Why do People Visit Casinos for Table Games but Online Casinos for Slots?

People are funny creatures, aren’t they?

There have been countless books written on why we behave in the ways we do, and why we make the choices we make, and some recently released data from the UK Gambling Commission has added another little quirk to the list.

Apparently, people tend to use online casinos to play slots, but use real brick and mortar casinos to play table games like roulette, blackjack, and poker.

Both are casinos and both offer the same sorts of games – albeit with slight differences given that one experience is tangible and the other isn’t – so why is there such a difference between the two in terms of what players spend their money on while using them?

It’s an interesting trend that I think has several answers. The following are my thoughts on it, but let me know if you agree.

People Use Online and Offline Casinos Differently

Playing in a Real Casino

Why do you play casino games in the first place? What sort of experience are you expecting when you hand over your money?

The answer to this question will of course depend on what type of casino you are going to play in.

When I log on to an online casino I want perhaps 15 minutes of fun while i’m waiting for the potatoes to boil, for example, but when I go to my local Grosvenor Casino, well, that’s a proper night out.

I expect to spend very differently in those two examples, and what I hope to get in return for my money couldn’t be farther apart.

I might play online casino a few times a week, and usually it’s nothing more than a way to fill the time enjoyably when I don’t fancy listening to music or reading the news or whatever. I’ll spend around £5 or £10 each time I log on.

I might only go to a real casino once every couple of months, but i’ll be taking a lot more cash with me and I will be wanting a much more memorable time. I might bet bigger, compete with my friends, and bet in ways that are not possible online because this is my only chance to do so.

Playing in an Online Casino

Let’s face it, table games are just more fun in real life, with the chips in your hand and the other players around you, higher table minimums, the dealer to chat with, etc. That is a real casino experience, you can fell it and touch it and smell it.

Playing online is just not the same thing.

Slots, on the other hand, are much more similar if you play them online or in person. Sure, it does feel different in some ways (especially the older machines with pull handles on them), but it’s still a mostly solitary experience which you can play for pennies.

So mainly, I would imagine that real world casinos get more revenue from table games because that is what the people who visit them are turning up for in the first place. They want something authentic that the virtual world cannot get close to replicating.

(And don’t try to tell me that a live casino is similar because it’s not even close to being the same thing.)

Other factors might include how instantaneous and impulsive a visit to an online casino can be. We are less likely to want to get into a blackjack session if we are also watching the tele, for example, so slots are the obvious choice there.

What’s more, slots often come with jackpots or big win potential, the sorts of things we associate with ‘instant win’ games like scratch cards or the lottery.

These tend to be more impulsive cheap buys, and I think we are more likely to be in that frame of mind when visiting an online casino. A quick, cheap bit of fun, where we might win some money and get a result right away.

Online and Offline Casino Data

Casino Data

I said there was data, and here it is.

It actually goes a lot deeper than this, into exactly which table games were played the most and which type of gaming machines were being played, but although they did change a bit, it wasn’t a relevant to the subject.

At online casinos the data only goes back to the 2015/16 financial year, so we will start there in both cases.

Year Slots Spend Other Games Spend
2021/22 77.0% 23.0%
2020/21 72.7% 27.3%
2019/20 72.6% 27.4%
2018/19 71.1% 28.9%
2017/18 68.2% 31.8%
2016/17 66.6% 33.4%
2015/16 65.9% 34.1%

That’s an increase of 16.84% over around 7 years, while the overall online casino revenue has increased year on year from £2.364 billion in 2015/16 to £3.898 billion in 2021/22.

Now let’s look at the same data for brick and mortar casinos.

Year Slots Spend Table Games Spend
2021/22 26.1% 73.9%
2020/21 29.1% 70.9%
2019/20 21.3% 78.7%
2018/19 20.7% 79.3%
2017/18 17.9% 82.1%
2016/17 17.8% 82.2%
2015/16 19.6% 80.4%

Although it’s on a downtrend, the revenue made from table games at high street casinos is significantly higher than the revenue made from games machines.

What’s more, within the 7 year period we are looking at, the high street casino industry has gone from a £1,181 billion total revenue to a £692 million in 2022 – a drop of more than 40%.

Granted, this is partly to do with covid and the aftermath of that, but interestingly, the split between the types of games played has continued to move towards slots even through the drop in overall revenues.

Slots Becoming More Popular

One thing that stands out in both sets of data, so at online casinos and at real high street casinos, is that slots seems to be increasing in popularity.

The amount of revenue generated from slots in both types of casino has been increasing over the years, and although they are a game type which is improving all the time, this can’t be the only reason.

Could it be that as our attention spans have decreased thanks to the instant nature of things like social media, and asking Alexa a question, players have less patience for the traditional games like blackjack and roulette?

Last time I went to a casino I must admit, I hit the slots and only the slots. The ability to jump from one game to another without having to wait for other players gave me much more freedom.

There’s always the possibility of a big win on the slots too, which doesn’t really exist in table games.

The biggest payout in blackjack is 3:2, and you could be waiting an awful long time and spending an awful lot of money before a bet on a single number comes up in roulette… paying 35:1.

You can get wins that dwarf this on a slot, and yes ok, it’s unlikely that a monster win will land for you, but at least the chance exists. With traditional table games it is a grind.

These big potential pay days are a draw especially in harder times, which we are undoubtedly facing right now, so I can understand why this shift towards slots is occurring.