The closure of physical casinos and suspension of sports tournaments in 2020 resulted in a banner year for live casino products. Experts believe that even as we return to normality, the live casino boom will be far from over.
“As a direct result of Covid, we are seeing and in my opinion will continue to see, a significant uptake in the online space,” comments Shaun McCamley of Euro Pacific Asia Consulting. “What we are seeing in this uptake is the need by players for more social interaction, this as a result of continued lockdowns and social distancing requirements many jurisdictions enforce.”
Live casinos aim to simulate the thrill of betting in a real-world casino environment, the croupier smiles as she deals cards, interacting with players using an in-built chat function.
McCamley pointed towards an innovative platform called Live Solutions, a B2B provider which operates “Casino Floor Live”, which is an infinitely scalable table games environment, with each table hosted by a live presenter. The players all get to video chat with each other and the host which creates social interactions and activity.
The tables can be hosted in any language and using any currency, with local presenters, speaking the local language, with local knowledge, working from home. It’s been described as “Zoom for casino”, according to McCamley.
“With many individuals in lockdown, craving social activity, the product seems to tick all the boxes and is already reporting very high demand from revenue-starved operators. Social isolation is going to be with us for quite some time, so the key message to operators is to act responsibly and look toward the long game,” he added.
QTech Games’ chief commercial officer Ulf Norder said that covid has been a prime accelerant in the trend towards digitalized entertainment.
“As the coronavirus closes casinos, live-casino products, in particular, have been thriving across Asia, delivering comparable gaming experiences from the comfort of players’ homes or on the move.”
Norder said that Qtech has used the period during the pandemic to bolster its existing live-dealer portfolio, including inking partnerships with Ezugi in February 2020 and Evolution in January 2021.
“Players are still eager to channel the visceral thrill of participating in a real-world casino, not to mention the chance for some long-delayed social interaction with the dealers themselves.”
“Speaking generally across the industry, a raft of Q3 and Q4 2020 results suggest a reversion to type, with products like poker declining rapidly, while live-dealer appears to be reliably retaining its audience, with newer habits progressively established.”
The pandemic has also sparked product innovation in the live casino industry.
Kfir Kugler, chief executive of live-casino provider Ezugi has seen a steady increase in popularity in “Live Casino Game Show” products over the course of the pandemic.
Live Casino Game Shows, as the name suggests, simulate a television game show. The croupier is effectively the show’s host – akin to a television presenter, and each viewer is effectively a contestant in the game show.
It mixes the thrill of betting in a live casino with television-level production.
One of the first entrants into the emerging product vertical was Evolution Games. Today, it has amassed one of the largest range of offerings, including Crazy Time, Monopoly Live, Lightning Roulette, Mega Ball, Dream Catcher, Deal, or No Deal Live, Lightning Dice, and Football Studio.
Playtech launched its “Adventures Beyond Wonderland” Live casino game show in November 2020 in the UK, which is based on an existing Playtech slot, but translating it into a new live experience. It is themed after the popular “Alice in Wonderland” story.
At the time of its release, Edo Haitin, managing director at Playtech Live said: “Today’s players demand innovative, experience-led content, and Adventures Beyond Wonderland offers that in spades. Taking a slot with an iconic theme, look and feel and bringing that to the Live Casino arena is a genuinely groundbreaking move… we believe Adventures Beyond Wonderland offers a uniquely enriched Live gaming experience.”
Its release was parallelled by Pragmatic Play around the same time, with their first entries into the growing Game Show market with titles including Mega Wheel in November and Mega Wheel Roulette in February.
As our industry moves towards digitization, this won’t be the last we’ll see of innovation from the live casino space.