2015 was a pretty great year to be at the casinos. There were new games, new rules and even a few new casinos. So to celebrate the year, we though we'd do a retrospective of how the gambling industry succeeded and failed during the previous 12 months.
Hopefully, you'll remember some of the great things that happened this year, maybe learn some of the behind the scenes decisions that were made or possibly even find out about a great slot that you missed out on.
Either way, let's take a look back at what happened in online gambling during 2015.
Skip through the year to what you want to see.
- The NetEnt Slots of 2015
- The Quickspin Slots of 2015
- The Play'n Go Slots of 2015
- Other Standout Mentions
- World Record Breaking Jackpots
- Mergers, Mergers And More Mergers
- Increased Regulation
- The Growth And Security Issues of Online Gambling
The Best Slots of 2015
2015 saw a lot of great slots adding to the library of games for you to play. There were literally thousands released this year, so we can't review them all. But we can take a look at the biggest slot studios and what they bought to the table in 2015.
The NetEnt Slots of 2015
NetEnt continued to uphold why they're the best slot maker around. They released some of the most interesting and innovative slots around. Even their smaller scale releases were still among the best of the year. So let's take a look at the classics they brought us this year.
Spinata Grande has to be mentioned first simply because of its quality. It's already won a lot of GOTY awards and it's worthy of them all. The slot brought us colossal symbols. These were symbols which took up multiple spaces of the slot, including multiple reels. In this way, single symbols could be actually worth several symbols, increasing the chances of creating paylines.
What came of this was a visually interesting slot that rewarded the player often. It was a small change that made all the difference.
Dazzle Me was a slot that played with the very look of the slot itself. Instead of having a standard rectangular set of reels like most slots, Dazzle Me had a 3x3x4x4x5 reel slot. Other slots have played with the reel layout before, but many of these have still had a symettrical look, even if the shape of reels change.
Dazzle Me had a strange looking slot, which completely changed the way you had to think about your paylines. It was an interesting change that made Dazzle Me one of the more memorable releases this year.
King of Slots was reasonably well received when it dropped back in November. King of Slots was pretty basic in most areas. The artstyle was standard for a NetEnt slot and there was no major innovations.
But King of Slots came with a sticky win feature, which allowed you to respin every time you got a payline, whilst all your payline symbols remained locked in place until you failed to spin another matching symbol.
It's not the first time we saw sticky wins, but they're surprisingly rare simply because of how hard they are to balance. NetEnt balanced them perfectly and because of that bought us one of the few sticky win slots of the year. And for that, we were very grateful.
Koi Princess was NetEnt's first foray into a manga art style and we think that they nailed it. The look of the slot captures the look of an anime well enough and is a nice change of visuals for the studio.
The slot itself isn't innovative, but has all the nuts and bolts of a great slot. It's got wilds, several bonus modes, one of which includes the iconic free spins mode. What you see is what you get with Koi Princess. It's a visually striking game that has all the factors needed to keep you coming back. It's exactly what we expect from NetEnt.
The Quickspin Slots of 2015
Quickspin is slowly working its way back into the limelight. Having released rather generic slots for a few years previously, the last two years have been amazing for Quickspin. They've released some of our favourite slots in 2015 and we look forward to their continued growth in the years to come.
For now, here's their greatest hits.
Second Strike snuck in at the last minute before 2016 took over, but it's the perfect example of saving the best until last. Second Strike isn't just a cool name, it's the entire premise of the slot.
Every time the player makes a line of symbols, the outside of the slot will flash as a random symbol bordering the slot is selected. This border contains all the symbols on the slot, with their numbers differing depending on how much the line is worth.
For every spin, you effectively get another chance to spin again to increase your win dramatically. It's a nice touch that is not only rewarding, but visually interesting, doing something that we've never seen before. Well played Quickspin.
Razortooth was Quickspin's first foray into removing paylines. Instead, the slot goes for a 243 ways to win system, where adjacent symbols are required to make lines. This makes the slot stand out from everything Quickspin have made before and we hope to see it again.
But not wanting to only do one thing well, Razortooth adds in random bonus features, a great free spins mode and random wild reels which can lead to some pretty staggering big wins. Plus the whole game looks great and runs really well even on budget mobiles.
Razortooth easily shot to one of our favourites from 2015.
Firestorm is a fiery slot set in the Aztec jungle. The visuals are stunning from the get go with the particle effects on the fire raising it to one of the prettiest slots released this year.
One of the most interesting parts of the slot is its free spins mode, which has locking symbols. Every free spin round locks in place any scatter symbols, wilds and a random regular symbol. If any of these extra symbols are spun in during this round, they are also stuck.
It's an interesting feature that makes it different to everything else on offer and a tense game to play whenever free spins pop around.
The Play'n Go Slots of 2015
Play'n Go have always had a reputation as a great slot provider, arguably being the best slot creator around today. Play'n Go had an interesting year, with a combination of new slots coming out, as well as some old slots coming out of their exclusivity deals.
This gave a nice mix of new and old. So how did that mix add up in the end? Find out below.
Eye of The Kraken is an underwater adventure, set in the early 19th Century, where you and a team are hunting the Kraken. The difference with this Kraken is that instead of killing you, it'll give you cash prizes. Slightly weird, but we'll accept it.
Eye of The Kraken offers a nice mixture of bonus features and random bonuses to add a whole level of excitement. The bonus round of the game is a chest guessing game, where you have a choice of treasure chests to receive bonuses.
At random points a Kraken will randomly attack the slots, transforming certain symbols to wilds, locking them in place during your spin. The game has an interesting look and does its best to mix up the gameplay. It succeeds in both tasks and ends up with one of the year's best slots.
Rage To Riches was a Unibet exclusive up until this year. Already at two years old, but hidden away from most of us, we can know see if it was worth the wait. It's a feather in the hat of Play'n Go that its two year age doesn't show at all.
The slot is set during a monster attack. Everyone from Godzilla to King Kong is on the rampage and you're there to spin some avalanche slots in the mayhem. We haven't had a standout avalanche slot since Gonzo's Quest nailed it over half a decade ago, so it's great to see we now have a contender in the genre.
All over, it looks great, sounds right and is packed with bonus features to make it a slot worthy of your time. So check it out and see if it'll be your new favourite avalanche slot.
Wild North is a bonus packed achievement. It comes with 7 bonus rounds right out of the box. These can be as varied as a free spins mode, to a memory based tile game. The best part is that while the gameplay is varied, you can be winning money.
At any time, any of the regular face symbols can become the scatter symbols. Because of this, any one of the symbols of the game can unlock a bonus round at some point. So you not only have a lot of features, but also the excitement of not knowing which bonus round it'll be.
We couldn't take a look at every studio, but there were a few individual slots that we loved immensely this year.
Taco Bros was a very nice release from Elk Studios. The slot didn't revolutionise the format, but it did provide a big budget, AAA slot to match the biggest slot makers. It's real triumph was in its bonus round, where players would have unlimited free spins for the three protagonists of the game to escape jail.
The heroes would escape by you spinning reels. If you landed on a jailer you got caught and you would then transfer over to the next hero. If all three heroes were jailed, the game would end. However, you could spin a love interest who would set you free with a kiss, allowing you to start again.
It was gripping, rewarding and a downright great looking slot.
Slingo Riches by RealNetworks was by far the most original slot we saw this year, namely because it's not just a slot. The game is a hybrid of slots and bingo, something you may have noticed from the subtle play on words in its title.
For every successful spin of the slot, numbers that you matched in a line would check off corresponding numbers on the accompanying bingo card. It combined two classic games, without losing any features from either of them. Truly an achievement of great games design.
The New Casinos of 2015
There have been some great casinos released before 2015, but the newcomers certainly didn't shy away from the competition. These are the new casinos that managed to break into our Top 20 list of casinos and push out some of the old competitors.
Reel Island is the best NetEnt casino around. Absolutely bar none. It specialises heavily in NetEnt slots and because of this it has every new release of theirs on day one. It stands to measure that if NetEnt make some of the best slots, then the casino to house them should be one of the best casinos.
But Reel Island is a little bit more than that. Firstly, it has a great casinos section, in fact one of the best we've ever seen. On top of that it has great promotions and a welcome bonus that matches multiple deposits and gives you a choice of slots to have free spins on.
The casino has NetEnt slots, but also manages to pick up some of the other best slots released throughout the year. It's been one of our favourites from the start and we assume it will only continue to get better.
GoWin Casino was the newest Nektan based casino to release this year. Nektan are a great casino platform and ever since they moved away from only hosting their own exclusive slots, we've had the best of both worlds; a great Nektan platform combined with the best new slots on the market.
GoWin is simply a very well made and optimised mobile casino. Its payments are easy, its promotions are fair and its slot library just keeps getting better. If you gamble on the go, then GoWin is one of the casinos you should be checking out.
Royal Swipe Casino
Royal Swipe Casino is a great casino for anyone looking for the height of design. The major point of Royal Swipe is in its promotions. Royal Swipe has a promotion going on almost every day of the week, offering you bonus money and free spins for playing certain slots or depositing.
You have a timetable clearly letting you know which promotion is next around the corner. On top of that, the casino aims to bring all the newest and best casino games, so there's always something to do and get rewarded for it.
Northern Lights Casino
Northern Lights Casino came to us at the very start of 2015 and has spent the year only further proving to us why it needs to stick around. The fact it remained on our radar even while so many other casinos came out after it, is a testament to the effect it left.
Throughout the year, Northern Lights have been building an increased library of games, adding slots from most providers, the most notable of these being NetEnt. The casino has a great range of payment methods, including mobile depositing and all major e-wallets.
There's something for everyone here, from the games to payments. If you need a new casino to bet at, then Northern Lights is probably what you're looking for.
Jackpot Mobile Casino
Jackpot Mobile Casino is another new Nektan casino from this year and it offers all the same strengths. Daily bonuses, an ever increasing library of slots and a great welcome bonus with a few hundred pounds of deposit matches; who could scoff at that.
It's only a year in but already it's set itself up as a strong casino that's here to stay. We've never played at a badly run Nektan casino and Jackpot Mobile isn't about to let the side down, so give it a look in.
The Big Stories of 2015
Casinos and slots aren't the only impoirtant things that changed the face of online gambling this year. There was a plethora of stories that came out this year, which added greatly to the continuing story of the gambling industry. Some were fun and some… not so much.
Mega Moolah Brings The Biggest Jackpot Ever
Mega Moolah was previously another solid progressive jackpot slot from 2006. But this year it raised itself above all others, by bursting its way into the record books for paying out the biggest online jackpot of all time.
The total payout was a staggering £13,213,838.68 to British soldier Jon Heywood, on the 6th October. Last we heard from Jon, he was already on his way to spending the money wisely, “I’m trying not to get carried away and I really don’t know what else I’m going to buy with the money, apart from a yellow Bentley Continental GT.”
Mergers, Mergers And More Mergers
With increased taxes and expanding international markets, the hands of several big gambling companies was forced this year. In a bid to stay competitive and profitable, several of the gambling titans were forced to merge and acquire the competition.
This has led to a year where the largest mergers of all time have occurred. The biggest of these was the merger between Paddy Power and Betfair, to form Paddy Power Betfair. But this wasn't the only significant change to the industry this year.
Bwin Party had been involved in a fierce bidding war between GVC Holdings and 888 who were both intent on acquiring the casino. This came to a head when GVC Holdings outbid 888 with a huge £1.1 Billion.
This new business tactic of acquisitions and mergers seems to have created an environment where we can only expect to see more of these moves into 2016.
Big things changed this year in terms of regulation. The UKGC got much more aggressive when it came to actively controlling the industry. The first major change it did was to enforce that all casinos operating in the UK had to be regulated by the UKGC. This change was made in 2014 and now in 2015, we got to see the effects of this change.
The major things that changed were a significant increase in safety and protection, with offshore casinos now having to promote safer gambling. Casinos also became much more fair as now they had to follow the rules of the UKGC.
On the financial front, we finally got a clear look at the worth of the online gambling industry, as the UK were finally able to tax all casinos working within UK borders. The £3 Billion earned by online gambling during the first half of 2015, gave the picture of a very healthy industry.
2016 will bring about an even clearer view of the gambling industry as we'll have a whole year of revenue data to trawl through. Plus we can see if the new enforced UKGC regulation will start to chase casinos away. With a new UKGC CEO, Sarah Harrison and plans to regulate the industry even more, we'll be interested to see how the industry changes into next year.
Growth & Security Problems
Online gambling got bigger than ever this year, coming out as the largest growing sector for online businesses. Unfortunately, this also meant they became more vulnerable than ever. Online casinos became some of the biggest targets for online attacks, from theft to DDoS attacks.
This doesn't mean that the end of online gambling is coming, but it does mean that casinos had to quickly learn to adapt to these new security problems. Hopefully, in the light of these vulnerabilities, casinos can learn to update their security to fight off any attacks in the future.
2015: A Great Year For Online Gambling
Overall 2015 was a pretty standout year for online gambling. The games were great, we saw some of our favourite casinos ever come into fruition and the technology that governs everything got a whole lot smoother.
But there were some integral changes behind the scenes as well. Mergers, regulation and potential security risks are sure to go on to change a lot about the way we view the gambling industry into the next year.
How the gambling industry manages to handle itself in the face of these new challenges is what will encapsulate 2016. Until we find out how well that goes, at least we still have some amazing games to look forward to and a great year to look back on.