888 Casino Awakens, Partners With Evolution Gaming To Spread Live Dealer Games

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888 Casino has announced a partnership with gambling software provider Evolution Gaming to bring Live Dealer tables to its online gaming site this summer.

The debut will likely make Caesars, 888’s land-based partner, the third NJ licensee to launch the popular vertical in the state. The move is yet another sign of 888’s renewed interest in its once neglected Garden State operation.

The Evolution Gaming offering

Evolution Gaming is a leading supplier of live casino solutions for both land-based venues and online gaming sites. The company boasts an impressive client list, which includes industry heavy hitters like William Hill, Rational Group, Unibet, and Betsson.

While the Evolution library includes over a dozen game types and variations, 888 Casino NJ will only offer the following six – at least at the start:

  • American roulette
  • Slingshot roulette
  • Blackjack (with sidebets and Bet Behind)
  • Three Card Poker
  • Ultimate Texas Hold’em Poker
  • Baccarat

The Bet Behind feature slated to be included in the site’s blackjack title is significant, in that it allows players to get in on the action even when the table is already full. Instead of lingering on the waitlist, players can opt to bet on the hand of a gambler already at the table. The feature has the potential to remove a major frustration for players, while increasing profit margins for the casino.

Also worth noting is that Ultimate Texas Hold’em Poker, Slingshot roulette, and Three Card Poker aren’t currently offered at any other NJ Live Dealer casino.

Studio location unknown

888’s choice to tap Evolution for its NJ Live Dealer games comes as no surprise. The two companies teamed up back in 2012 to bring the vertical to 888’s international site, 888.com. That operation is headquartered in Latvia at one of Evolution’s three dedicated offshore simulcast studios.

In New Jersey, however, 888 will not be able to tap into the same infrastructure, as doing so would be a violation of New Jersey gambling law. Instead, the company will need to either rent space from another authorized state iGaming studio or build its own inside one of Caesars’ Atlantic City properties.

While there are five sites currently offering Live Dealer games in the Garden State, they are all broadcast from the same studio inside Golden Nugget, which operates using Ezugi technology.

888’s partnership with Evolution suggests that the company will indeed build its own custom studio inside one of Caesars’ three Atlantic City casinos (Bally’s, Harrah’s and Caesars). Evolution not only provides the platform for Live Dealer games, it also specializes in building bespoke live casino studios, complete with branded tables and dealer uniforms.

Once the studio is operational, it would be no surprise if both Caesars and Harrah’s online casinos both began offering the vertical as well.

Live Dealer finally spreads

Golden Nugget was the first NJ online casino to debut Live Dealer tables, taking them live in August 2016. The games, which allow players to experience the social aspects and atmosphere of a brick-and-mortar casino from the comfort of home, were an instant hit.

GN partner site Betfair was second to the party, launching its own foray into live-streaming the following year. Due to the popularity of the games, both sites later expanded their hours of operation to accommodate player demand.

Golden Nugget continued to innovate this March, launching a different type of Live Dealer experience. This time, the casino brought the cameras outside of the studio and focused them on a real roulette table in operation on the actual Golden Nugget gaming floor. The setup immerses players even more deeply into a real-life casino atmosphere, while allowing them to place bets at the same time.

Evolution recently announced it would do something similar in a partnership with Resorts, although, strangely, only internet patrons in Europe will be able to wager on the games.

Borgata, and its licensees playMGM and Party Casino, were next to get their Live Dealer operations up and running. The games appeared inside the casinos’ game libraries quietly in April during a soft launch phase.

What impact will Live Dealer have on 888’s bottom line?

Caesars, 888’s umbrella venue, has traditionally been one of the poorer performing online casino licensees in the state. It didn’t help that 888, one of the first gambling sites to launch in NJ, made virtually no effort to improve its site until nearly five years later.

But the sleeping iGaming giant has now awoken and recently shown signs of life. In the past few months, it has added a bevy of new games to its site, coordinating the effort with a large-scale marketing push. The hard work seems to have paid off, as Caesars hit an all-time revenue high of $3,847,237 in March.

Live Dealer games are another piece of the puzzle, one that could certainly help increase 888’s slice of the NJ online gambling pie.

For Borgata, the addition of Live Dealer options definitely hasn’t hurt. May was the first full month that Live Dealer tables were operational at its own Internet casino and at its partner sites. In that same month, the licensee broke its all-time revenue record.

Whether Live Dealer tables played an instrumental role in the achievement is hard to gauge, but it seems clear that the popularity of the vertical will only boost 888’s profit margins in the long run.

Bill Grinstead

Bill has over a decade of experience working in diverse aspects of the online gambling space. He is currently focused on legal, US online gaming, which he has reported on since the industry first became regulated in the country.

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