Online gaming has in recent years become far less segmented than was previously the case, with many major brands now offering their players a more diverse range of gaming and betting choices than ever before.

One of the most obvious ways in which this is manifested is in the growth of betting casino sites i.e., online sports books that offer slots and casino games as well as sports betting. We also see this multi-faceted approach in other sectors of the industry. For instance, a growing number of online bingo rooms also feature slots on their sites, operators that began life as online casinos have also moved into sports betting, while previously exclusive poker sites have also now branched out into both online casinos and sports betting.

The reasons behind operators increasing the range and diversity of their offerings are not hard to discern. The most recent statistics from the UK Gambling Commission have shown that online gambling is now the largest sector when it comes to UK gross gambling yield (GGY), generating £4.5 billion in the year up to March 2017. Of this, casino games generated £2.6 billion, around £822 million more than all online betting (including betting exchanges and pool betting) in the same period (at £1.78 billion). The appeal of having an online casino as part of a spots book’s operating model becomes even clearer when the figures are broken down further, as online slots alone generated £1.8 billion in GGY up to March 2017 — more than online sports betting in its entirety.

The motivation for sports books (as well as poker and bingo operators) to offer online slots and casino games on their sites is obvious — they see an opportunity to capture a greater share of the online gambling market by offering punters a ‘one-stop shop’ that enables them to both bet on sports and play casino games on the one site. Likewise, for operators who have added sports betting to their existing online casino offerings, their rationale is equally clear — they are attempting to keep their hard-won customers from defecting to other sites where players can get more than just slots.

So, what does this increased competition mean for online casino players? Has this change in the nature of the online gaming environment been beneficial, and is there a preferred option? In short, are you better off playing at a betting casino site, or a specialist online casino?

Cons of Sportsbetting Casino Sites

It does tend to be the case that if you play at a sportsbook site you will generally get less gaming variety, as slots will most often be the work of a single producer. Recent research has shown, for instance, that Playtech dominates in this space through the exclusive tabs it provides to a number of leading sports betting operators (i.e., casino tabs where you only get the option of playing Playtech slots). In 2017, as in previous years, Playtech was ranked number 1 and was the dominant supplier of online casino games overall in the UK when you take into account its market share across both betting and casino only sites combined. In essence, this means that if you play slots at a betting casino site, you are more likely to see Playtech games than those by any other producer.

However, when you take these exclusive tabs out of the analysis, Playtech’s share of the total online slots market across the board was lower, and it ranks 8th on sports betting sites and 4th on casino only sites. This essentially means that you will likely have more gaming options and will see games by a greater number of different producers other than Playtech when you play at a stand-alone casino site.

For instance, if you play at Dunder you can find a huge selection of games by a host of different developers, like Microgaming, NetEnt, Play ’n Go, IGT, NextGen Gaming, Quickspin, SG Interactive, Elk Studios, BetSoft Gaming, 2 by 2 Gaming and Amaya. The same is true at Casumo, where games are by Microgaming, NetEnt, IGT and Play ‘n Go, Scientific Games, Quickspin, Thunderkick, Greentube, Williams Interactive, Bally, Barcrest, Shuffle Master and Evolution Gaming. Karamaba gives you a similar experience, where you can play online slots produced by big names like Microgaming and NetEnt, alongside boutique developers like WMS and Neo Games.rank

In this age of omni-channel gaming, therefore, where players have more choice (and less brand loyalty) than ever before, sports book operators have realized the limitations of the exclusive tab approach. Since the introduction of HTML5, more and more casino operators have opted to offer web-based games by multiple producers on their sites, which has undoubtedly proven to be a successful and popular model, with players appreciating the greater diversity and choice. Therefore, sports book operators have had to find ways to move away from or adapt the exclusive tab model and offer greater gaming variety as well in order to keep up with casino sites.

Pros of Sportsbetting Casino Sites

It’s interesting to see the way in which sports betting casinos have responded to this challenge. Most significant has been the move by many operators to have more than one casino games site, so that players can access a greater number and range of slots games directly from its sports book. This keeps them under the one virtual roof for longer and reduces their need to go to a rival’s site.

Betway, for instance, has a Casino tab in the sports book that offers Microgaming slots and casino games, plus a Vegas tab where you can play games by Microgaming, NetEnt and IGT as well. At Ladbrokes sports betting, you can play Playtech slots on the Casino tab, and NetEnt games on the Vegas site. The NetBet sports book has games by Microgaming, NetEnt and others on its Casino tab, and exclusively Playtech slots at the Vegas site. PokerStars Casino on the other hand only has a single Casino tab which you can access directly from the sports book, but this too offers games by a variety of different producers.

Another approach to improving the range and variety of their slots games has been for some sports book operators to produce their own exclusive games that can’t be found at any of their rivals’ sites. For instance, Paddy Power offers exclusive slots through its Cayetano brand, while at Ladbrokes Casino you’ll find exclusive slots games under the CR banner.

Overall, we haven’t found there to be any significant difference between the quality of the user interface nor the stability of games at betting casino and standalone casino sites. As most sportsbook sites offer their games on a separate tab, you are essentially playing at a discrete online casino site. Also, both betting and specialist casinos increasingly offer their slots and casino games in web-based HTML5 versions, which means that you can expect stable and visually dynamic gaming no matter which sort of site you opt for.

In summary therefore, while you are still likely to get more choice and variety when you play at a casino only site, those operators who have sports books as well have recognized the limitations of their previous exclusive tabs approach, and have clearly made a deliberate effort to give players more options so as to keep up with their casino only rivals. In other areas, we’ve found that there aren’t any real significant differences in the overall gaming experience when you play in a betting casino or standalone site.

However, one of the potential drawbacks to playing at sports book site is that you may miss out on a Welcome Bonus if you already have a sports betting account with an operator and decide to play your slots there as well. Generally, it’s the case that signup bonus offers are limited to one per player and this is applied brand-wide (it can sometimes be the case that this applies to sister sites as well). This is why some players opt for separate accounts with different operators, or at least not to play slots at the same site where they already have sports book account. Likewise, casino players at sports book sites might want to bet on racing and other sports at a different site in order to pick up an additional signup bonus there as well.

In terms of loyalty programmes, it can be the case that playing at a betting casino site is better for you in terms of earning points and other rewards. This is because you pick up points for both your sports and casino bets at the same time, so your total increases more quickly and you can climb through the membership tiers at a faster rate. This is especially beneficial if you are only an occasional slots player, as the rate at which you earn points can be quite slow when compared to sports betting. However, in terms of the rate at which you earn reward or loyalty points for playing casino games, there is no notably discernible difference between betting and casino only sites.

Likewise with customer support. Almost all of the operators that we recommend here offer 24/7 customer services via a variety of means including live chat, toll free telephone numbers and email. You can also expect any reps you have contact with to speak English and to be pretty professional in what they do. We have never encountered any differences in the level or quality of the support we have received.

Bottom Line

In the end, therefore, it all comes back to the games. Stand-alone casinos do continue to provide more gaming variety and choice. Newer sites, in particular, can offer games by as many as twenty different games developers, so you can play slots in every conceivable category and style. For those who like to explore, or enjoy taking on new releases on a regular basis, you are likely to have your search for variety better satisfied at a standalone casino site, like Dunder, Casumo or Karamaba. This is also probably a better option if you’re a dedicated slots and casino game player and have no interest in betting on racing or sports, simply because you’ll get more slots choice.

On the other hand, if you’re a punter who also enjoys slots (as research shows is the case with 62% of us who bet online), it does make sense to play your casino games at a site where you can also bet on sports, both in terms of the convenience and for earning rewards and loyalty points at a faster rate. And while you might not have quite the same choice and variety of slots games as at a standalone casino site, it is unquestionably the case that online sports books now have much bigger and more diverse ranges of slots games than ever before, and so you won’t be missing out significantly when it comes to the range and quality of games when you opt to play at a betting casino.

Sally Burns
Sally has been working for us at Top5 for 3 years. She graduated Leeds University and now lives in London with her husband. Sally loves the thrill of casinos, whether online or offline and her favourite games are any of the Marvel series of slots. Her favourite movie is The Avengers.
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