion about the ethics of virtual reality (VR) and we’re unlikely to finish before ICE TotallyGaming begins in London on February 2.

Is it acceptable that one could effectively live another life via technology? At what point does one cease to be themselves and become their avatar? How does Descartes’ Cogito Ergo Sum fit into all this? We could go on.

While we are likely to remain in grey areas in such philosophical enquiries, two things are certain: VR is here and very soon it will be a central part of life.

While some may question whether VR will ever have the widespread appeal of computers and smartphones, Alexandre Tomic, co-founder of Alea.com, which launched the SlotsMillion VR casino earlier this year, found any semblance of scepticism slip away as soon as he first donned a pair of VR goggles.

“Have you tried it?” he asked. “It’s very important to give it a try to truly understand what is possible.

“I played a game called ‘Alien Isolation’ and I just couldn’t stop for hours. When I took the goggles off I wanted to go back. It’s such an immersive experience. If there is a table in front of you, you just want to stare at every small bit of it.

“People have actually been talking about VR for years, but it is only now that a number of technological advancements are making it possible. Things like devices, software development and bandwidth have reached the standards that are required.   

“It is really just an evolution rather than something completely new. In 1998 I had never even sent an email, but within a few years everything was online. Then mobile phones became smartphones and everything changed again. VR is a natural progression. 

“SlotsMillion is already super fancy and the best available, and we believe that the release of the new Oculus Goggles in April or May will inspire a critical mass of players.”

Tomic believes that VR will be a major topic when he takes part in a debate on market disruption at the ICE TotallyGaming Cross-platform and Multi-channel Gaming conference on February 2. However, while he is such a huge advocate of the opportunities it can bring to gambling, he also believes that it will be some years before regulators and technology’s behemoths allow VR gambling to fulfil its potential.

For this reason, Tomic believes that a focus on social rather than real-money gaming will be the sensible choice for VR developers in the near to mid-term.

“VR should be the ultimate platform for gambling,” he said. “It should be the missing link between real-money gambling and social gambling, and the point where players of the latter stare over at those winning cash and decide that they would like that instead of points or trophies.

“The dream is that you could walk into what is effectively a VR gambling supermarket, where you can take part in slots, table games, sports betting and e-sports. However, I think this is still years away because Oculus Store, iTunes and Google Play will continue to bar gambling sites, and regulators will also make it difficult for real-money and social gambling to mix.”

Tomic is willing to be patient, and while he is proud of SlotsMillion, he wants to make improvements ahead of the expected big leap in VR players in the next two years. While he believes that the gambling industry is aware of the opportunities likely to open up through VR, he warns that operators must not simply be wowed by technology.

“The key thing is to develop a business plan,” he said. “There are companies out there who have good products and are excited about the potential of VR, but there must be something more concrete than just that.”

* ICE takes place at London's ExCel Centre from February 2-4. For updates on ICE 2016 and to register for tickets, visit: www.icetotallygaming.com

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