A Guide to Virtual Reality (VR) Casinos
Have you gambled online before?
Chances are that you have. In 2016, a survey by Nielsen Scarborough showed that almost 83 million Americans admitted to having visited a casino in the past twelve months.
And why wouldn’t you? Online gambling is so much more convenient than gambling offline. You don’t have to travel anywhere, deal with large crowds, or spends lots of money on non-gaming expenses.
But there are downsides to gambling online, too. One of the biggest downsides is the lack of realism.
When you gamble online, it’s more like playing a video game that spits out money whenever you win. It’s totally void of the social aspect, like chatting with your friends, dealers, or tablemates.
Software developers recognized this and started to scratch this itch by developing live dealer games – games dealt by a human being.
But they still don’t feel REAL. It’s more like having a Skype conversation with someone. It’s neat, and a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t quite replace the brick-and-mortar experience.
So, what’s the next best thing?
VR casinos are still in the infancy stages, but even what casinos are coming out with now is promising.
We’ll talk more about that in a bit, as well as give the rundown on how VR casinos work, what you can expect from one, and what we think the future looks like in this VR gaming space.
What Is Virtual Reality (VR)?
Let’s start with what virtual reality is. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:
In other words, you put on a headset, pick up the controllers and/or gloves, and then suddenly you’re in an entirely different environment.
For casino players, this means you’ll be standing inside a (virtual) casino. You’ll be able to walk around the casino, other players, and machines. You’ll also be able to sit down at machines that are playable.
The goal is to provide a real enough experience between the graphics and controls, as well as the reduction or elimination of outside distractions (the real world).
A Brief Timeline of Virtual Reality
VR has a long history. Experts think virtual reality may have existed in a primitive form as far back as the 1860s.
Since then, the human race has made several attempts at making VR a reality. The following is a timeline of some of those attempts:
- Early ‘60s – The Sensorama was created. This was a huge machine that you sat at – like one of those racing arcade games – where you watched one of five short films that engaged senses like your sight, sound, smell, and touch.
- Late ‘60s – Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull created what’s considered the first head-mounted display (HMD). They called it The Sword of Damocles. It was far too heavy to wear, so it was suspended from the ceiling. It was also very basic in terms of its interface and realism.
- The ‘80s – Atari created Battlezone. This is a first-person shooter tank combat game. You controlled a tank, which you used to deal with attacks from other tanks and missiles. It had 3D graphics and a viewing goggle that you would put your face into.
- The ‘90s – Sega introduced Sega VR for their arcade games and Mega Drive console. This used LCD screens in the visor, stereo headphones, and inertial sensors that allowed the system to track and react to movements of the user’s head.
- 1991 – Computer Gaming World predicted that we’d see “Affordable VR by 1994.” While they were wrong about the date, they didn’t get the affordable VR part wrong, because a couple of decades later, the Rift from Oculus VR was introduced.
- 1995 – Nintendo tried their hand at VR with the Virtual Boy. This was a 32-bit table-top game console. It was a commercial failure due to its cost, lack of quality games (only 22 were made), and its unimpressive graphics.
- 2010 – Palmer Luckey designed the first Oculus Rift prototype. It was only capable of rotational tracking, but at the time it had a 90-degree field of vision that wasn’t seen on the market at that time.
- 2013 – Oculus adopted a freely shared breakthrough (from Valve) that allowed them to create lag- and smear-free displays of VR content. Valve also came up with additional features in 2014 that included 1k displays per eye, low persistence, and positional tracking over large areas. Oculus used this in all future headsets.
- 2014 – Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014. This was before Oculus could ship out any devices ordered through their 2012 Kickstarter campaign.
- 2016 – There’s a reported 230+ companies developing VR products. Facebook has 400+ employees focused on VR, while all the major tech companies like Microsoft, Sony, and Samsung have AR/VR dedicated groups.
That brings us to today.
We’ve seen several virtual reality products come out. This includes one from Sony for the PlayStation 4 console; the Cardboard, which is a DIY stereoscopic viewer from Google; Gloveone, which is a pair of gloves that provides motion tracking and haptic feedback, and was also on Kickstarter; and then the HTC Vive, created through a partnership between HTC and Valve.
We’ll talk more about some of this equipment, including what you need to play VR casino games, in the next section.
What Equipment Do You Need to Use VR?
One thing to keep in mind before we talk about equipment is that we’ve published this in early 2018. And things change fast, especially in the tech industry.
So, the following VR products, prices, requirements, etc., may be different from what’s available or required today.
The general list of equipment you need for VR includes:
- Controllers (optional)
- Treadmill (optional)
Many VR products come in bundles, which may include most of what’s in the list above.
For example, the Oculus Rift will come with built-in headphones, mic, movement sensors, remote, Xbox One controller, and the headset. Their base model starts out at $399, but likely goes up from there, depending on what bundle you decide to buy.
Some experts also suggest getting more than two sensors to get full 360-degree tracking. Oculus says that two-sensor 360-degree tracking is still in the experimental phase.
You can also buy computer and Rift bundles. These will set you back $700 at a minimum, and as much as $3,000+, depending on the computer you end up buying.
But the Oculus Rift is only one of several VR products you can choose from. Some of your other options include:
- HTC Vive – This comes from Valve and HTC, and is a direct rival to the Oculus Rift. You can pick one up for $599.
- Sony PlayStation VR – This is an accessory for the PlayStation 4 game console. This is ideal for gamers (it’s hit-or-miss for real money casino players). You can pick up one up for about $299 – unless you get a game bundle, in which case you’ll spend $350+.
- Samsung Gear VR – This will use your mobile phone for both the hardware and screen. This only works with the S6 and S7 smartphone series. You’ll spend about $100 for the headset.
Casino players will want to stick with the Rift, Vive, or Samsung Gear VR, though we have seen reports that casino players have made the PlayStation VR headset work.
You can learn more about additional options, apps, features, and other nuances of virtual reality on TheGuardian.com.
Something else to keep in mind is the device you’re using for VR. If you’re using your phone or PlayStation 4, then this isn’t something to worry about – it’s out of your control.
However, if you’re planning on using your computer, you DO need to think about your computer specs. Here’s what Oculus recommends PC users have for computer specifications:
|Recommended Specs||Minimum Specs|
|Graphics Card – NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon RX 480 or greater||Graphics Card – NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti / AMD Radeon RX 470 or greater|
|Alternative Graphics Card – NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater||Alternative Graphics Card – NVIDIA GTX 960 / AMD Radeon R9 290 or greater|
|CPU – Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater||CPU – Intel i3-6100 / AMD Ryzen 3 1200, FX4350 or greater|
|Memory – 8GB+ RAM||Memory – 8GB+ RAM|
|Video Output – Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output||Video Output – Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output|
|USB Ports – 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port||USB Ports – 1x USB 3.0 port, plus 2x USB 2.0 ports|
|OS – Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer||OS – Windows 8.1 or newer|
One quick note before we move on to talking about virtual reality casinos.
Depending on where you play and the experience you want to have, you may not have to cough up several hundred dollars before you play VR casino games.
Take Slots Million, for example. You can use the Oculus Rift if you want, but if you don’t want to, you can also play in their 3D casino.
This sort of looks like games we’ve seen before, including really old PC games.
This may be a good way to test the 3D/VR waters before you invest a lot of money into a system or style of gaming you’re not sure you’ll like.
Virtual Reality Casinos
Virtual reality has been in the making for the past 60+ years, and even though we’ve seen things ramp up over the past decade, it’s still brand new to the online gambling industry.
Google ‘VR casinos’ or ‘virtual reality casinos’ and you’ll see what we mean. Google’s results are pretty scarce. That’s because there are only a few casinos or software providers doing it in 2018.
Slots Million was the first to do it. You can watch a video of you walking into their Slots Million 3D casino that’s located in a high-rise building.
If you want to go the legit route, you can use the Oculus Rift (which is what Slots Million suggests you use). But other reports say that users have found a way to use their HTC Vive, PlayStation 4, and other headsets, too.
One of the first titles they released was the Starburst slot machine, from NetEnt. NetEnt has released several other VR games since then, too, such as:
What’s interesting about their slot machines is that they removed the reels from the machine and have them spin right in front of you. Then, when you win, you see money, coins, or gems cascade down, and the characters dance around just in front of you.
It’s like you’re standing in the room with them. And that’s just the feeling we get while watching these clips without wearing goggles. Chances are that it feels even realer when you use the headset.
But slots aren’t the only thing you can play in virtual reality.
Both NetEnt and Microgaming demoed VR games at ICE Totally Gaming 2016. NetEnt demoed their slots , of course, while Microgaming showed off their futuristic, space-themed roulette game.
These games make you feel like you’re playing the real thing – you can pick up chips, spin the roulette wheel, collect bets, and more.
We also saw a blackjack game. You’re seated at what feels like a real blackjack table. You have a drink and a stack of chips in front of you, as well as the dealer. There were several empty seats to the right and left, too.
The graphics were a bit primitive, but graphics are likely to evolve and get much better – and fast – over the next few years. And that’s only one of the many improvements or changes we’re expecting to see made in the future.
What Does the Future Hold for VR Gambling?
What does the future look like for VR casino gambling? We don’t know for sure (it’s the future, obviously), but we can make some guesses.
A common thought process is that VR will be used to bring people together – to make it more social.
Mark Zuckerberg believes this, and it was one of the driving forces behind his decision for Facebook to acquire Oculus in 2014.
Slots Million’s Alexandre Tomic echoed the same sentiments in a Skype conversation with CasinoListings.com.
He said he’d like to see it possible for people to connect with other players on the SlotsMillion.com floor. Right now, it’s only possible to see them, not to interact with them.
In his ideal scenario, you’re able to find your buddy, sit down, and have a conversation over a game of blackjack. Alex thinks that integrating the ability to interact with other people is the only way casino VR works out in the long run.
“Bring the people together. That’s the most important thing,” Alex says.
888 also wrote a blog post that said something similar, but targeted at millennials:
And casinos have been working hard to try to “gamify” the gambling experience too. One of the main barriers to adoption of casino gaming by millennials is that they are used to much more immersive and socially engaging gaming environments.
Currently, brick-and-mortar and online casinos try to make traditional formats for gambling more appealing to millennials by adding layers of gamification into the programs for the games that already exist.
That’s what the future probably looks like. If all these guys say it, it must be true.
All we’re confident in is that virtual reality will continue to grow. It’s a $6+ billion industry now, and projections say it’s going to be a $40+ billion industry by 2020.
You can be sure online casinos are going to get a slice of that – and we’ll all get to benefit from it.
Virtual reality is here, and it looks pretty cool for casino players.
There’s not many choices yet for where you can play. SlotsMillion is your best bet (maybe your only bet). But that’s okay; they’re a solid casino – you can read our review to learn more.
Many other casinos have or will have VR games, too, since it’s software companies like NetEnt and Microgaming creating them. Other software companies are likely to follow suit soon.
That means that over the next few years, we can expect to see an increase both in software developers creating VR games and casinos offering them.
The quality of these games and casinos will most likely improve, too.
Which means we have plenty to be excited about.
Virtual Reality Casinos FAQ
Virtual reality is still new. We expect it to grow and change over the next few years.
For that reason, we thought it’d make sense to include a FAQ where we cover all the most common questions about VR (casinos) not already answered above.
What are the advantages to virtual reality casinos?
There are a few advantages.
You can still gamble online from home, but while having an experience akin to being in a brick-and-mortar casino.
You’ll also be able to chat with other players. If that’s not available now, it most likely will be in the near future.
There are many games to play now, for both real money and for free. And VR is still in its infancy – you can expect loads more to be available in the future.
And as for online casinos specifically, you don’t need any equipment to play. You can just play the 3D casinos if you don’t want to fork out $400+ for equipment.
What are the disadvantages to virtual reality casinos?
Here are a few downsides that immediately come to mind.
If you go the headset and accessories route, you’re going to spend a fair amount of money before you ever step foot into a VR casino.
You’ll easily spend $400 for the basics – the headset, mic, earphones, sensors, etc., unless you go with the Google Cardboard, which people say is uncomfortable.
And then you need the hardware to run the VR equipment. If you don’t have that, it will set you back another $500-$1,000 to either upgrade or replace your computer.
But let’s say you have the equipment, or that money’s not a factor.
Right now – with the exception of the slot game coming from NetEnt and Microgaming – the games are a bit primitive. They remind us of older computer games you could play back in the ‘90s.
(But we expect that to improve quite a bit over the next few years.)
Another possible disadvantage – and an interesting theory – is that because VR gambling is so immersive, it can make you feel odd whenever you take off your headset. As Alex says in his interview with CasinoListings.com:
The interviewer raised the question as to whether players could maintain a sense of their normal lives after being so immersed and drawn into a different reality.
This makes you wonder if players who have more addictive personalities might be more prone to developing gambling addictions through VR. Or, in a best-case scenario, they lose sense of time while in a different reality and spend a little more than they would otherwise.
That’s just a theory, but it’s something we feel will be explored more as virtual reality and VR gambling develops.
Are there VR casinos for Americans?
No, we don’t think so. Right now, only NetEnt, Microgaming, and a few other non-US software providers are coming out with VR games. It’s probably going to be a little while yet before US-friendly casinos start offering them.
Do you have to download software?
It looks like it, yeah. SlotsMillion.com is an instant play casino. But they have a download for VR users.
Do you have to create a new account?
No. If you already have a player account – say, at SlotsMillion.com – all you need to do is download their app and log in using the same details.
How many games are there?
Slots Million says they have thirty to forty games for you to choose from. But this is only the beginning – it wouldn’t surprise us to see a couple times more than this over the next couple of years.
Can I still get a deposit bonus?
Yeah, nothing changes here. If the casino offers a bonus, you should be able to claim it – even if you’re playing in their VR casino.