While online casinos are a great way to enjoy many casino games, there are some aspects of brick-and-mortar casino gaming that many players miss. Many sites offer live dealer games to bridge the gap between the offline (real-world) and online gambling experience. But what exactly are they? And what do we know about the past, present, and future of these games?
Join us as we explore the answers to these questions.
What are live dealer games?
The answer to the question, “What are live dealer games?” is fairly simple: These are games hosted by a live dealer for an online casino (that’s right, a real human). These casino games are broadcast online from specially equipped studios, which often have professional lighting, multiple cameras, high-quality microphones, and sometimes even green screens. While some studios show other live dealer games taking place in the background, others choose to keep it to one game per studio room – it all depends on the online casino you’re visiting.
Players can interact with the dealer and the game in real-time via text, voice, and video chat – depending on the platform – giving players a more socialized gaming experience than playing online against a machine-run game. Live dealer games also provide an additional layer of trust for those who don’t like to play against random number generators (RNGs) in digital games.
Some of the most common live dealer games are blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and three-card poker, but you also get other games like lottery, bingo, and wheel games. These entertainment experiences use the traditional equipment you would expect from the live version of the game, but bets are made and tracked digitally, so chips are often absent from the table.
This type of casino game is a great experience for players who want to take advantage of its benefits, but some of us might be wondering, “How long have live dealer games been around?”
The first online casino launched in 1994, just months after the internet became accessible to the public and over a decade before live dealer games really took off. The introduction of these online digital casinos…
The first online casino launched in 1994, just months after the internet became accessible to the public and over a decade before live dealer games really took off. The introduction of these online digital casinos was only possible thanks to several developments.
The first of these was the passing of the Free Trade and Processing Act in Antigua and Barbuda in 1994. This law allowed organizations to apply for a license to operate online gambling sites. The second was the development of online casino software, with renowned developer Microgaming claiming to have developed the first true online gambling software in the same year the Free Trade and Processing Act passed.
However, it wasn’t until Cryptologic developed and launched secure, encrypted communications for financial transactions in 1995 that the first real-money online gambling sites got off the ground. The first real-money online wager took place not long after in 1996.
But the online gambling sites that appeared during the mid-1990s were basic. Computers were not the multimedia powerhouses they are today and would’ve struggled to load just the operating systems we use on modern computers, let alone things like internet browsers, apps, or games.
Computers weren’t the only things that were slow by today’s standards; internet connectivity was also incredibly limited. The first internet-enabled devices that most regular people had access to offered speeds measured in kilobits per second. Many users owned internet dial-up modems (remember them?), which could only provide speeds between 28.8Kbps and 56.6Kbps – a far cry from the zippy speeds most of us can access today.
These computers and internet connections were just about fast enough to load short, low-quality, and low-resolution video clips – and even then, the connection would take some time to buffer the video before it played. But it wouldn’t be too long before the technology would reach the point where live dealer games would be not only possible but also a great way to play.
Trailblazing the live format
In 1998, a poker website called Planet Poker was the first to bring live dealer games to players on its platform. The implementation was inferior by today’s standards, which was unsurprising considering broadband internet would really only start to take off a year later. Still, it showed that the idea could work.
In 2006 after broadband internet had truly become mainstream, two companies decided to launch live dealer gaming services. One of these was Microgaming, the online gambling pioneer, which launched a live baccarat service before expanding its offering to include other games such as blackjack, roulette, and poker. The second was a company that only offered live dealer games: Evolution Gaming. This specialist service quickly became a popular way for many casinos to provide live dealer games to their players, with the “live casino” offering many games, including blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker.
Casinos and entrepreneurs saw the potential and demand for live dealer games, and over the years, the industry continued to grow. New providers appeared, existing game developers began to offer their services, and others offered live dealer games directly from their brick-and-mortar casinos. Live dealer games also got mobile support as smartphones and tablets became a popular way for people to play at online casinos. Playboy even got in on the action, with “bunny” live dealers running games for players worldwide.
In 2017, game developer Playtech launched the world’s largest live dealer studio in Riga, Latvia. It was equipped with the latest tools for broadcasting the games, as well as hundreds of custom-made items for the studio, dealers, and gaming areas, a state-of-the-art monitoring and control center, and even a training campus. The attention to detail and extensive facilities showed how much the company was investing in this growing part of the industry.
While it’s great to be able to look back at where the live dealer industry has come from, many readers might be wondering, “How popular does this type of game remain today?”
Live dealer players probably already know the good news considering the number of games being launched. This casino game genre continues to thrive and is now, according to H2 Gambling Capital…
Live dealer players probably already know the good news considering the number of games being launched. This casino game genre continues to thrive and is now, according to H2 Gambling Capital, estimated to be worth about $1.2 billion per year. This is undoubtedly a reassuring sign for fans of this type of casino game: Not only will these games be around for a while, but many new titles – and developers – are likely to jump on the live dealer bandwagon in the future too.
While these estimates are undoubtedly positive, a report from the United States Online Gambling Market – Growth, Trends and Forecasts (2020-2025), shows that live dealer games, which have been very popular for a while in Europe, are still growing in popularity in the US, despite the country’s incredibly strict online gambling laws. These strict laws are possibly why the US is still seen as a fledgling market for live dealer games. While such games have been on the rise for many years, the Covid-19 pandemic has probably also helped escalate demand for a more “traditional,” “casino-like” experience that people can enjoy online.
But whatever the exact reason may be, casinos and companies such as Evolution Gaming are investing heavily into growing this genre of games in the US. This means this market is expected to grow even further, particularly as more states look to change their laws regarding online and offline gambling (so watch this space).
On top of this incredibly positive news, Evolution Gaming also announced 12 live dealer games would be coming out in 2021. Some of these are fresh and interesting twists on existing games, such as Instant Roulette and Power Blackjack, while others are completely new, like its much-anticipated title, Crazy Time.
Evolution’s giant leap forward
Another major, if not the biggest, recent development in the live dealer gaming space is the acquisition of NetEnt by the live dealer gaming studio, Evolution Gaming. On June 24, 2020, Evolution Gaming announced it was making a public offer to the shareholders of NetEnt worth approximately $2.1 billion. NetEnt opened its doors as a casino game developer back in 1996 and became a key player in the industry. The company has released many online slot hits, including Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, and Guns N’ Roses. The highly successful studio saw the potential of live dealer games and launched NetEnt Live in 2013 to compete with other live dealer game providers. By combining NetEnt’s massive library of successful gaming hits with Evolution Gaming’s incredible live dealer service, a new powerhouse in the “iGaming” space would come to life.
On December 1, 2020, Evolution Gaming completed its acquisition of NetEnt, moving forward under the new name, Evolution. This merger would see the end of the NetEnt Live service, but other products would still be published under the NetEnt brand.
The purchase of NetEnt by Evolution Gaming shows an important shift in the online gambling industry: Live dealer games are leading the online space. After all, it was a live dealer company that acquired a company better known for online slots, not the other way around. This also shows the levels of success that the live dealer genre of games has achieved in such a relatively short time, which is undoubtedly a great sign for the sector’s growth.
Fans will undoubtedly be pleased to hear about the continued growth in popularity when it comes to live dealer games, but what developments can they look forward to?
While we may not have a crystal ball to help us see what is yet to come, there are many paths and options that we can expect live dealer providers to explore in the future. Here are some of the possibilities that…
While we may not have a crystal ball to help us see what is yet to come, there are many paths and options that we can expect live dealer providers to explore in the future. Here are some of the possibilities that players can get excited about.
While players have undoubtedly had a good time with the usual games of blackjack, roulette, and poker, it’s vital that they can access a wider variety of gaming options beyond the classic casino experiences. The game providers know this will be good for the industry in the long run, which is why big companies have already begun to introduce completely new experiences, as seen by Evolution Gaming’s 2020 release, Crazy Time. The concept behind this new game show may not “reinvent the wheel’” but it’s something original, so it’s definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to giving players more gaming choices.
And if games like these prove to be successful, perhaps we can look forward to developers using their resources to create experiences that are unique to the live dealer genre? Ones that further blur the line between the online and offline experience?
Better games on the go with 5G
While players can happily enjoy live dealer gaming on a stable Wi-Fi or home internet connection, some mobile internet solutions such as 4G are still not ideal for live games and may disconnect or cause your actions to “lag” when you play. This is why so many people are excited about the arrival of 5G, which not only increases the speed of your connection but offers far greater reliability and responsiveness. This is great news because not only will individual players be able to receive better service on the go, but the quality of live dealer games being produced for this medium should improve no end too!
More mobile-compatible experiences
Many live casino providers now offer players the option to play games on mobile and have taken great steps to improve the stability and performance of the games they make available. However, the range of games offered is lower than the number of games on PC, which is understandable considering the screen sizes of many mobile devices.
However, developers have found ways to provide access to games that hadn’t previously been playable on the go, and there’s hope that solutions may be found for other games that currently don’t have mobile support so that the full range of games can be accessed across mobile and desktop devices.
Higher quality of interaction
While live dealer games are undoubtedly a more interactive and social experience than regular online casino games, we’ll likely see developers look for even more ways for players to connect with the dealer and with each other.
For example, while most platforms allow players to chat with the dealer, many don’t allow banter between them. By providing players with the option to engage more easily, many platforms could begin building stronger gaming communities for their players. Allowing players to create clubs or private rooms for the friends they make on the platform is another way to push the social aspect of live gaming and keep them coming back.
In addition to this, providers could develop quality-of-life improvements, such as better notification systems, or simply extras that are cool and fun, such as custom emojis and bots that run mini-games or execute music requests. Augmented-reality-style gestures could even be on the cards as the technology progresses for providers who allow players to use their webcams. One thing’s for sure: This is an exciting space to watch!
When looking at virtual reality (VR) and its place in live dealer games, we’re looking at how it can be used to make players feel more like they’re in the room rather than transporting them to a whole new digital space. While this may begin with simple fixed-camera setups at tables, where the camera moves accordingly with the player’s VR headset, eventually, this idea may be taken further through “robotic avatars” or other similar machines that the player uses to view, navigate and interact with the real environment. In essence, the experience looks set to become even smoother and more seamless. We’ll take a bit of that!
Even better video and production quality
Since the beginning, people who’ve been playing live casino games will have seen how the video and production quality has improved over time. Where players once only had low-resolution video options due to internet and live casino budget constraints, today they have access to much higher-quality video streams and better-produced games. In addition to this, where the studios’ recording and game equipment were once much lower quality, game providers can now afford to spend more money on better-quality sets, such as game tables and equipment, including professional camera, lighting and sound tools. This helps elevate the overall look and feel of live dealer games and further cements their place in the industry with a much more professional edge.
All these upgrades have helped improve the player experience, and as tools develop and game studios become more sophisticated, players will be able to appreciate better quality experiences thanks to even higher production values.
Enjoy live dealer games today with Borgata Online
Now that we’re done exploring the past, present, and future of the live casino game industry, why not join in the fun and play at Borgata Online? When you play at our live casino online, you can enjoy a wide variety of great live games, including Infinite Blackjack, American Auto Roulette, and 3-Card Poker. And if you’re looking for a bit of variety, you can also try out our wide range of other online casino games, online poker tables or sports wagers!
So don’t miss out: Register at Borgata Online to play at our casino online!