The future of live-dealer casinos

Todd Haushalter, CPO, Evolution Gaming
Darwyn Palenzuela, Head of Live Casino, Pragmatic Play
Carl Silverstolpe, Managing Director and Chief of European Market Operations, NetEnt

How have live-dealer casinos developed since operators began using them?

TH: Ten years ago, it was a Logitech camera and a girl spinning a roulette wheel in a room, where a player could only play on desktop computers. Now, there are games with 21 cameras and slow-motion replays. Other games combine RNG with live to give players massive pay-outs that would otherwise not be possible. Some games even take the format of a game-show rather than a table game. Then there are some counter-intuitive changes, like how the industry has moved away from green screen technology, as this erodes player trust and reduces player engagement. The live casino of 2018 is radically different from 2006 and it is far more than just the fact players prefer to play on their phones today.

DP: Fundamentally, live-casino games aim to give players a similar experience to being on the casino floor, coupled with the flexibility to access content from multiple devices on the go. As a result, the ingredients of the offerings by and large stay the same. However, technological advancements have provided opportunities for better visuals and a slicker, more immersive experience, creating a more personal atmosphere between the dealer and player. We entered the vertical following our acquisition of Extreme Live Gaming from Novomatic Group and we are committed to pushing the boundaries of what this vertical can offer players.

CS: The introduction of live casino has revolutionised the way people play casino games. The main development is the player’s mindset. At the beginning, there was almost a fear to approach live casino. Players felt it was reserved to a special niche, maybe a little expensive or a bit too difficult to understand. However, over time and thanks to both providers’ and operators’ great work on presenting it and making it very user-friendly, this feeling has shifted and live casino is now becoming very popular among players.

What are the biggest challenges involved in operating a live-dealer casino offering? How can these challenges be dealt with?

CS: The main challenges are ensuring all game presenters on all tables are always engaged, performing at their best and entertaining. How is it done? It’s done with a constant focus on game presenter performance, a great work environment, close and conscientious managers, and, of course, the recruitment of dealers, especially when language skills are a prerequisite. Innovation is key to creating a unique product, together with custom content. The flexibility from a provider to produce a bespoke solution is vital to have an offering which not only stands out but one relevant for both players and operators.

TH: Running an effective live-casino operation is extremely difficult. A simple example of this is we have a 30-person video team, who are constantly reacting to every small change made in Chrome and other browsers. They optimise video for every part of the world on every device. We also have a team of 15 called the iTeam that does nothing but play our games in live environments on the top 75 devices and identify new ways to optimise the playing experience. There is a total staff of around 5,000 in multiple countries and the games run 24/7 and must be protected from advantage players at the very highest levels.

A live-casino provider must protect the games from wheel clockers, card counters, wheel bias trackers, bonus abusers, and all sorts of real risks. Some think you can just have a dealer spin a ball, stream it live, and you have a live casino. But more than a few live casinos and their partners have learned the hard and expensive way just how complex this is.

DP: As with any online game, one of the predominant difficulties lies with innovation. With more and more suppliers and operators beginning to capitalise on live casino, it is important to create games of premium quality with a USP differentiating them from the majority. Capitalising on the latest technological advancements to deliver a smooth live streaming and gameplay experience is a must, mirroring the enjoyment players can experience in a real-life casino setting.

Roughly how much revenue can a successful live casino generate for an operator?

DP: The question as to the specific portion of revenue it generates is one for operators. Yet the importance of live casino as an acquisition tool between the land-based and remote sectors cannot be dismissed.

CS: The percentage of revenue generated by each individual operator can vary based on the resources allocated, the market focus and market maturity. In general, this can vary from 5% to 25%. These percentages are, however, destined to increase, strengthening the trend of recent years.

How likely is more innovation in this space?

CS: Over the last few years, NetEnt has invested heavily in technology, thus giving life to an important phase of innovation. Mr Green's 3D, sports widgets and Live Rewards are just a few examples of what can be achieved. But we are now working on new original projects that will see the light in the coming months and mark an important step in the development and wider establishment of live casino. However, we believe it is necessary to continue searching for new technologies; the more competition there will be in this field, the better the product will be.