How Does The Online Casino Industry Work?
The online casino industry is essentially organized in the form of a pyramid, with the software companies which create and develop the casino games at the top, business groups which buy licenses from the software groups in the middle and the individual casinos at the bottom.
The Pyramid Structure
The software companies sit at the apex of this pyramid. They originate, design and develop the casino software, which they then license out to business groups or investors who wish to own and run an online casino(s). The original business model involved the software companies developing the full range of software for a casino to run on, not just limited to the casino games but also CRM, payment processing and affiliate marketing solutions. Software companies would enter into a 1-1 relationship with a business group, with that business group only using that software companies games on its casinos
This business model reflects the situation between Microgaming and the Digimedia group which runs Spin Palace, Jackpot City and Gaming Club among other casinos. All Digimedia casinos run entirely on Microgaming software, with the business group having a long and successful relationship with Microgaming.
There were certain advantages to this model, at least at the beginning years of the gaming industry, namely that the casinos were able to provide a smooth gaming experience to players. Over recent years however this model became limited. Players want to play games from different software companies, enjoying the benefits and strong points from the different software providers. They wanted to play NetEnt’s stunning 3D video slots and Microgaming’s huge progressive jackpots from the same casino
The software companies reacted to player demands, no longer demanding exclusivity over their partner – casinos were free to offer games from different software companies. Technology was also the driver behind this change, specifically HTML5, allowing individual casinos to seamlessly integrate games from different companies.
A major consequence of this has been the rise of smaller boutique games companies like Play’n Go, Thunderkick, Rabcat, NYX and Yggdrasil. These small boutique games providers have no intention of becoming full service providers like Microgaming, Playtech and to a lesser extent NetEntertainment. Instead they focus on developing a much smaller number of high quality games, mainly slots, which they license out to the new breed of casinos running games from multiple games companies.
Each of the large software companies has its own characteristics and strengths.
NetEnt is renowned for its inventive video slot games, conjuring up out of the box game concepts like Gonzo’s Quest that its big rivals would never think of. Similarly its partner casinos take a softer line when it comes to acquiring players and retaining them, whilst also favouring free spins over larger welcome bonuses, perhaps reflecting its more conservative Scandinavian origins
Microgaming launched the first online casino back in 1994 and has created the biggest range of games, some 800+. Whilst their reputation has been earned on the back of their huge linked progressive slots often overlooked is their extensive table games selection throwing up multiple versions of table games. Whilst still a strong supplier recently they have found themselves squeezed, between NetEnt and the smaller boutique companies gaining market share in Microgaming’s main markets (Canada, U.K, New Zealand and Australia) and Playtech on the other side, which has tied up supplier software deals with global sports-books such as William Hill, Ladbrokes and Bet365
Playtech launched after Microgaming but caught up quickly in terms of games library size and wider full-service software offering. Originally their slot games (graphics and gameplay) were seen as inferior to Microgaming but in recent years they have improved, although not reaching the same level as NetEnt and Betsoft. For table games and live gaming though Playtech more than holds its own.
Microgaming and Playtech partner casinos still favour the more traditional large welcome bonus over free spins together with a more active approach to player acquisition and retention. Although, we have ensured that all our recommended casinos running both Microgaming and Playtech run reputable business practices
Business and Affiliate Groupings
So much for the top point of the pyramid, the next level down are the business groups which buy licenses from the software companies to run their games and content. Unlike the software companies whose public details are there for all to see, the details of the companies who buy the licenses from the software companies and set up the casino(s) can go from being very opaque, to completely transparent if the company is a public one i.e. listed on a stock exchange such as Mr Green Co AB which runs Mr Green and is listed on the Swedish stock exchange:
In contrast you would need to dig around a little deeper to learn about Digimedia, a private company that operates Jackpot City and Spin Palace. But just because a company is private and not publicly owned doesn’t mean that it’s disreputable as to receive a gaming license from one of the main gaming authorities it must first pass a ‘fit and proper’ owner test.
One company, many casinos is one of the main features of the online casino industry, and although there are exceptions e.g. Mr Green Co AB just running Mr Green, most companies own and run multiple casinos. The reason for this lies in what makes the online casino industry so competitive for the companies which run it, and at the same time so beneficial for the players, its ease of entry.
There are few barriers to entries in creating a new online casino site and with competition so fierce it makes business sense for a company to have more than one online casino site. Why have just one site when you can have 2,3 or 4 increasing your potential market share even if marginally?
Companies that run multiple casino sites organize their casinos into a more marketing friendly company name for their acquisition efforts. For instance Digimedia operates the BuffaloPartners affiliate program which runs the JackpotCity, Spin Palace and Gaming Club casino sites among others.
Implications for the player
The difference between playing at 2 casinos operated from the same company or affiliation group is essentially cosmetic. For instance, the Fortune Lounge group operates Royal Vegas Casino and Euro Palace. On the surface you’ll get different welcome packages with Royal Vegas offering a bigger welcome match bonus whilst Euro Palace offers more free spins, under the hood though the depositing options, verification procedures and support options are all the same, with the operations for both sites being run by the same company.
All this competition in the industry though is good for players, making sure that only the best run and reputable casino groups stay in business whilst offering players a wide variety of of different casino offerings – some specializing with one software provider, some with multiple, some going for large welcome bonuses, some with free spins and so on.
All of our reviewed casinos are run by reputable companies, whether publicly owned i.e listed on a stock exchange or privately owned. It pays to open accounts and test different sites, both from within the same group e.g Royal Vegas and Euro Palace or from different groups e.g. Royal Vegas and Jackpot City, until you find a site and operation which matches your casino playing type and individual needs.