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IN-DEPTH 10 January 2019
The future of live-dealer casinos

By Gambling Insider
Todd Haushalter, CPO, Evolution Gaming
Darwyn Palenzuela, Head of Live Casino, Pragmatic Play

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.

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

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.
IN-DEPTH 4 September 2019
Virtual reality: Creating next-gen experiences for players

Singular CEO George Shamugia discusses a new revenue stream for casino operators

The competition in online gaming is intensifying, with players becoming more and more demanding. In some markets, single-customer acquisition costs can reach up to €400 ($440) alongside growing churn rates. Furthermore, the online gaming sector struggles to attract one of the most lucrative groups of players – millennials. The experience provided by casinos no longer appeals to the younger generation.

On  the other hand, the video gaming industry perfectly understands the needs of millennials and by introducing elements of luck in their games offers the best of both worlds. With the launch of loot box systems and Grand Theft Auto’s in-game casino, we have seen their first successful steps in targeting the online gaming sector. GTA V online, with 33 million active players, recently opened an in-game casino, where players gamble real money on games such as poker, roulette, slots, etc. As a result, churn users returned and GTA Online reached the highest number of active players since its launch in 2013.

The online gaming industry has almost fully utilised the potential of the mobile medium. The time has come to look for new, innovative ways of delivering a next-gen experience to customers.

The potential of VR

Could the next big thing for online gaming be a fully fledged virtual reality (VR) casino delivering an immersive experience and limitless new opportunities?

Although not widely adopted yet, VR has a sizable number of customers. Analysts predict it’s poised for explosive growth to become mainstream in about five years. According to market intelligence firms, the VR market will be worth $117bn by 2022, and according to Juniper Research bets made through VR will reach $520 billion by 2021. Upcoming 5G mobile network technology will propel VR’s mass adoption by allowing the development of fully portable untethered and affordable VR headsets.

Different level of social interaction

The captivating nature of gambling comes from its social aspect. Unfortunately, personal interaction is widely missing from online gambling sites. VR technology creates multiple opportunities to bring back and even enhance that social moment. The ability to connect with other players is one of the main reasons behind Fortnite’s popularity. This form of co-experience is the next generation of entertainment. Research conducted by Facebook has found participants spend more time on VR compared to any other medium. This directly translates into increased profits for casinos.

Pokerstars has made efforts in this direction by implementing Voice UI. Instead of using hand controllers to make a call, pass, or raise, players give voice commands.

Another opportunity for bringing in the social element are the players’ avatars. They enable players to build their identity reflected in the avatars’ appearance, but also the avatar's social, competitive and community status. For instance, players are willing to pay real money for virtual drinks at the bar. Operators can offer these social touchpoints for free to VIP customers as an act of appreciation.

VR also brings a new dimension to customer support. Customer support can also be represented with avatars to assist the player in person. The social moment increases the LTV of players and contributes towards lower churn rates.

Rethinking game design

VR is a way more capable medium than a 2D mobile or desktop screen. Instead of copying the existing online experience, games must be redesigned from the ground up for a competitive advantage with VR. For example, a VR slot game can become fully immersive by teleporting the user into the slots’ world of Ancient Egypt. Next, enrich the experience with high-fidelity graphics, realistic spatial sounds and animations. When betting on virtual race cars, the user can be teleported inside the car he/she made a bet on and experience the race firsthand.

New revenue streams

VR casino lobbies create new revenue stream opportunities: ad placement of brands on the venue walls, company logos decorating the bar etc. This kind of branding is not intrusive in the VR space and feels natural from the user's perspective. VR also gives users the ability to change venues from a Las Vegas casino today, to Macau or even Mars casino, the very next day. The dynamic and diverse experience increases retention rates.

The majority of profits for online gaming operators come from their high-roller players. Although they represent a small subset of active players, an operator can launch a separate VR casino brand for them. Providing exclusive VR gaming experiences to high rollers/VIPs, the operator can minimise churn and maximise VR efforts for these player demographics.

The catch with VR is to focus on quality, rather than scale. The target audience might be limited yet, once these players experience it, they will become ambassadors for your offering.

Surely, the opportunities and possibilities offered by the VR medium truly exceed anything offered by mobile and desktop. VR is a new frontier not just for gaming but for every industry, and it’s exciting to see where it takes the industry and what kind of innovation it brings upon us.