Robust Design Means App Ban Won’t Harm Gaming Brands
Where it relates to how the world currently views gambling, we’ve been getting decidedly mixed messages as of late. Whilst the Supreme Court decided to side with New Jersey in its challenge against the ban on sports betting, meaning that sports fans across the USA will soon be able to put their money where their mouth is in relation to backing their team, we’re getting negative news from the digital world.
A court challenge of the opposite type had been happening in Norway, where regulation on gambling is extremely tight, and attempts were being made to force Apple to remove all gambling related apps from its App Store. The court case was successful, and Apple went about the business of complying with it. They didn’t only remove access to the apps in Norway, though. Apple, never a company to do things by halves, decided to enact the ban all around the world. In fact, they were so enthusiastic about applying the ban that several apps completely unrelated to gambling got caught up in the crossfire.
So far, the ban only seems to have applied to individually developed apps, or smaller brands. The major players – the Betfair’s, Paddy Powers and major casino firms of the world, haven’t yet had their apps stripped away. That’s not to say that it won’t happen, though. Norway isn’t the only country with concerns; China remains resolutely anti-gambling and various states in the USA still have issues despite the recent Supreme Court ruling. Given the presumed difficulty of enabling apps for the world in general, but then selectively removing access for each individual country (or potentially even each individual state) that objects, trying to stay on top of a selectively enforced ban sounds like a logistical nightmare. There is genuine concern among sports betting companies and others that eventually, Apple will tire of trying to police the matter of which apps should be displayed where, and just issue a blanket ban on the whole thing.
On the surface, that sounds like devastating news for the global gambling market – a market which has been demonstrating exponential growth year upon year ever since it became a viable medium for people to gamble on. In fact, some researchers had it on target to reach a value of $60B by the end of 2018, with a projected growth that would continue to see it rise through the end of the decade and hit $100B by 2023. Bear in mind that we’re just talking the mobile-based element of gambling revenues here, not the industry as a whole. That’s a lot of people making a lot of money, and presumably a lot of jobs involved in supporting that growth. If apps are removed from as vital a source as Apple’s App Store, and people can no longer make use of the apps they already have, won’t that have a devastating impact on that growth, those jobs, and the entire sector?
Actually, not necessarily.
The recent trend in designing casino websites is one that almost suggests that some clever people saw all of this coming. Think of any website that’s been designed in the past two years; especially one that’s trying to sell a service of any kind; and you’ll probably be thinking of extended loading times, numerous background images, a lot of sleek promotional text, and eye-catching information floating across your screen. The sort of website that would look fantastic on a laptop or desktop, but might struggle to display correctly – or at all – on a smartphone.
New casino websites, for the main part, have bucked this trend. Let’s look at a recent entry into the market. MoneyReels.com as a new member of a successful family of slot game websites, all of which have one striking design element in common; simplicity. There are no elements which will take a disproportionate time to load. You should be able to access their games with one or two taps of a button. Their website was actually designed with mobile optimization in mind; it should be just as easy to play their online slots through a smartphone as it is on any other medium. Money Reels does not need to release an app in order for you to play their games; their website is just as accessible, and just as easy to use, as an app could ever be. That means they and their future profits are completely immune from any app store ban.
If there really is a ban on the horizon, expect to see this trend reflected backwards among long-established brands. People who have had large, feature-heavy websites for years on end may suddenly retreat backwards to something which does the basics, which does it well. Alternatively, secondary websites might spring up as an intention to replace the apps; a major brand might keep its current website online for the players who already engage with them that way, but launch new websites that look a lot like the apps they currently offer. All they then need to do is redirect their existing apps to log onto that website and update their marketing to reflect the fact that players now need to go online rather than use the app. Yes, there would be a marketing cost for changing everything in that manner, but the cost would be a lot cheaper than losing a significant percentage of your audience if a ban suddenly came into force.
The gambling industry didn’t get where it is because it was foolish or short-sighted. If rule changes or legislation require them to put their apps out of service, they will simply find a new and equally easy way of engaging with those same customers, at which point the states and agents pushing for the app store ban will find themselves asking a new question; could they possibly persuade ISPs to restrict access to certain websites, and have them acquiesce as easily as Apple has apparently acquiesced to this request?
In real terms, as long as people enjoy playing casino and slot games – and based on the growth of the sector, it seems like they do now more than ever – they will continue to play those games via whatever medium the gambling companies are able to provide. Legislation seems futile, but what it might lead to is a new era of simplicity in an area of web design where things were once complex, and that’s going to be interesting to watch.
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