Due to low consumer awareness, and the increased overhead of running live dealer games, Golden Nugget started off small, with a single live dealer blackjack, roulette, and baccarat table, and each game only running during peak hours, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily.
Thus far, the early results have been promising for Golden Nugget, a good sign considering it has barely scratched the surface of live dealer games.
A popular product in markets around the globe, live dealer games attempt to simulate a land-based casino experience online.
Golden Nugget’s live dealer games are run from a dedicated studio inside the Golden Nugget, under the same regulatory conditions as any table game found on the casino’s floor.
There is a real dealer (a trained dealer employed by Golden Nugget) who, in real time, shuffles and deals physical cards or drops a real roulette ball.
At live dealer tables, players can interact with one another through an online chat feature, or with the dealer in real time. This a marked difference from a traditional online casino table where the player competes head-to-head against a rudimentary animation of a dealer that simply deals cards or spins a roulette wheel based on the results of a random number generator (RNG).
But live dealer games are played online, so there are elements to these games not found at a land-based casino. For example, betting is handled like a standard online casino game — by mousing over the action you want to take.
Because the pace of play is slower, and there is more of a focus on interactions, live dealer games tend to appeal to a different group of players than traditional online casino games. This helps increase the footprint of an online casino’s customer base, and generate more crossover appeal between land-based and online-centric customers.
This is what Golden Nugget is seeing over the first few weeks of live dealer games.
“A material share of live dealer players are new to online table games, which speaks for the unique appeal of this innovative product,” explained Golden Nugget Vice President of Online Gaming Thomas Winter explained to Online Poker Report.
“It brings the interactivity and social experience that traditional online casino games can’t provide. Players can interact with each other but also with the dealers, just like they would do in a land-based casino. It also brings the excitement of live action. From an operator standpoint, we expect live dealer not only to be profitable but also to help us acquiring new clients in a very competitive market where differentiation is increasingly difficult to achieve.”
Winter also discussed a supplementary benefit of live dealer games: its ability to instill trust and confidence in online gamblers, since players can see the dealer and the cards being shuffled and dealt.
“It helps building further trust in online gaming in a US market where online gambling was still illegal three years ago,” he said. “When we survey brick and mortar patrons, the main reason why a majority of them have not signed up for an online casino is a lack of trust. Live dealer is the best possible answer to their concerns.”
As indicated above, Golden Nugget’s live dealer era began with a modest schedule of live dealer games.
But the early returns have been promising enough that Golden Nugget has already expanded the number of live dealer blackjack tables (baccarat and roulette have no cap on concurrent players so additional tables aren’t needed), as well as experimenting with new stakes at the request of its players.
“The blackjack table occupancy has ramped up quicker than we thought and players were asking for a blackjack table with a $5 minimum bet to try it out, so we’ve quickly added a second blackjack table on weekend days,” Winter noted.
He estimated the number of live dealer blackjack players is already similar to what the casino sees at video table games on its floor. This becomes more impressive when you factor in online live dealer online blackjack games run just eight hours a day, compared to the round the clock availability of video table games at Golden Nugget.
Winter expects even more tables to be added in the coming months, when Golden Nugget launches three new TV spots centered around the company’s new live dealer games.
“With TV advertising starting in September and the increasing demand for blackjack, it’s likely that we’ll have two blackjack tables every day by the end of September. Perhaps even three tables on Fridays and Saturdays. The next step will be to expand opening hours, with the long-term view of offering Live Action 24/7. Product-wise, we are also already working on nice additions, from side bets to additional games. Very exciting.”
Winter went on to say that even though “the average bet size is pretty similar to video games,” he expects that to change, and for live dealer wagering to increase once more of the online high-rollers become more familiar with the live dealer games.
“From an ROI perspective, revenue-wise, we think we’ll reach the break-even point in Q4. We are also confident that the impact of live dealer on players acquisition will more than pay back our investment, especially as we are the only operator offering live dealer in New Jersey for the foreseeable future.”