Hard Rock Atlantic City added another new product to its online casino platform on Monday.
Using technology provided by Softweave, Hard Rock now allows players to play real, physical slot machines remotely through a web browser or mobile app.
The innovation isn’t just new to the property or the US online gambling market, in general. These live online slots are, in fact, the world’s first.
Most manufacturers of physical slot machines also create virtual implementations of at least part of their catalog. Players will be able to play slots on the same hardware that’s in casinos from the comfort of their homes or even on the go.
Live-dealer online casino games, like blackjack and roulette, have become commonplace in the international market. They’re also quickly gaining traction in the US thanks in part to Hard Rock, whose Atlantic City casino is host to Evolution Gaming‘s live-dealer studio.
So far, New Jersey is the only state with such a studio. It has two, in fact. Another should open in Pennsylvania later this year.
This deal with Softweave further establishes Hard Rock as an innovator and a potential trendsetter, bridging the gap between the live casino experience and online play.
There are four components to Softweave’s live slots product:
Upon launching the app, players are presented with a bank of slots that show which machines are in use and which are available. They can select an open seat or put themselves on a waiting list.
Once the player has chosen a machine, the Winafar hardware allows the transfer of money between their online account balance and the machine. The camera and microphone transmit live video and audio from the machine to the player’s browser or smartphone.
The camera’s field of view includes the cabinet’s buttons, to which the app’s interface is directly mapped. Clicking or tapping one of the buttons in the video window sends the instruction to the Winafar box to execute the equivalent command on the actual machine.
At first glance, the product may seem a bit unnecessary compared to live-dealer table games.
For one thing, blackjack and roulette have an element of human interaction that’s missing from simulated online versions. Some players also trust the randomness of a physical deck of cards or the roulette wheel more than they do a computerized pseudorandom number generator.
Even slot machines with physical reels run on software these days, and there’s no human dealer involved.
Is there any market for “live online” slots? That remains to be determined. However, there are a couple of ways in which Softweave’s product differs from conventional online slots.
First, and most importantly, the machines Hard Rock uses for its live slots don’t have digital adaptations. It has 12 machines split between five games, two of which are digital and three mechanical reels:
That lineup could change in the future, but what’s important is that Hard Rock can offer games online that aren’t available anywhere outside of a brick-and-mortar casino.
Second, recreational gamblers are often superstitious. At a casino, some will move between slot machines running the same game looking for the one that’s “lucky.” Operating physical machines remotely gives them the ability to do the same thing online.
There may not be any rational basis for it, but it’s likely a feature some players want nonetheless.
The way Hard Rock has set up the studio for its live slots provides some additional marketing value. The room containing the machines connected for online play is located across from the casino’s buffet, a high-traffic area on the second level.
To promote the new product, Hard Rock installed a billboard-sized advertisement on the wall separating the studio from the buffet area. Within the ad are keyhole-shaped windows offering passers-by a view of the machines.
It’s even possible to use the mobile app to play one of the machines and watch through the window as it springs to life.
Cross-selling is increasingly important in the gambling industry these days. The novelty value of Hard Rock’s setup might, therefore, prove to be a valuable tool in that regard.
Slots aren’t the only recent addition to the live-play options at Hard Rock online casino. Evolution received permission to expand its New Jersey studio in November. That, too, resulted in the launch of some new products at the beginning of the month.
As well as increasing the number of live-dealer blackjack tables, Evolution added two new games to its studio: Dream Catcher and Side Bet City.
Although both have been available at various European online casinos for some time, they’re brand new in the US market. Both are now available on PlaySugarHouse as well as Hard Rock Casino.
Dream Catcher is a money wheel game similar to those found in most casinos. Side Bet City is a casino poker variant invented by Evolution similar to 3-5-7 poker. Its visual presentation is unique, however, with retro studio decor and dealer costumes evocative of 1980s Las Vegas.
Because these live, online hybrid products are such a new phenomenon, there’s still plenty of room for innovation. And based on the number of operators who’ve begun offering Evolution’s products, it looks like live-dealer table games are a hit, so far.
We’ll see in time whether live online slots prove equally popular. One way or another, though, we’re likely to see lots more experimentation in that space in the coming years.