Taking a look back at 2014 and seeing what happened in the casino industry and also formulating an idea of what to expect as we step into 2015.
As we get ready to change the calendar on the wall, or just get used to seeing 2015 on our smartphones, it is the best time to take a look back and see what happened over the last twelve months. Casinos and the gambling industry overall have seen more than the fair share of stories in 2014; from the launch of new markets with huge potential for online growth, to record breaking casino events and big changes taking place in regulations in key markets.
Since the past is often times a great indication of the future, it is safe to say that some of the stories that began or even reached an important point in 2014 will continue to make waves in the next year and maybe even after it. Now, it is time to take a look at the top casino stories of 2014.
Massive Progressive Jackpots Won
Every player dreams of becoming a millionaire overnight by simply getting the right combination on a progressive slot game. With several titles that have the potential to make this a reality every day, it is no wonder that there were several major progressive jackpots won over the last 12 months. Some of them are amazing and it looks like Net Entertainment had more than just a few.
Some examples of big wins in 2014 include the Mega Fortune jackpot claimed in April for almost three million euros. This was won by a player from Sweden who only placed a bet of 70 cents and it was enough for him to make it to the bonus game and claim the huge jackpot available. One month earlier, another lucky user from Finland claimed an even bigger prize of 3.3 million euros on the same game.
In July, the Mega Fortune jackpot was already up to 5.6 million euros before it hit yet again, adding another millionaire to the club created by this very popular slot game. Right now, the jackpot on Mega Fortune slot is getting close to 5 million again and can be won at any point. Of course, there is also the chance that it will continue to grow for a while and maybe even break the record it set in 2013, when it reached €17.8 million before a very lucky Finnish player won it all.
The popular Mega Moolah slot also made a few millionaires this year, granting three 7-figure jackpots. The latest one was worth almost $3.4 million and was won by a player known as “I.R.”.
Progressive slots can get a lot of attention and the more popular they get, the faster the top prizes grow. Every bet counts towards the jackpot and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger until someone wins it all; at which point the amount is reset and the process starts all over again.
US regulated online casinos going strong
When 2014 started, three states had legalized some form of online betting, with Nevada being the first but only offering online poker and with Delaware and New Jersey following by November 2013 to also include casino games and all options found in a brick and mortar casino.
Out of the three, New Jersey is easily the star and the regulations in the state allowed an environment where US casino operators based in Atlantic City could partner with European companies for internet gambling. The result was seen in headlines throughout the year as the industry quickly rose to reach impressive figures and stayed there for the better part of 2014.
The online poker rooms that launched in New Jersey didn’t waste a lot of time finding their players and while there were some bumps along the way due to geolocation systems and software issues, players could for the first time since Black Friday in 2011 enjoy legal online poker in the state.
According to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the revenues generated by the poker rooms in the state for the month of October saw a drop of almost 6 percent and this continued to be the case for the next few months. However, this doesn’t worry operators that much as they believe the market is only maturing and that there will be more fluctuations later down the road.
Although no new states actually went online with their gambling options or even passed the regulations needed to start the snowball, there were plenty of talks about some new markets being added to the industry. Most notable are California and Washington and it remains to be seen if 2015 will be the year for them or not.
Politics, Poker and Online Gambling
Since we are already on the subject of online poker in the United States, we also have to mention about the most popular recurring theme in the country that took place in 2014. The story began in full force in January this year and it saw Republican casino owner and mega-donor Sheldon Adelson in the main role, and maybe also as the bad guy since many poker players and democrats can easily make the case for it.
Basically, Adelson began the year convinced that going online in the country will only have negative effects and he was ready to do anything needed in order to stop that from happening. And so, he opened his checkbook and signed his name on a few pieces of paper that started the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. Of course, he had several politicians from the Republic party in his corner that would help him in this war against online gambling and they started pushing a bill that eventually saw its end after the midterm elections.
But this is not where this story ends as Adelson continued to make his voice heard and there wasn’t a hearing for individual states to regulate online gaming without Adelson’s representative, Andy Abboud, there to wave his hands and cry regarding the many dangers that come with online gaming. CSIG members appeared everywhere throughout the year and pushed for a ban on online gaming without even mentioning a common sense regulation that would be beneficial to the states.
Adelson’s minions saw resistance from the Poker Players Alliance, who was the voice of reason in many arguments and mounted a massive campaign over social media meant to educate players.
Both sides failed to some degree and while there is no federal legislation that bans online gaming, there are also no new states to be highlighted on the map. This only means that the battle will likely continue past the New Year.
New Online Casinos and New Games
Moving past the situation in the US and looking at the online casino industry across the ocean, 2014 saw more than a handful of online casinos go live. The number of players has increased and the websites do their best to keep up with the growing demand for better games, bigger promotions and so on.
Some of the new casinos that launched quickly stood out this year and have shown great success right away but most of the credit goes to the software providers. The games have really improved over the years and 2014 is the perfect example of how new titles can hardly be considered simple casino games when they have such amazing graphics and all sorts of special features, animations and so on.
Of course, we are mostly talking about slots and tens of new games from Net Entertainment, Microgaming, Playtech and other software providers were released this year to an eager crowd of players. Some of them were based on popular movies and these became instant hits, with titles like Jurassic Park from Microgaming and South Park: Reel Chaos from NetEnt easily standing out.
The trend is sure to continue next year and the games are only expected to get better. Existing casinos get major updates and allow them to stay up to date with the latest changes and new online casinos come with a fresh perspective created from scratch to be appealing to modern players.
DDOS Attacks On Online Poker Sites
Quite a few big stories of 2014 were based on direct denial of service attacks, also known as DDOS. These are caused by hackers who flood a website or a network with requests, causing it to crash, sometimes for long periods of time.
DDOS attacks could basically be used on anything connected to the internet and the results have made headlines throughout the year as important websites went down or even individual users being prevented from accessing them.
The poker industry was no exception and the attacks ranged from illegal offshore poker sites in the United States, to the biggest online poker room in the world, PokerStars. Allegedly, some of the biggest ones were orchestrated by Danish hackers who would use the attacks to win real money while playing online poker. In some particular situations, the hacker would get involved in a massive hand and before the end of it, they would begin a DDOS attack on the network that would flood it with various requests. As a result, the poker site would lag immensely or even shut down, meaning that the pot would go to the player that acted last during the hand. The hacker would get the money as a result and avoid going to a showdown in which he would have potentially lost the money.
A good example of such an attack took place in December, on the Winning Poker Network. The first tournament with a prize pool of $1 million guaranteed for American players since 2011 was the target of several major DDOS attacks. Over a period of five hours with various disruptions, officials from the network made the decision to cancel the tournament and return all the money to the players, including both buy-ins and fees.
When the year started, everyone was looking towards mobile as the future of online gambling industry and now that the year is almost over, the one conclusion we can draw is that everyone was not wrong.
Mobile casinos had a pretty good year and more operators reported that a big chuck of their revenue came from mobile users. Gambling-related products have quite the following and a quick look at Apple’s App Store will show that out of the top 10 entries in the best grossing category, four of them are developed by gambling software companies.
DoubleDown Casino remains the most popular social casino app and after seeing success on Facebook, it was only normal to be popular on mobile devices as well.
Most of the major online casinos already have a mobile platform available that allows users to either connect to the website directly and play their favorite games or just download a small casino app for a more personalized experience.
A big reason for the growth in mobile gambling is the growth in the mobile industry as a whole. More and more people can afford to have a good smartphone as new models get released and the prices for older generations drop. Mobile internet is also widely available through Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile networks so playing casino games on the go is now very easy and convenient.