Operating as viable alternatives for each-other for over two decades now, physical and online casinos play the betting game very differently. Both forms are immensely popular, both have evolved considerably over time, and both play an important part in their relevant sphere’s economies. Having spent some time recently in both land-based NA/Canadian casinos and their online cousins, we want to examine where the key differences lie. What elements do these two share, and what does one side offer that the others cannot?
In most ways, online and land-based casinos operate through predictably similar means. This makes sense, since they’re both operating in a similar industry space. Important to note is that, as a much older arm of the industry, many of the most important aspects were first developed in land-based casinos. These have had centuries to narrow down what works and what doesn’t, so it’s only natural that these lessons would find their way online, whenever applicable.
For players, the core of the casino experience is game selection. In this, both online and offline manage fairly similar efforts. Casinos in North America will all tend to offer slots, blackjack, roulette, and other table games as a base. There are differences within these subsets, which we will discuss later, but the central point is that these base opportunities are still shared.
The online casinos, which came about in 1996, were limited in both scope and available prizes. As a result of their small industry and funding from which to draw, this was inevitable. Today, online casinos are worth billions, meaning they can easily match land-based casinos in prize-pools.
To use a direct example of the largest wins, land-casinos have historically taken the cake. The largest of these wins occurred in 2003 in the Excalibur casino in Las Vegas, detailed in this Mentalfloss article. For a $100 bet, the winner brought home $39.7 million. In online casinos, the biggest slot win came about in 2013, where a Finnish man won $24 million on a 25-cent bet. Not quite as large, but in terms of a return on investment, online casinos would take home the gold.
The Welcoming Experience
One of the consistently captivating experiences in our trips around North American casinos was found at the doors. Reliant as brick-and-mortar casinos are at putting the best foot-forward, walking through the entryway is always welcoming and fascinating. Here they set the tone, letting players know what to expect well before a single-cent is wagered.
While online casinos necessarily take a very different tack, they still embrace this idea of welcoming newcomers with open arms. In this instance, welcoming simply comes in the form of bonuses like deposit matches and free spins, as illustrated here by Wildz Casino Canada. Just as with land-based casinos, online casinos want to show players what they might expect, and the experience they wish to convey.
Setting them Apart
As similar as the two arms of modern casinos can be, their individual strengths also play a major part in creating a line in the sand. Born from the disparities these systems imply, their differences can make or break a person’s favored form of interaction.
How you Engage
Unquestionably, the biggest difference between online and offline casinos is seen in the ways we engage. As physical establishments, land-based casinos have strict rules in where and how they can be enjoyed. You have to visit during certain hours, you have to dress and behave a certain way, and, if you don’t live close to a casino, you might have to miss out entirely.
For online casinos, most of these concerns are moot. The digital option runs 24/7, and you can play wearing whatever or however little you like. There are still rules about how you behave and interact with others, but these rules are significantly laxer than those employed by brick-and-mortar locations.
Depending on the exact theme the online casino and its games employ, your experience can largely be up to you. If you want, you can create your own comfortable corner to play surrounded by the things you personally love. Alternatively, you can go in the opposite direction and play on your mobile while out and about. The key is that of choice.
The next major difference between the two options comes from the potential of choice. North America has many of the biggest casinos in the world as this Business Insider article shows, but even the largest of these are bound by limitations of choice and cost.
Slot games are the most pronounced illustrations of how these systems operate. Physical casinos can offer hundreds of machines, but due to the costs and complexities of hardware, the individual range of different machine types is typically small. Owing to their reliance on software models, digital casinos have no such restrictions.
In modern casinos, it’s typical to see over a hundred different forms of individual slot machines, each theoretically capable of handling hundreds or even thousands of players. Without the complexities of engineering physical devices, developers like Microgaming and NetEnt have continuously developed new opportunities that physical casinos can’t match.
No Right or Wrong Choice
The one takeaway which we got from our time traveling of North American casinos and playing online was that the final choice will always depend on your tastes and mood. Both options cover the base experiences so well that, on a simple gaming level, there is no right or wrong choice.
Sometimes you might want to treat playing as an occasion. Get dressed, go out on the town, and sit down and play some hands of poker. Other times you might want to have a game on the go, play where there are no physical locations, or enjoy the variety that digital systems have to offer.
Therein lies the strength of the modern casino market, it’s not a dichotomy. Both are equally viable ways to play, and both contribute to a healthier and more varied complete package. The only advice we can really give for casino enthusiasts is never to completely disregard your less-favored options. Casinos both online and off continue to evolve, and you might be surprised to find what the new decade can bring.