IN-DEPTH 21 June 2016
Panel talk: The evolution of Live Casino
Technological advancement in Live Casino is moving forward at a rapid pace. But what lies ahead for the product? Are there any product development leaps left to make? Four industry experts have the answers
By Gambling Insider
Sam Brown Head of Live Casino at NetEnt
Kevin Kilminster Head of Live Casino Innovation, Playtech
Peter Nolan Managing Director, Genting
James Stern Director of Business Development & Land-based Sales, Evolution Gaming
What’s the appeal of Live Casino? Is its purpose to be a middle ground between brick-and-mortar casino and traditional online gambling? Or is it distinctly separate to both?
James Stern: Live Casino has huge appeal that crosses the perceived boundary. It’s not a middle-ground, nor is it separate to either brick-and-mortar casino or traditional online gambling.
It's actually a conduit between the offline and online casino worlds. It combines the thrill of the real gaming floor with the convenience of play-anywhere games on desktop, tablet and mobile. Whereas traditional online gambling is generally RNG-based, Live Casino is about people, interaction and a real-time shared suspense.
For land-based casinos, Live Casino extends the gaming floor and provides a vital convergent marketing tool. For pure online operators it brings the thrill of a real casino to online players.
Peter Nolan: At Genting, we see live casino very much as the bridge between land-based and online. Whilst land-based casino revenue has grown steadily in the Genting estate, the online gambling market has grown much faster and with the introduction of mobile gaming offers an anytime, anywhere experience. We believe Live Casino transcends both the land-based casino and online audiences; for those who enjoy playing live casino they can now play online, or in land-based casino with the security and confidence of a familiar brand.
Kevin Kilminster: Live Casino is one of the fastest growing verticals in gaming and is showing no signs of slowing down, with a younger demographic increasingly playing due largely to the phenomenal growth in mobiles and tablets.
We deliver first-class, experience-driven and brand-focused products. The beauty of our next generation live product is that it is available across all channels and devices offering players a seamless experience no matter on what or where they want to play.
In addition players need only have one account and one wallet for not just their live casino play, but all their gaming or betting activity, while our licensees have a single view of the customers regardless of product, channel or device.
Live is extremely popular for many reasons. It is an instantly accessible product replicating and arguably improving the land-based experience, as players play in the comfort of their own surroundings, wherever that might be. Alone, with friends, at home, or on the move are all easy options. The replicated land-based experience is in your hands, you can interact with the dealer, receive personal treatment, switch games at the touch of a button or click of a mouse as well as play content such as Speed or Prestige roulette online or on mobile that you may not be able to play in a real land-based environment.
For those used to the land-based experience and who want to continue playing away from the gaming floor, Live Casino offers the best experience possible and is tailor made to cater to that end of the market.
Live Casino offers everything and anything to all levels of player, new or experienced, and all accessible on whatever device or channel that player prefers to engage with.
Sam Brown: Live Casino is a great middle ground between online and retail. There’s an appeal for those customers who have traditionally less experience of random number generated games and want to interact with real people in a live environment.
Plus, Live Casino games are ‘classic’ casino games, which have that familiarity that attracts players from other products, such as sportsbook, who otherwise wouldn’t naturally look to play casino games. The connection between the brick-and-mortar casinos and the online casino environment provides an excellent opportunity to cross-sell.
The community aspect of Live Casino is another key reason for their success. Players play and interact with each other, and the dealers within the game. Live Casino offerings are a more social experience.
With that in mind, who are the customers Live Casino is aimed at?
SB: The strength of Live Casino is its cross-selling attractiveness. Bringing players across from sports provides operators with a great opportunity to increase revenue per user, which is of course good for the bottom line.
Live Casino players tend to be in slightly older age brackets, more likely to be traditional casino players with experience in playing Live Casino games such as roulette and blackjack in a brick-and-mortar environment. Those players that are more comfortable in a social gaming environment also make up a large part of the target demographic.
JS: Live Casino appeals to all types of player. Obviously there is strong demand from those who enjoy a true casino experience, irrespective of whether that person has visited a real land-based casino.
Live Casino will also attract players who bet on sports or who like the excitement of wagering of any kind, not just casino games. Operators can achieve great cross-selling conversion to Live Casino.
PN: Live Casino appeals to our core players who want to get a range of games, high quality tables, expert dealers and a competitive rewards programme for a casino that has 50 years of experience in the casino business. It’s about doing all of the basics well so that the player has a good experience at the tables.
Can Live Casino compete with the graphics and game play expectations of Millennials? If not, does it have a long term future as an online offering?
PN: We think it can compete. The advances in technology mean that you can get a great visual experience on a device of your choice.
We have invested heavily in the quality of the tables, and high technology cameras from up to 19 camera angles give television like quality. We think there is a very important trilogy – great pictures; the quality of dealing and the ability to bet to your limits is a simple but rewarding experience. Genting does this very well, it’s an enduring and compelling experience that we will look to evolve to meet the needs of Millennials.
JS: Having been raised on technology and gaming, most Millennials are very familiar with screen-based entertainment in all its forms. It's part of their everyday lives.
At Evolution we shoot in 16:9, in high definition and, for many games, with multiple cameras. As Live Casino is currently the fastest growing sector in online gaming, with great scope for continued development and growth, it will evolve and remain an important and engaging sector in the future.
We deliver an experience that is more real than any other online gaming product, which will result in longevity. We can combine real-time live action, dynamic user interfaces, audio, chat, personalised user settings, live data on game results and trends, and more.
If you look at "gamers" and games, they are all striving to create a "real" experience. We are as real as it gets!
Even if fewer Millennials have visited a land-based casino than their predecessors, they are very open to new experiences online and to games that have a social and interactive element. This makes convergence such a key area for land-based casinos.
SB: The graphical experience of Live Casino has a fantastic opportunity to develop at a fast more player-centric and intimate experience. This is perfect for Live Casino.
The ability to interact with other players and the dealer in a live environment helps creating a visual experience that is unique to the product – providing something different and exciting when compared to the traditional i-gaming world.
The long-term future looks healthy in this regard, with the possibility of utilising 360 video and virtual reality technologies meaning that the casino environment will only become more vivid and closer to the brick-and-mortar experience, in a player’s own home.
Additionally, as operators look to marry their live content offerings – such as sports games, results and events – with their gaming products, it’s within Live Casino that these crossover integrations are going to sit most comfortably.
Is Live Casino the ultimate tool in offline and online operator convergence?
JS: Yes, it brings everything together. Land-based casinos have two key assets – their brand and their player base, which they need to maximise both offline and online. Live Casino gives land-based operators the opportunity to offer a seamless multi-channel gaming experience.
They can offer an Evolution Dual Play Roulette table on-premise, which gives online players, wherever they may be, the chance to play at the same table as customers inside the actual casino. The land-based operator can extend online services with an on-premise studio on their actual gaming floor, or they can use live tables at our studios. They can even replicate an area of their land-based casino in our studios, with the live tables hosted by dealers in the same attire as their land-based staff, and offering the same promotions online as in the land-based venue.
Live Casino does not only extend the gaming floor to the land-based traditional players but it also provides then the opportunity to reach new audiences, and if executed correctly drive new business back into their premises.
PN: It is for the Genting brand. With more than 50 years of heritage in the gaming industry, our values, expertise and longevity mean we can play to our core strength of offering the best casino-based experience. For us, our new Live Casino product unites land based and online players in a single experience.
KK: Live Casino uses the most sophisticated technology available; from front-end HD cameras and the best land-based tables and gaming equipment money can buy, to the most experienced dealers and the most complex streaming technology and business intelligence live casino platform software.
We invest considerable sums in continually upgrading our multiple global live environments in four locations that cover Europe and Asia. Live may look like a virtual product but it takes investment into physical assets including hardware, large sophisticated studio locations and sets and hundreds of staff as well as investment in software, services and customer support to name a few areas, in order to make it a success. Live Casino has a huge future and, particularly as new markets continue to open and regulate, we will continue to invest and grow our offering in the years to come.
SB: When executed well, Live Casino can be the ultimate extension of a brand convergence between offline and online.
Every element of the online offering must be developed to the highest level for this to work, from the games themselves, to graphics, sounds and details such as ensuring the dealer’s tone of voice and personality fits that of the operator brand.
What is the future for Live Casino offerings? Is it simply a case of offering more games or has the technology got further to evolve?
SB: The possibilities for technological advancements are almost endless. Existing technologies such as streaming are sure to improve vastly in the next few years, providing more opportunities for graphics and products that require higher levels of data to be delivered effectively.
Adding more games into the Live Casino offering will also be a key trend, while ensuring truly great experiences across all devices and leveraging the increasingly social traits of online consumers looks to be another exciting possibility for development in the future.
JS: Continuing advances in technology will allow games to become more easily accessible and even more engaging. We’ve seen amazing growth in mobile gaming.
27% of total revenue last year was generated via tablet and smartphone, with leading operators now pulling in around 50% of revenue via mobile.
There will of course be new games and new variations, but classics such as roulette, blackjack and baccarat will never be displaced, and will continue to be enriched.
Our Baccarat Squeeze, with 15-plus cameras capturing all the action and the Squeeze in close-up is a good example, as is our soon to be released Double Ball Roulette.
Advances in video streaming and technology generally will ensure that Live Casino remains at the leading edge and that the player experience gets better and better.
PN: We have invested in making the Live Casino experience as realistic as possible with cutting edge cameras that add real value to the players experience. We cover all of the main games available in our land-based casinos – immersive roulette, blackjack, three card poker and baccarat – and for us, it’s about making the online experience as authentic as possible. Having familiar and well trained dealers who maintain a consistently high standard is something we pride ourselves on, both on and offline.
We intend to evolve our offering by taking that experience to appeal to a new audience.
What can operators do distinguish their Live Casino offering from their competitors?
KK: There are a number of areas where we distinguish our complete Live Casino offering from our competitors.
These include global reach; product differentiation; a fully omni-channel offering; a completely personalised player and customisable operator experience; as well as exclusive content and game variants.
Product differentiation is rapidly becoming the key battleground between brands, with those that are adopting next generation Live Casino seeing that it can be the deciding factor behind edging ahead of competitors in major regulated markets.
Greater differentiation and providing a more tailored and bespoke experience is the key to this. Our Live team has recently completed an extensive period of research analysing customer trends and behaviour, benchmarking and scrutinising thousands of data points and working closely with licensees to effectively redevelop and enhance key areas within the live platform to deliver the differentiation and personalised features and gameplay operators and players want.
That research has been put into practice, with every aspect of our new Live platform working faster, smarter and in alignment with individual operator requests. This includes enhanced control features, architectural improvements, new customisation tools and an entirely new look and feel that can be played across any channel and device the world over, at any time, in any location, with no restrictions and crucially with 100% reliability and localised authenticity.
As a result, the player experience is more responsive, personalised and engaging, meaning the likelihood of that player extending his or her session and/or returning is 50% higher than it was previously.
PN: Our heritage is what makes us stand out. Casino is at the heart of the Genting business and with more than 50 years of experience, we have unrivalled customer knowledge and insight. We’ve use this to ensure we offer the ultimate Live Casino experience, providing a level of service and quality that is synonymous with the Genting brand. Technology gets you to a point, but getting the right dealers, in the right environment and with the right interaction creates loyalty. Both in the mass market and VIP audiences.
SB: Within the game, there needs to be a host of unique and relevant interactions that create a social environment that keeps players coming back to that particular Live Casino – whether it’s through the community, the dealer’s interaction or the style and branding of the game. Integrating the Live Casino into the right areas of an operators’ offering, such as within their sportsbook i.e. making a seamless link between the sportsbook and the casino offering is crucial in order to cross-sell the product to existing customers.
JS: We can provide operators with dedicated tables and environments. They can have native speaking dealers, who are very good at forging strong rapport with players. This works particularly well in newly regulated markets.
With their own dedicated tables, operators can also use dedicated teams, run unique live promotions and cross-sell other verticals, all of which can prolong play and drive player loyalty.
The close connection with players can be strengthened further with the use of VIP hosts and behind-the-scenes brand ambassadors. There are so many possibilities.
Is it possible to offer an offline VIP experience online via live casino?
PN: Definitely. Replicating the Crockfords experience online has been a large part of our new offering. VIP players expect the best service whether in the club or online and so nothing can be compromised. Our online experience treats players in exactly the same way as our land-based players, down to the studio having the same carpet as our Crockfords lounges. Added to that you get additional features such as Genting Pay; the ability to be rewarded for online and offline play; dedicated VIP hosts; and a dedicated table if you play to those levels.
We’ve worked hard to provide a "rounded and high end experience" that meets the standards of our "high end players".
SB: As with brick-and-mortar casinos, attracting VIP players is a major factor to consider when ensuring online Live Casino success. If operators neglect the importance of VIPs online, they are certainly going to find it more difficult.
Again, it comes down to quality and trust. If offline VIPs can discover a Live Casino product which is developed to the highest standards, creating an online version that delivers a great casino experience, then there is no reason why VIPs won’t follow them into the online space.
JS: Most definitely. Evolution has been highly successful in creating a VIP Live Casino experience. Our standard offering is a mix of mainstream tables and VIP tables.
We have also created a number of dedicated salle privée areas for our operators, complete with VIP hosts in addition to the dealers.
Launching a dedicated area for Genting that replicates online a visit to Crockfords, one of the world’s most exclusive and distinguished casinos, gave us experience in this area.
We can even open up bespoke VIP tables for individual players, with the option to customise the cloth, cards, game speed and the dealer to meet the player’s needs.