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On Thursday, Evolution Gaming announced a deal with Australian bookmaker PointsBet. Evolution will provide live dealer games to the latter’s upcoming online casino in New Jersey when it launches next year.
We also learned that means live dealer games are coming to online casinos in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
PointsBet only announced its online casino plans last week. It has, until now, operated only in the sports betting space in the US. The New Jersey casino is a partnership with Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which is acquiring Bally’s Atlantic City.
PointsBet can’t launch the new product until that casino purchase goes through, however. It expects to be live in Michigan before then, in partnership with the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.
“We are thrilled to partner with Evolution Gaming to launch Live Casino technology in US jurisdictions, where we plan to offer our proprietary online casino platform,” said Seth Young, Chief Innovation Officer at PointsBet. “The addition of Evolution Live Casino extends the appeal of PointsBet’s premium product in the rapidly growing US market.”
Live dealer games use video streaming technology to provide online casino players an experience similar to what they’d find in a brick-and-mortar casino. Evolution effectively holds a monopoly on such games in the US. It acquired its only US competitor, Ezugi, in January 2019.
In all likelihood, the deal with PointsBet will soon be extended to cover other states. At the moment, Evolution can only offer its games in New Jersey. In announcing the deal, however, it also confirmed its plans for new studios in the Pennsylvania and Michigan markets.
Additional studios are necessary because of the ongoing legal battle surrounding the Wire Act. If the Department of Justice gets its way, the act will prevent all interstate communication for the purposes of gambling. That would, of course, include streaming live dealer games.
Although it looks likely the courts will side against the DOJ, Pennsylvania regulators are taking no chances, and have established their own policies against such interstate activities. Michigan has a similar policy in place, though the worry there is that interstate slots jackpots would hurt lottery sales.
Although it has been known for a while that Evolution is building a studio in Pennsylvania, it has remained tight-lipped about where and when. Now, it has revealed that it expects it to open before the end of 2020. Though it hasn’t said where the studio will be, that timeline corresponds with the expected opening of Live! Hotel & Casino Philadelphia, which seems like a logical choice.
Evolution also said it expects to open a Michigan studio within the first half of 2021. Online casino games in Michigan haven’t launched yet, but could do so as early as October. Given that its regulatory process is encountering some difficulties, an early 2021 launch seems more likely. Evolution should therefore be ready to supply live dealer games not long after the state’s first online casinos launch.
It wasn’t long ago that live dealer games were a novelty product, used as a point of differentiation for the casinos which offer them. Now, the majority of New Jersey’s online casinos have deals in place with either Evolution or Ezugi for NJ live dealer. The last major holdout, Golden Nugget, got on board in May this year.
Lack of live dealer games has become the exception, and a strike against the few operators that have yet to adopt them. It’s a smart move for PointsBet to have struck its deal prior to launch, so it will be ready to offer the games from day one.
“Evolution’s Live Casino portfolio offers PointsBet a rich mix of world-leading online Live Casino games including classic table games, online poker variants that are big favorites with US players, and our new generation of award-winning, record-breaking game show games,” said Evolution’s Chief Commercial Officer, Sebastian Johannisson. “In addition, PointsBet will have the option of exclusively branded dedicated tables and environments, should they require these.”
Live dealer games provide a few advantages over purely digital products. The slower pace of play and social interaction with the dealer can mean more entertainment value per dollar. Some players also place more trust in traditional, visible casino equipment than a computerized random number generator.
The technology also opens the door to innovative products that wouldn’t be possible in either a purely digital or physical environment. Evolution offers products with a game show-like experience and ones that use augmented reality in various ways. We can probably expect to see even more products appear after the new studios open.