by bapenguin
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New online casinos need to improve the group game aspect of their platform in light of social distancing

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Online casinos have become hugely popular over the last decade, with millions of players flocking through their virtual doors every year. Hosting all the same favourites as you will find in a brick and mortar casino, but allowing you to play anytime and anywhere, the increase in demand has birthed hundreds of new online casinos, all trying to offer you something that the others don’t. Live streams, multiplayer slots, free spins, matched deposit bonuses and loyalty club points are all popular incentives flying around online, and many serious players have multiple accounts to take advantage of all of these.

But what about the casual player? Usually they will find a website they like the look of and stay there, especially if it offers the games that they want. Online slots, blackjack, roulette, bingo and poker are all popular options, and there are some sites that specialise in just one of these, whereas others choose to offer a variety. But it can be a minefield out there, trying to find a good site. Do you opt for an established one, or a newer site with good incentives and prizes to hook in players? This site mentions some new online casino sites that are worth checking out for anyone looking for a change.

Online casinos are also finding a new audience now that social distancing measures mean that non-essential businesses – like casinos – are closed, and people have been asked to stay indoors. However, there is one area where online casinos fall behind other gaming services like Playstation and Steam – providing provision for friends to play together, something which is becoming really important now that friends cannot socialise in person and need something to avoid to self-isolation  blues.

Online multiplayer gaming has been around for decades. All the major game platforms allow players to add friends to their accounts, linking their activity together so that they can choose to play the same game online. Recent iterations have even added voice chat rather than text chat, making it more of a social event where you can chat while you hang out. And the ability to do this is providing vital mental health and social lifelines in these difficult times.

By contrast, online casinos may offer the ability to play with others, but the partnering is random. You can sit at a poker table with six other strangers and play a few hands, but trying to coordinate with friends to find the same table at the same time is nigh on impossible. Many online casinos also offer chatrooms for members to meet new people and make new friends, but while you might find the same people online at roughly the same time of day, it is again, random.

Yet many online casinos also offer membership and loyalty schemes that can be tracked across linked sites. All casinos require people to make accounts, in the same way that PlayStation and Xbox ask their players to. With that in mind, there is no reason why players could not be given the option to add friends and play games with them. If online casinos are concerned that this will lead to collaboration, they could always add it as a feature to their free-to-play games.

Online casinos have started to move towards offering multiplayer gaming opportunities, but they are still limited. The newest trend is multiplayer slots, where multiple people play the same machine and can access bonuses together. They are accessed through private slot rooms, and you can talk to everyone in the room, as well as being able to see their bonuses, spins and winnings. It’s supposed to offer a more social aspect to slot gaming, which is probably the most isolated of all the online casino games as you don’t have other people to play at a table with. However there currently isn’t anyone offering a way to play these with friends instead of random strangers.

There are ways to play casinos games socially, but these tend to come from apps and social media rather than online casinos. The same games are available, but the emphasis is very much on the social aspect rather than the gabling aspect, meaning that they are either free play or offer very limited means of winning money.

But these still don’t offer the same social perks that the online game platforms do; voice chat, web cameras etc. You might be playing the same game as your friends, but you’re not really socialising with them, and during these times of social distancing, the difference is important. For many people, especially those who live alone, online gaming offers a very real lifeline to the outside world. With the strict measures in place, we might not be able to go to the pub, to a casino, or play in the park, but we can create the same atmosphere from home by calling and chatting with friends, and being able to play a game at the same time helps to add to the experience. There are thousands of people who usually visit casinos or bingo halls with groups of friends, who are now finding that one of their main sources of entertainment and social activity has been cut off. Hopefully the online casinos will jump at the chance to capitalise on this opportunity and create a social space within their sites where people can safely meet their friends while continuing to enjoy their favourite games.

 
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