Gambling is unpredictable by nature, but it’s still possible to hazard some guesses about the near future of some online gambling trends. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the big online casino trends for 2019 you can expect to see.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

While some expert opinions are split as to when, where, and how AR and VR will revolutionize the world of iGaming, others aren’t waiting to find out – and some are going all in on the idea of a virtual casino. Analyst firm Technavio predicts that the VR gambling market is facing a period of dramatic growth in the near future, projecting a “compound annual growth rate of 55 percent” with an incremental growth of $360 million in the same time period. Upcoming advances in headset technology will allow online casinos to dazzle their patrons by re-creating reality at the snap of a finger (or the roll of a die). The convenience of mobile gambling won’t have to sacrifice all the bells and whistles of the live casino experience if you can slip on a headset and instantly be transported to a virtual casino floor, complete with roulette, slots, and poker tables. There’s also the ability to reproduce the social aspect of the casino experience. The possibilities are widely varied, from a virtual blackjack dealer at your breakfast table to scanning your poker opponent’s face, looking for his tell, from thousands of kilometers away. Some hope that using VR to create a more immersive casino experience could be one way to attract millennial gamblers.

But that isn’t the only aspect of AR and VR that the online gambling industry finds appealing. Beyond enhancing the gaming experience itself, VR can be used to help with some social problems. For example, Loto Quebec has plans to use VR technology to help lottery winners to prepare themselves for the social challenges that follow a big win. There’s also a possibility that therapists could employ VR technology to help treat gambling addiction. The industry is poised, primed and ready to integrate AR and VR technologies, and probably stands to benefit from them as much or more than other industries. One of the big online casino trends of 2019 will be increased AR and VR technology.

Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies

Blockchain and iGaming seem to have been made for each other. Blockchain technology offers a combination of decentralization and security that have an innate appeal for online players. Some online video games have introduced in-game currencies, so it’s possible that some members of the online gambling industry could consider following suit. The ability to gamble anonymously and the trust offered by the P2P and safe contract aspects of blockchain make the technology perfectly suited to online gamblers.

Cryptocurrencies also have the capacity to allow online gamblers to play across borders. Gamblers who live in countries where online gambling – or even all forms of gambling – is illegal have the opportunity to gamble via online platforms based in other jurisdictions. In some countries, banks are prohibited from conducting transactions related to online gambling. Blockchain-based platforms allow gamblers to access casinos based in other jurisdictions by offering other options for making deposits. Expect to see more platforms dealing in widely-traded cryptocurrencies and using proprietary ones. Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies are two sides of the same coin for online gaming trends.

Diversification of Content

The increase in pop culture-themed online slots and other iGames only seems unexpected before you consider the immense number of dedicated viewers that popular series can have. Converting even a fraction of those viewers into online gamers could allow gaming providers to tap into broad new streams of revenue.

While turning pop culture references into online gambling isn’t a new idea, advances in technology, such as graphics and video, can make the experience much more immersive than a simple Wheel of Fortune-themed slot. Gaming providers are increasingly releasing slots that take their themes from popular TV shows, from cartoons to fantasy dramas, in an effort to attract younger gamers, who sometimes find traditional casino games boring.

Players find themed slots to be entertaining and engaging, probably because they offer a chance to interact with something familiar. Themed slots are a great way to capitalize on binge-watching culture, so expect the trend to continue through 2019.

Artificial Intelligence

While Libratus, the AI bot made specifically for poker, pulled in over $1 million in a Texas Hold ‘em tournament in 2017, the role of AI in the future of the online gambling industry will probably relate more to practical applications. AI has quite a few capabilities with implications for the online gambling industry. AI can be used to analyze players’ habits to better understand their behavior and enable businesses to respond to the choices they make. It can also be used to create a personalized casino experience based on players’ preferences. There’s also potential to combat player fraud and gambling addiction.

However, or every action there is an opposite reaction. As operators are more often using AI to create fair, balanced, and secure gaming platforms, there’s an increasing chance that players could implement the same technology to try and improve their chances. With no simple solution in sight, this could lead to an AI arms race between players and providers. Expect an increase in AI-based cyber-security and fraud detection. The iGaming industry is rooted in its embrace and adoption of new technologies, so with all its applications, so another big online gambling trend for 2019 will be increased use of AI.

Emerging Markets

The Latin American market is a tantalizing prospect for online casino providers, as countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Chila are witnessing strong growth in the gambling sector, and accompanying actions are being taken on the part of various countries’ legislatures. Some industry experts hold that the LatAm market poses the greatest potential for growth. Colombia, for example, has seen an increase in internet penetration in recent years, which could help transfer some of the country’s enthusiasm for gambling and sports betting into the mobile marketplace. The establishment of Coljuegos, the regulatory body created to oversee all gambling activities, has brought legitimacy to the online gambling market in Colombia – a market that was estimated to be valued at over $5 million in the second half of 2017 alone. These numbers are expected to improve along with the ever-increasing presence of mobile technology.

Another powerful emerging market is Africa, where some countries have large populations with an interest in betting and gambling and rapidly increasing mobile and internet access. By some estimates, there could be half a billion unique mobile subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa by 2020. Nigeria, for example, sets gaming revenue estimates in the tens of millions, and PwC has projected significant growth in GGR in the near future. While the Nigerian market might have some regulatory complications, according to Richard Mifsud, CEO and Co-founder of Helio gaming, reports indicate that half of the population are internet users and “over 100 million Nigerians have mobile access”. Combined with a powerful cultural appreciation for gambling and sports betting, the prospects for success in online casinos seem better and better in countries like Nigeria. Some predictions hold that the online gambling market in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria, could be valued at $37 million.

While mobile access is increasing, there do remains some other things to take into account-the lower overall income, for example, means that operators should focus on platforms that encourage low-stakes, high-volume betting. Also, by one estimation, fewer than 20% of sub-Saharan Africans have an account with a formal financial institution, meaning that most traditional forms of depositing funds would be unavailable to most African gamblers. However, as is often the case, limitations breed ingenuity; M-Pesa, a financial service that allows users to securely transfer funds via mobile, enjoys widespread popularity in Kenya and Tanzania. Options such as M-Pesa and cryptocurrencies could allow African gamblers access to online casinos unhindered by their lack of a bank account. With a high population of internet users that value gambling, particularly sports betting, more than a few experts are calling Nigeria the new frontier for iGaming. One of the key online gaming trends for 2019 is the emergence of new markets.

All in all, the near future of the online gambling industry looks as exciting and dynamic as one would expect. By its nature, iGaming lives on the cutting edge of technology, so AR, VR, and AI are all lined up to offer innovators new ways to influence or even disrupt the industry. Cryptocurrencies will become even more prevalent, and more platforms will feature their own in-house, currency. Pop-culture-themed slots will be as popular as ever, and emerging markets in Latin America and Africa will increasingly draw the attention of operators looking to stay ahead of the pack.