Live Dealer got off to a delayed start in New Jersey, with the vertical first launching at Golden Nugget nearly three years after the iGaming industry had gone live in the state. One year after the debut of the live/online hybrid, GN licensee Betfair got on board, followed by Borgata, and its umbrella of sites this April.
It has proven no less than a boon for the emergent market, gradually picking up momentum with each passing quarter.
Now, with the recent entrance of leading Live Dealer provider Evolution Gaming, and its aggressive play to strike partnerships with as many Garden State gaming sites as possible, the format is set to explode and is likely to become ubiquitous at NJ online casinos.
Evolution changes the game
While Live Dealer games are staples of international online gambling sites, they didn’t appear in New Jersey until August 2016, when Golden Nugget opened its own dedicated streaming studio in a partnership with software provider Ezugi.
This summer, however, the scene changed drastically, starting with the grand opening of Atlantic City’s Hard Rock in June. The property, built on the foundation of the defunct Trump Taj Mahal, will serve as the studio hub for Evolution’s NJ Live Dealer operations.
A flurry of announcements followed, with the company promising to power Live Dealer — or as Evolution calls it, Live Casino — operations at several casinos starting this summer.
Hard Rock was the first to go live, debuting its offering on August 16, and becoming the first Live Dealer operation to be housed outside of Golden Nugget.
The Hard Rock launch was impressive, robust and surprisingly polished. On the technical side, the broadcast quality is top-notch, and there are very few problems with server lag.
In terms of game selection, Hard Rock came out ahead as well, offering Ultimate Texas Hold’em and Three Card Poker, two games not seen at Golden Nugget’s studios. It also beat out GN in offering the blackjack Bet Behind feature, an option which solves the problem of limited table space by allowing a near unlimited number of online players to bet along with the main seat holder.
A trio of new Live Dealer sites, more coming
With its innovative and unique home-grown software, Play SugarHouse is known as one of the more progressive gaming sites in the state. That said, it was no surprise that the Rush Street Gaming-owned company would want to jump into the Live Dealer business as soon as technically possible.
888, on the other hand, is a different story. The company opened its virtual casino in 2013, but made virtually zero effort to improve it until only recently. Its work to strike partnerships with slot machine providers and bring more titles to the site, along with its adoption of Live Dealer shows that it has finally gotten serious about its NJ offering.
Ocean Online Casino, along with Resorts Casino, have also announced partnerships with Evolution, and plan to launch their own Live Dealer operations in the coming months.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Evolution continues to spread, teaming up with other Caesars and Resorts licensees to offer the vertical in the future.
Evolution is well-prepared to handle the influx of business. While several casinos may be broadcasting live from the Hard Rock property, the software company has created a bespoke experience for each individual brand, giving players the impression that they are gambling with dealers dedicated to their specific site of choice.
Outside looking in
Evolution also offers its clients a creative way for online players to tap into the hustle, bustle and excitement of a real brick-and-mortar casino, through its signature Live Tables and Dual Play Roulette tables.
Golden Nugget offer something similar, and was the first to introduce the concept in the state back in March.
These types of tables are located on the actual casino floor, and allow online players to bet alongside real-life gamblers inside the casino. While the traditional Live Dealer environment is somewhat closed off from the rest of the world, watching and gambling with the characters who stop by to place a bet on a roulette spin, for example, is a great way to spice up your gameplay.
Casino officials hope that the tables, which will be surrounded by cameras, will be an eye-catching addition on the floor, and serve to attract new customers to the games.
How will the proliferation of Live Dealer affect market share
While it’s hard to pinpoint just how much each individual online casino is making, due to the fact that earnings are grouped by main licensee in reporting, it’s clear that Golden Nugget’s monopoly on the game helped its rise to become the top-earning AC online gambling license holder.
Live Dealer launched in August 2016 there, and in two months, the licensee’s revenue jumped from around $3.5 million-$4 million. What’s more, the games had become so popular after launch that both Golden Nugget and Betfair were forced to extend hours of operation and add new tables to accommodate more customers. Last month, Golden Nugget became the first operator to crack $9 million in gross gaming revenue, presumably in part due to the explosion of Live Dealer.
Borgata, for its part, broke its all-time revenue record in April, the first month that Live Dealer was in operation for the entire month.
It’s certainly possible that the gaggle of new online casinos offering Live Dealer could chip away at Golden Nugget’s market share, but the licensee is already well ahead of the competition, beating out its closest competitor, Borgata, by around $5 million in July.
What’s more, even though Play SugarHouse has decided to partner with Evolution, not with GN’s Ezugi, studio, the site falls under Golden Nugget’s license. Any play at Play SugarHouse Live Dealer tables will still contribute to the GN bottom line.
888, which falls under Caesars, traditionally the lowest earning licensee, could certainly use the boost which Live Dealer games might provide. Whether customers will decide to fire up 888, or try out one of the state’s shiny new casinos, Hard Rock or Ocean, is still anyone’s guess.