With G2E Asia taking place this week in Macau, I can’t help but think about innovation in Live Dealer offerings as Asian gamblers notoriously love and prefer Live Dealer over RNG games. What is most fascinating about this sector are the vast technological developments we’ve witnessed since Live Dealer products appeared on the scene almost a decade ago. As the technology improved and choice of games expanded, the appetite for Live Dealer grew far beyond Asia and the demand is now global.
David of LiveDealer.org is an affiliate who has been focused on the Live Dealer scene for the past eight years, qualifying him as an expert on the subject as far as I’m concerned. David and I last spoke three years ago almost to the day and we decide to catch up again and examine how Live Dealer offerings have grown and developed since our first conversation in 2014.
Becky Liggero: Thank you for taking time to share your expertise with me once again, David. When we first spoke three years ago, you had some reservations on the potential for mobile growth of live dealer offerings. Can you summarize what we’ve actually seen in terms of growth in this area and why mobile has become so popular for live dealer?
David: Re-reading my thoughts from 3 years ago I can see how you picked up on those reservations.
“I never felt that mobile and live dealer was a good fit …. Shrinking [live dealers] & the game they’re dealing onto a tiny device only detracts from the experience…Not to mention the fat-finger-fumbles”.
I did feel that live game providers were going down the mobile path simply because it was the expected thing to do and necessary to keep pace with other online betting options, rather than because it was a great fit for the live games niche.
Turns out I was very wrong. One of the revelations in live dealer gaming over the last few years has been the popularity of mobile play, and this isn’t just an anecdotal assessment. The numbers are laid bare in the earnings reports of the larger providers and casinos. Evolution Gaming’s 2016 annual report revealed that in the last quarter of 2016 almost half their revenues came from play on mobile devices, having experienced exponential growth in this channel over the last few years.
Players aren’t as concerned with fat finger fumbles as I thought they’d be.
Another reason for the growth in popularity has to be the improvement in the product. When mobile games first appeared, game range was limited (only a fraction of tables playable via PC could be accessed) and the quality of the live video ranged from slightly inferior (to PC) at some platforms, to so bad that the games were downright unplayable at others.
This is no longer the case.
BL: It is amazing how prominent mobile offerings have become throughout the entire online gambling industry. In addition to mobile expansion, how have the types of live dealer games on offer widened over the past few years?
David: A number of new house poker variations and low skill games like Hi-Lo or DreamCatcher (big money wheel) have popped up to cater to different player tastes, but blackjack, baccarat and roulette are still the mainstays. Choice within these three games has expanded enormously though.
As an example, where your live baccarat table choices four years ago (considering a European market facing studio) were limited to high limits or low limits, now players can choose from dealer squeeze tables, player controlled squeeze, speed deal or a standard deal. Blackjack table range has expanded at some casinos to include 20 private branded tables, offering scope for unique casino promotions on selected tables.
Roulette options have expanded to include various studio tables with dealers speaking your choice of language or tables from the floor of a number of bricks and mortar casinos around Europe.
BL: Amazing, players do have much more choice now. As you mention above, players now have the ability to choose from in-casino tables and studio tables – can you explain the pros and cons of both offerings?
David: The number of in-casino tables available for play has been another area of development over the last couple of years; guess it’s just another way providers are looking to cover all player preferences.
It’s now possible to play tables on the floor of casinos in London, Malta, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Georgia and Romania remotely on your desktop or mobile. It seems every few months now a new in-casino table goes live.
The challenge with in-casino tables is that they are in an environment that was not purpose built for video capture and remote play. Lighting, scope for camera placement and background noises must present real challenges for providers, but they all seem to be getting better at dealing with these challenges.
Still though, and ironically, studio tables can seem to replicate a casino gaming experience better than real casino tables.
BL: I completely understand the challenges that come along with lighting, background noise, etc, outside of a studio from my experience in filming, but I never thought about this for in-casino offerings- interesting point. Moving on, we know Asians love Live Dealer, but we’re also starting to see more offerings popping up in North America- can you elaborate on the Live Dealer products available in this part of the world and the appetite for such games in the region?
David: I’m sure US players would love it also, problem is their options until recently have been limited to largely unregulated providers. We saw a big breakthrough in this regard late last year when a dealer studio inside the Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget went live. It’s only available to New Jersey players, but baby steps I guess.
Just last month plans were announced for a 16,000 square feet live dealer studio in Vancouver, licensed by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation and set to be up and running before year’s end. The North American (regulated) live dealer footprint is definitely getting bigger.
BL: Agreed on the US situation, lets hope my home country gets its act together one of these days. In the meantime, in what ways do you predict are we going to see innovation in live dealer offerings over the next five to ten years?
David: Bigger studios, more tables, more tweaks to game play options to satisfy a wider range of playing preferences will no doubt continue. As will efforts to improve mobile delivery given the channel has well and truly proven itself.
In terms of completely new innovations, playing live dealers on VR goggles could be an interesting one. One provider has already hinted that they are going down this road.
BL: Fascinating as always David, thank you again for spending time with me today, lets try and do this again before another three years fly by!