The room is inaccessible and only visible through a semi-transparent floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Inside, visitors will see a strange sight: a handful of active casino table games, complete with dealers and floor staff…but no players.
This room is Golden Nugget’s live dealer casino studio, where the realms of online and traditional brick & mortar gambling are intertwined.
Click here for a deeper dive into Golden Nugget’s live dealer games.
It was in early August that Golden Nugget AC added live dealer games to its New Jersey online casino. So far the somewhat risky gambit has paid off, as the games have outperformed even Golden Nugget’s optimistic projections.
Shortly after the addition of the format, Golden Nugget VP of Online Gaming Thomas Winter told Online Poker Report: “A material share of live dealer players are new to online table games, which speaks for the unique appeal of this innovative product.”
He also suggested that live dealer games are a way to increase brand image and player acquisition with only minimal cannibalization of existing online games.
Four months later, live dealer games continue to impress and drive acquisition rates.
“Our players acquisition is very strong, at levels not seen since early 2014,” Winter said. “And our RNG table game revenues are up since we started offering Live dealer. The results are exceeding our expectations.”
Live dealer games aren’t just bringing in new players; they also appear to be reaching a new demographic. According to Winter, the majority of players gravitating toward live dealer games are “male players, and they are slightly younger than [Golden Nugget’s] average.”
Part of the appeal to new players could be an inherent distrust of online gambling that still persists — a distrust live dealer games don’t seem to possess.
“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,” Winter said. “Live dealer is the best possible answer to their concerns.”
In our recent interview, Winter noted that live dealer players have started exploring other parts of the online casino.
“Even as they come to play live dealer, new players also enjoy our large selection of slots,” he said.
This could be an indication that live dealer games are not only bridging the trust gap, but they’re also acting as a gateway to other games these previously reluctant customers may have never tried were it not for live dealer games.
When live dealer games were first introduced back in August, Golden Nugget offered three tables, one each for blackjack, roulette and baccarat. Tables were only open for eight hours daily.
The casino is now running as many as five tables (three blackjack, one roulette, and one baccarat) nine hours per day. It’s incremental growth, but growth nonetheless.
Of note, because of the online betting aspect, a single live dealer roulette and baccarat table can handle hundreds of players, whereas a live dealer blackjack table only houses seven player spots.
Live dealer games require an inordinate amount of overhead compared to other online casino offerings. Casino floor space is required and dealers must be paid, to name the two main expenses.
Because of this, and because of the limited size of the New Jersey market, adding live dealer games was a risky endeavor. And it would be even riskier for other casinos to make a similar capital investment and launch their own live dealer games.
To that end, New Jersey might see some unlikely partnerships forming between competing online casino operators.
“We are in discussions with a few potential partners who understand the benefits of offering a differentiating product but also recognize that the New Jersey market alone is probably not big enough to justify the overheads of two studios,” Winter said, noting that bringing in more players from other online casinos would allow Golden Nugget (and any potential live dealer partners) to expand opening hours and, in turn, increase revenues.
“This should offset the potential negative impact of extra competition for our brand,” he added.
In Winter’s estimation, these partnerships could be realized in the not-so-distant future, perhaps coinciding with the planned expansion of Golden Nugget’s studio space, which he says will triple in size within six months.