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April 26, 2011

The Future of Live Casino



How will new technologies and web trends impact this rapidly growing sector?


Live streaming video and audio are the most obvious differentiators between live dealer software and the previous generation of Random Number Generated (RNG) online casino software. Without a doubt, since the mid 2000s, users of the Internet have adapted their expectations to go beyond just reading about a topic of interest in favour of seeing and hearing via richer online media, primarily video and audio streams. Beyond the enormous popularity of YouTube (which is not live) , Internet users are rapidly flocking to websites with real-time, or near real-time, video clips, such as BBC.com, SkySports.com and myriads of others which offer the user the ability to experience the news or sports versus simply getting the facts.

User experience

Live dealer casinos embrace the sights and sounds that you would expect to find in a land-based casino and deliver it you in a fully interactive session from your own home. The result is a far richer experience – way beyond simply verifying the live results of a casino game on camera, as was the goal of Version 1.0. The advancements of browser technology have enabled modern live dealer casinos who embrace these technologies to offer a very special interpersonal experience that combines elements of socialisation, gaming, and individual user personalisation. This personalisation allows each player to not only get the excitement of real-time gaming with all the elements of trust that are expected from live casino offerings, but also to achieve individualised social experience that marries so well with the gaming experience that keeps players coming back for more. As a case in point, many of our players choose to visit the ViG live dealers and their playing colleagues even when they do not have funds to wager as, occasionally, the desire to remain part of the social community is as important to a player as the gaming experience itself. We have found that it is important to actively nurture this global community, much like social networking sites nurture theirs. The value of this network of players is enormous to our company, enabling us the critical mass required to experiment with new games, products and technical innovations – not to mention that the lifetime player value, financially, is many times of that of an RNG casino and multiples of other live casinos that do not emphasise the community element of their product.

Technology

Technologically, live casino software vendors are able to draft behind significant trends in the Internet, overall. For example, in 2011, companies like ViG are targeting their core product to broadband users due to the overwhelming growth of global broadband availability in recent years. With this backdrop, we can deliver near HD quality to many users, while offering less data intensive streams to users with slower connections. Moreover, modern Content Distribution Network (CDN) technology can automatically detect a user’s optimal download rate and deliver the appropriate stream to optimise the user’s experience. Other advanced features of user interface technology allows user to select the shot they want to see or choose fully automated picture-in-picture video switching that is digitally synchronised to the actions of the dealer.

In recent years, Version 2.0 live dealer software has moved from java and .exe ‘heavy’ user applications to more lightweight Flash based technology. While that has taken the industry a large step forward and made integration with third-party websites fairly clean and easy, Flash has some limitations, particularly on the fastest growing set of Internet clients, mobile phones. The most significant change in the technical landscape moving ahead is the launch of HTML5 as a delivery platform for live online games. The magic of HTML5 is that it is a standard that will be accepted across all browsers and mobile phone platforms, something Adobe Flash cannot boast. Not only will the HTML5 client applications deliver high quality, rich user features on standard Internet browsers, it will open up the world for Apple iPhone and Android users (and others) to have access to their gaming accounts from virtually anywhere, 24/7. In fact, this expanded distribution via mobile phone technology will open up entirely new markets where physical broadband is not yet available, having been leapfrogged by 3G and 4G wireless networks accessible by iPads and Smartphones. The possibilities for product development in live casino technology in the coming years is virtually unlimited, and it will surely be exciting times for those firms who embrace the changes.

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Martin Reiner is the CEO of Visionary iGaming, a premier provider of live online casino games, and has been bringing technological and business innovation to the Live Dealer market since the 2005. Prior to entering the online gaming community, Mr Reiner was active in the US financial derivates marketplace and held several senior roles including SVP of the Chicago Board of Trade.

This article is featured in iGaming Business Magazine - May/June 2011 issue.