When online casinos first emerged two decades ago they revolutionized the way we play. For the first time in history we were able to to make wagers and play our favorite games without having to leave the comfort of our homes. They also presented us with a huge variety of titles not normally seen in traditional land-based casino. Live Casinos are the natural progression of the virtual online casinos. Live Games, just like the name suggests, are played live. They are hosted by professional dealers and the take place in real time. The Live Casino feature has become a vital part of any online, with its importance beginning to rival that of slots.
History of Live Casinos
At the very start, Live Games were not as widely available as they are now. Few casinos only hosted them and they used in-house developed software, for the most part, which was really hit or miss. As the technology improved over time and the demand for Live Dealer Games increased, many major online casino software development companies started creating their own software and offering it to casinos. The increase in competition lead to companies developing better and better versions, trying to outdo each other. As the software providers implemented more advanced features to the Live Dealer Games, users got to enjoy a plethora of new games and a never before seen increase in quality.
Currently, the inclusion of live dealer games has become an industry standard for any top-tier online casino. The availability of live games is often indicative of a casino’s dedication to its player base to providing them with the best possible service. With improvements in the technology and high-speed Internet becoming a household commodity, Live Games have enjoyed immense popularity and are played by millions of casino enthusiasts all over the globe. Judging by this it seems that Live Casinos are a big part of the future of gambling and as such are here to stay.
How it all works
Providing quality Live Games is no easy feat. From the consumer side of things, everything is as easy as clicking a button, but there are many processes going on in the background hidden from view.
Running a Live Casino is a costly thing to get into and even more expensive to maintain. When live dealer games first became available, the operations were run by the casinos themselves. The casino rented a studio and the software was created in-house. The results were inconsistent, with the live games varying in terms of quality and stability. The practice was clearly flawed and as soon as casino software provider companies started licensing out their own takes on the live casino, online casinos dropped their own versions and embraced this uniform approach.
Already established providers like Playtech and Microgaming began developing their own live dealer software and studios and simultaneously new development houses emerged whose single goal was the creation of this type of software. Companies like Evolution Gaming, Extreme Live Gaming, and Actual Gaming are only focused on the creation of live dealer software.
Software providers stream the games out of professional studios or out of land-based casinos, in some cases. They are entirely responsible for the maintenance of the software and the equipment. This approach is much more effective in terms of cost and quality, as the online casinos only need to rent the service, rather than create it themselves. All in all, this benefits all sides and the method has been proven to work.
The typical live dealer game user interface may appear to be complex at first glance, but in reality, it is anything but. Naturally, there are similarities and differences between the software of each company, but the main idea is relatively the same. In the center, you will find the video footage, which is streamed live to you. To the side, you will see several other useful features, such as the chat window, where you can communicate with other players and the dealer, or the table’s bet limits. Some software providers also include a statistic, which show your past hands, wins and losses.
It is common practice to also include a graphic table, where your cards, and those of the dealer and other players can be seen. Live games have an inherent advantage over those in land-based casinos, in the sense that you can instantly see much more details and statistics, without forcing yourself to remember it all. Bets are placed in the same way that you would in virtual games. Overall, the live casino software is very intuitive allowing you to play any of the games without hassle or in-depth knowledge of the system works.
Technology and Hardware
The technology behind live casinos is not the simplest thing in the world. It is a complex patchwork of software, hardware, and human staff. Naturally, for you to receive the video feed it has to be captured first. The whole process takes place in a professional studio where the games are filmed using state of the art cameras. Most games feature only one camera, but it is common practice for roulette games to have three or more camera angles. The footage is then broadcast over the Internet to your computer so that you can place your bets. The staff generally consists of croupiers, a pit boss, cameramen and an information technology manager.
When Live Casinos were still in their infancy only a few software companies could actually provide this feature. But as time passed and the technology became better and more accessible, more companies began offering their own take on this genre. As of 2017 more than 15 different development companies are competing against each other to supply as many online casinos as possible.
Evolution Gaming is one of the companies that pioneered the Live Dealer genre. It was founded in 2006 with a specific goal in mind, and that was to provide the best Live Casino experience to players. Whether the company has succeeded in doing that is up to you to decide, but it has become fact that Evolution Gaming serves as a standard to what Live Dealer Gaming should be. It operates out of three separate studios across Europe located in Malta, Romania, and Latvia, and features nearly 300 tables and employs over 1,000 dealers. Evolution provides high-quality gameplay and, in some cases, localized games. It is not by accident, that it has become an industry leader and gained the adoration of so many players.
Playtech, one of the largest casino software providers is also a leader in the development of live play. This company had its start in 1998 on the Isle of Man and since then has experienced exponential growth. It currently has offices all over the world and is showing no signs of stopping. The company uses three studios to provide the service, one in the Philippines, one in Latvia, as well as in Romania, which is the newest one. Playtech also streams from Gran Madrid, a land-based casino, in Spain.
Microgaming is another company that is on the forefront of casino software development. This beloved games provider is one of the oldest out there, having been established back in 1994. Since then it has supplied countless casinos with top quality slots, blackjack, roulette, video and table poker games. When Live Games began rising in popularity, Microgaming hopped on the band wagon and developed its own version to critical acclaim and great success. Currently, Microgaming is among the biggest names in the industry and enjoys a dedicated player base.
Extreme Live Gaming
One of the younger entities on this list, Extreme Live Gaming is, like Evolution Gaming, dedicated to developing exclusively Live Games. Founded in 2013, the company showed great promise and in 2014 it was acquired by Novomatic. In 2015 ELV went into full operation with the launch of its London studio. Though they do not have the same quantity of games as other older developers, the company is making great progress and its future looks bright.
NetEnt is a major software provider for the online casino industry. This company has been in the business since 1996 and has accomplished much in terms of game development. It services over 150 different online casinos and the NetEnt name is known to every experienced gambler. NetEnt’s live casino variant came out in 2013, relatively late compared to its rivals. Due to this reason, NetEnt’s live game selection is somewhat poor and the company has a lot of ground to cover if it wishes to catch up to the likes of Evolution Gaming or Playtech.
Amaya is another big name in the online casino industry. This company was founded in 2004 with the intent of creating virtual casino games. Several companies operate under the Amaya brand, more specifically software providers Cryptologic and Ongame. In 2012 Amaya launched its live platform aimed at the European market. The studio is located in Estonia and features several games. Though not as popular as some of the others on this list, Amaya is certainly in it for the long haul and we should definitely expect something big in the future.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Playing with Live Dealer is by all accounts an amazing experience. However, there may be some skeptics out there, so here we will discuss both the positives and the negatives of live games.
Starting with the positives, you get to play at an authentic casino atmosphere without the need to get up from your chair. You get a comfortable first person view of the table, the cards, and the dealer, as you would if you were playing at a brick-and-mortar casino. The chat system allows you to interact with the other players and the staff, and some online casinos have even implemented voice communication so that users can speak freely.
Another argument for live dealer games is that the chance for fraud is virtually none. Despite the fact that all online casinos are regulated and subject to frequent inspections, some players still do not trust virtual games. There are those that claim that the random number generations system are rigged in favor of the casino and that only a human dealer can provide you with fair results. Those players can now put their fears to rest. The dealer has no interaction with the cards other than dealing them. In the unlikely event that the croupier tries to tamper with the cards, the whole thing will be captured on video and proper action will be taken to compensate the players.
On the negative spectrum, we have some issues that are inherent to all kinds of online play. Firstly, you would need a stable and quick Internet connection to maintain your session. The streaming of high definition video and audio to your desktop will take up quite a bit of bandwidth, so if you are on a capped plan, this may turn out to be problematic. Live games are also not suitable for mobile play either due to the same reason. Naturally, the needed data will vary depending on your location and the software provider in question, but you will still need a good connection.
Another issue that you may experience is when there is a loss of connection. In this event, the casino typically has some system in place to save the last bet you made. However, this is a live game and it will move forward with or without you. If you have to make a decision, such as to hit or to stand in blackjack, you will not be able to do so and the outcome will most likely not be in your favor.
This next one is more an annoyance than a real problem, but it is true nonetheless. A brick-and-mortar casino is noisy, there are many people all cramped together in a closed space. A live casino studio is not all that different. Often there are many dealers within arms distance of each other and you will be able to hear the chatter which may take away from your enjoyment.
Running and maintaining a Live Casino is an expensive venture, the software license needs to be paid, the staff needs to be compensated for their work, the equipment needs to be properly serviced by professionals, etc. There are many costs which need be justified, as a result it is very likely that you will have to foot the bill. Bets at Live Casinos have a higher minimum compared to their virtual counterparts. Higher wagers also mean that will play for a shorter time unless you keep hitting win after win.
Additionally, due to the aforementioned high cost of operation, a Live Casino is likely to host fewer games than you might expect to find. The scarcity of games is the biggest issue that you might have. Although most of the top-tier providers include a good variety of games and a sufficient number of tables, some of the smaller ones are still struggling to improve their service.
The legal aspect of a live casino depends entirely on the laws in your jurisdiction. There are many government regulatory bodies in the world that regulate gambling, both online and land-based. The vast majority of online casino have to earn certification from the regulator in order to offer their services in the country in question. The laws regarding online gambling vary between jurisdictions with some allowing it without issue, others regulating it or, in some cases, completely prohibiting it.
In the United Kingdom, the regulatory government body is the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. Any operator wishing to provide and advertise their service must first gain a license. The UKGC is one of the most respected gambling regulatory bodies in the world and its name carries a lot of weight. Any casino holding certifications from it is sure to be a reputable and honest operation.
Gambling is generally legal for all Canadian citizens, with each province having its own laws and issuing the licenses. The legal gambling age in Canada is 19 years of age, with the exception of Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec where it is 18. Most online casinos offering their services to Canadian players gain their license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission.
In the United States, on the other hand, online gambling is illegal in most of the country, with the exception of some states, such as New Jersey. All forms of online betting were allowed in the past, but the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 brought an end to that. Currently, there are only a handful of online casinos that offer their services to US citizens, and they do so under strict restrictions.
Live Dealer Games
Live dealer games are the best way to experience traditional casino gaming. They offer you the opportunity to play in a true land-based casino atmosphere while retaining the convenience aspect of virtual games. Live Games represent the biggest leap in technology that the online casino industry has seen since its inception in the 90’s.
The number of games that you can play at a Live Casino depends on a lot of factors, mostly the company that provides the software. Different providers will feature different games, in varying quantity. Although it is become a standard to include blackjack, roulette, baccarat and some form of casino poker. Each game is played at a dedicated table with the dealer being present at all times. For blackjack and poker, there are limited seats, as the croupier needs to deal cards to each individual player. Roulette and baccarat, on the other hand, have no such limitations and can, theoretically, be played by an infinite number of players.
One cannot image a Live Casino without the addition of blackjack. This classic casino game has been the favorite of many players over the years. Most live casinos feature the classic version of blackjack, with 7 seats at the table, though there may be more ‘modern’ versions where the more than 7 players can take part. The main goal of blackjack is to get a higher score than the dealer without going over 21. It is simple enough to appeal to a wide range of players, but also complex enough to allow for the skilled to excel at it.
It should go without saying that any live casino will feature some form of roulette. In fact, roulette is one of the easiest games to adapt into a live version. Unlike blackjack or poker, roulette does not necessarily have a maximum player limit. One or one hundred players may bet on a single roulette table simultaneously and it would have no effect on the game. For this reason, roulette is one of the most played live games presently. The big three variations – American, French, and European Roulette – are the ones that you are most likely to encounter, though there several lesser known types in some casinos.
The implementation of the live version of baccarat is perhaps one of the simplest one to make so the fact that it was one of the first live games to be offered is hardly a surprise. Baccarat has been a main attraction at traditional gambling establishments for centuries and with the rise in popularity of online casinos, it has found a dedicated player base. There are three main styles of baccarat – Baccarat Chemin de Fer, Baccarat Banque, and Punto Banco. Out of those, Punto Banco is the one that you are most likely to find at an online casino. Each variation has its own different rules, but the main premise behind the game stays the same. Its simplistic nature makes it a fan favorite and featured at most online casinos.
Live Casino Poker
Casino poker is another popular casino game that has been implemented into a live version. Unlike traditional poker where you play against other players, here you are trying to beat the dealer. All of the card combinations are as you would expect them to be, but the rules are somewhat different. There are several live poker styles that can play at most online casinos, with some of the more popular ones being Live Casino Hold’em Poker, Live Caribbean Stud Poker, and Live Casino Texas Hold’em Poker. Each of these has a very dedicated player following, and they are also some of the most player virtual games at online casinos.