Back in the early 1990s, a trip to the casino was limited to maybe a weekend evening. You’d need to travel somewhere gambling was not only legal, but also had a decent enough facilities offering table games like poker or blackjack. Las Vegas pretty much had a monopoly in the US, and places like Lausanne and Monaco were the major European hotspots.
When the internet made gaming at home a possibility, the entire gambling industry was shaken up considerably. Instead of a limited windows of opportunity, you could play online 24/7. Now, you don’t have to pay for an expensive taxi to the city centre, then stand around waiting for space at a table, or fork our even more money on overpriced drinks and food.
Suddenly you could lie on the couch, or even pick your phone on a lunchbreak, and play a game for a few minutes that would normally require several hours of time and dedication. The industry had changed forever.
Online gambling before live casinos
Alongside the early adopters, and then masses of gamblers who became online gambling fans when the industry really took off in the 2000s, there were always going to be detractors from online gambling. For many, the whole point of visiting a casino is about the experience. That’s why the venues in Vegas are often over the top when it comes to décor, and players will be offered fine dining and drinks as they gamble (as long as they’re spending enough). It’s a service driven industry, and you’ll be congratulated or commiserated by the dealer at the table, and treated like a King or Queen if you become a repeat customer.
When it comes to online gaming, this service aspect can sometimes be lacking. Despite the cool website designs and easy to access games, which you can play anytime, anywhere, and on practically any device, virtual casinos certainly lack a human element. The only communication between an actual living person often being the polluted chat boxes that sit virtually unused next to certain games, or if you need to get in touch with the game provider if there’s a problem. No congratulations, no extra level of customer service, just plain old casino gaming.
That is, until live casino came along.
The impact of live casinos
Live casino is a straightforward way of playing a game that isn’t managed by a piece of software, and simulates an environment that you might find in a land-based venue. It involves a physical location, usually on licensed premises, from which table games are broadcast using a camera crew, and software capable of streaming live images to sometimes millions of devices and also handling the players’ responses and outcomes of their selections.
Like a normal table game at a real-world casino, users ‘enter’ a particular game, and place their bets or lay a wager like they would if they were sitting opposite the dealer. The game then progresses, with cards drawn or wheels spun. And just like a real casino, cash is paid for wins, or collected on losses.
The dealers who run the games aren’t virtual at all, however. They are living, breathing, professionally trained croupiers who have often gained additional skills and experience in running live games. Live casino is a bit different to a land-based game in that the dealer needs to deal with possibly thousands of players at once, while giving the impression that the interaction is a one-on-one affair. This involves a few TV-presenting-style skills, and live games can get pretty entertaining, especially if there is a live chat feature where players can share their thoughts and opinions, or on the rare occasions where things go wrong. This creates an experience similar to a real-world situation, where players can enjoy a joke with their dealer, or give them some grief if they deal them bad cards.
Just like in a real-world casino, high rollers get the VIP treatment, too. Separating everyday players from the big money gamblers means that a more specialised experience can be provided. AI-driven games and internet software can’t really up the game when it comes to the VIP treatment, but of course a smaller game room with serious players means that staff can be more attentive and interact with individuals a lot more – just like in the real world.
There’s a decent choice of live studios around Europe, and each offers a unique experience for their players. From a wide choice of different dealers who all bring an individual personality, to the setting, branding and quality of the games. The added bits of style only enhance the experience even further, and give each player that AAA treatment expected in the like of Monaco and Macau.
The only requirements for live casino are an internet connection, and a smart device capable of accessing either the provider’s website or app that supports live gameplay.
The technology behind live casinos
Whether you’re taking a punt on blackjack or poker on the live casino tables, you are dealt real cards via a clever piece of technology called a Game Control Unit. This encodes the video that is broadcast, and helps the dealer run the game – wherever they are in the world. Evolution Gaming is one such company providing this service, with seven Europe-based studios (in Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK) plus one in Canada.
The quality of the footage is stunningly good. Captured in HD at over 200 frames-per-second, the camera view switches mid-game so you can follow everything from the edge of your seat, as if you were in a land-based venue. One of the bits of technology they use is Optical Camera Recognition, which records every piece of the action in intricate detail – including the roll of a roulette ball and every shuffle of the card deck, making for a realistic experience.
To produce a genuine replica of the background scene, image-rendering technology (similar to blue-screen technology) is used – and this also gives the option of casting other graphics onto the screen. At any one time, there could be at least three camera focusing on each game – plus a live chat facility between player and dealer that has high-quality sound, as well as crisp visuals.
In live casinos, the gaming itself is also more real than in other online casinos, which use RNGs (random number generators) that control the numbers that come up. As we’ve said, in live games the dealer is in charge, making the whole thing more human – and leaving the possibility open for strategies such as card counting, which is impossible with an RNG.
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What’s next for live casino?
The variety of games available is pretty wide, but usually limited to one-on-one games like 3 card poker and certain forms of blackjack. This is the only real restriction with live casino, but as technology improves and things like VR and 360 cameras make it easier for audiences to participate even further, then the full physical experience may be brought online. As online casino steps ever closer toward full user inclusion, and things like 3D virtual environments become more common, then a trip to a real-world venue could become even less necessary than it already is.