Look through the top of the charts in app gaming—Android or iOS—at pretty much any point, and you’re bound to see some games that at least loosely employ gambling or casino themes. Sometimes these are straight-up casino imitators, and sometimes the connection is subtler. For example, card and trivia games might reward players with fake cash, and even popular “time waster” apps like Candy Crush are essentially digital takes on the same mix-and-match winning strategy at the foundation of slot machines.
The reason that none of these games actually goes so far as to be called true casino games is, of course, that real money online gambling is illegal in all but three of the 50 American states. Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey all allow for at least some extent of real money online gaming, but in the rest of the country the very concept is either strictly outlawed or at the center of legislative battles. But should online gambling ever become fully legal in the U.S., just how big could apps in the genre become?
For starters, let’s look at some of the popular apps in the pseudo genre that already exists. In the iOS app store, there is actually a “Casino” category to hold all the games that utilize casino themes and practices even without the use of actual cash transactions. According to Programmer Interview, there’s no concrete way to determine how many downloads an app has. Given that neither Apple nor the majority of developers chooses to make the information public, the best we can do is guess. But considering that a number of the highest rated apps in this category—Solitaire, DoubleDown Casino, Whale Of Cash Casino Slot Game, and others— have been rated by over 2,000 users, we can safely say these games are very popular. Think of everyone you know who plays app games, and ask yourself how many of them write reviews; in all likelihood, or at least if your friends are like mine, it’s a small percentage. More than two-thousand reviews implies an extremely large player base.
Next, let’s consider the popularity of existing online and mobile gaming sites around the world that do use real money transactions, where legal. Betfair Casino is an appropriate model for this conversation given that it’s one international operator that has already eased into the U.S. market through a small presence in connection to New Jersey casinos. And according to the International Business Times, the company reported a growing customer base and 21% sales increase just this past summer. That report reflects specifically on the sports betting side of the company, but nevertheless indicates that the whole company is still on the rise. In fact, even the sports betting numbers could be significant to the U.S. market in years to come, given the enormous popularity of fringe sports gambling game sites like FanDuel and Draft Kings, and the wishes of many Americans to safely engage in online sports betting.
So we know that a fake casino genre already hosts some extremely popular apps, as well as that the international thirst for real money online gambling options is evidently still increasing. Now let’s consider what a successful app can make in a given day or year. Huffington Post did a study on this, specifically in an aim to examine the usefulness of a freemium or in-app purchase design model. In the process, they revealed that of the top-50 apps, $500 per day in earnings is on the low end. Several of the most popular apps at the time the article was written were bringing in something more like $5,000-$10,000 per day, adding up to millions in sales each year. Some companies designing viral hit app games are now worth billions.
It would appear that this all amounts to a perfect storm for the real money gambling genre if and when it finally fully migrates to U.S. markets. This is a genre that’s thriving internationally, holds enough interest among Americans to inspire dozens of popular mimic apps, and has set gaming models already in place. It is perhaps inevitable that should the genre be brought to America, its accompanying apps would quickly vault to the higher end of the earnings potential just discussed. We could see a whole new batch of the biggest and most active app games out there.
Feature image by Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.