Casinos are always looking for ways to get visitors excited about gaming in casinos. The latest technology being tested is virtual reality (VR), where people "compete against each other for cash prizes in spirited VR tournaments."
Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) is the first to launch the new VR product called "Virtual Zone" from HTC and International Game Technology (NYSE:IGT), allowing players to compete for prizes in the casino. If successful, it could be the first in a series of VR offerings for casinos.
Gaming in a virtual world
The initial application for virtual reality in casinos is tournaments that will test the market and give people the opportunity to win cash prizes. Think of it a little like a skill-based game like poker, but in VR. It's not gambling per se, but there's an element of luck, and with IGT in the mix, there's the possibility that gambling elements could be added and pass regulatory muster because the company is a regulated game maker.
Boyd's The Orleans is the first casino to have the Virtual Zone, and there are group and single-player archery games that cost $30 and $10, respectively. If you get the high score in the six-hour window the game is open, you can win up to $150.
The current game may seem simple and more like a gimmick than a long-term business. But if it gains any sort of traction, the options for VR in the casino are almost limitless.
Casinos could be anything in VR
Betting in casinos is already starting to move away from the traditional casino floor, and this may be an extension of that trend. Casinos are now rolling out online games like poker or sports betting, adding to a growing suite of digital games on the casino floor. Virtual reality could take the experience to a whole new level and bring an unheard of level of customization.
Imagine playing poker against a full table of players from the comfort of your hotel room, or placing bets at a table game with a virtual dealer while in a personalized virtual world. Casinos could offer a plethora of experiences to users, whether they're gambling or playing games in VR.
It's also possible IGT could bring casino-style gambling to those outside of the casino. In regions where online gambling is legal, a virtual experience may be more desirable and interactive than playing a game on your computer at home.
Pushing the limits
If the experience of going to a casino is to have an escape from the world for a short amount of time, it makes sense that VR would be an attractive alternative to the same users. Tournaments are an interesting starting point, but I think we'll see VR betting before long as companies like IGT push the industry to develop more content. If the widespread adoption of online poker is any indication, gambling in VR could be a very lucrative business for those who can build the user base and get regulators to allow game play. Maybe the virtual casino is the future of gaming.