MGM has designs on expanding its online casino footprint

BetMGM Strikes Live Dealer Online Casino Pact With Evolution

As BetMGM prepares for launch in additional states, it has struck a deal with Evolution Gaming to provide it with live dealer products in those markets. The deal applies nationwide, though BetMGM is only active in two states at the moment: New Jersey and West Virginia.

Live dealer games are gaining popularity in the US. They bridge the divide between conventional casinos and online gambling, using streamed video to give players a true-to-life, interactive casino experience from the comfort of their home or on their mobile devices. At the moment, they’re only available in New Jersey, but this will soon change.

BetMGM is a joint venture between GVC Holdings and MGM Resorts International. The latter holds a New Jersey online gambling license through the Borgata Casino. The deal covers not only the BetMGM site itself, but also the other skins operating on the same license: Borgata Online Casino and Party Casino.

“We are honored to have been chosen by BetMGM to be partners in the fast-developing US live gaming market,” said Evolution CEO Johan Nordstrom. “This is a natural extension of our existing relationship with GVC Holdings’ brands.”

A necessary formality for future markets

As far as New Jersey goes, the deal is something of a formality. BetMGM Casino and the other Borgata license sites offered live dealer games to begin with.

It was, in fact, an early adopter of the technology. However, Evolution was beaten into the US market by former competitor Ezugi. It has been through that company’s studios that BetMGM has been streaming its games.

Evolution acquired Ezugi early last year, however, giving it a US monopoly. Both studios continue to operate in New Jersey. MGM won’t remove Ezugi’s games from its site. Rather, that relationship has been extended as part of the deal.

There is, however, little reason for Ezugi to expand into additional states now that it and Evolution are under the same roof. For MGM, adding Evolution’s games in addition to Ezugi’s is necessary groundwork for being able to offer live dealer in new states once it becomes available. Indeed, even Golden Nugget, at whose casino Ezugi’s studio is located, struck a similar deal back in May. Like BetMGM, it expects to launch a site in Pennsylvania in the coming months.

“Evolution offers everything we need to enable our brands to roll out an extremely rich, world-class online live gaming experience across the US and their new state launches roadmap is very much in accord with our own alongside building on our current leadership position in gaming in New Jersey,” BetMGM vice president of gaming Matthew Sunderland said.

Live dealer coming to Pennsylvania and Michigan; West Virginia less certain

Both BetMGM and Golden Nugget should go live in Pennsylvania in the near future. They are the only two out-of-state companies to have applied for licenses as “qualified gaming entities.”

At July’s meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Chief Enforcement Council Cyrus Pitre said he expected BetMGM to come up for licensing “very soon,” possibly at the following meeting in August. That didn’t happen, and neither BetMGM nor Golden Nugget is on the docket for this month’s meeting either. It isn’t clear what is causing the hold-up, but regulatory delays have been the name of the game for online casinos in PA since launch last July.

Whenever the companies actually do launch, they won’t have to wait long to begin offering live dealer games. It came out as part of another deal announcement last month that Evolution expects to open its Pennsylvania studio before the end of the year.

Next up will be a Michigan online casino, where Evolution expects to launch in the first half of 2021. Depending on how that state’s regulatory and licensing processes go, its first online casinos could launch as soon as October.

Meanwhile, BetMGM is already live in West Virginia. It may not be able to offer live dealer games in that state any time soon, however. Evolution hasn’t announced any plans there, and the state’s smaller population may mean it’s too small a market to be worth building a studio.

It may eventually be possible to offer live dealer games in West Virginia streaming from a studio in another state. However, that depends entirely on the outcome of the current battle over the Wire Act. If the Department of Justice has its way, it would prohibit all interstate transfer of gambling-related data, including live dealer streams.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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