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This week, Pennsylvania became the second US state to offer legal live dealer online casino gaming.
Live dealer gaming is a hybrid of the live and online casino experiences. The games are available alongside other online casino products, but forego digital graphics for live-streamed video. Many allow players to chat with each other and the dealer, adding a social element ordinarily absent from online gambling.
New Jersey began offering live dealer games in 2016. Ezugi was the first company to open a US live dealer studio, at the Golden Nugget. It was followed in 2018 by Evolution Gaming, which proceeded to acquire Ezugi and form a monopoly.
As things stand, live dealer games can’t be streamed between states. A federal legal battle over the Wire Act must be resolved before anything can change on that front. So, although Pennsylvania’s first online casinos launched in July 2019, Evolution’s original New Jersey studio was of no help. A new studio therefore had to be constructed before it could offer its product in the Keystone State.
The wait shouldn’t be quite as long in Michigan. The first Michigan online casinos should launch soon, and Evolution has said it expects to be up and running there sometime early next year.
Assuming that no problems arise during testing, live dealer should be available around the clock starting Friday. For the soft launch period, hours are limited by Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board regulations, as with any new supplier’s products. The availability is as follows:
All three casinos offer the same lineup of six games at the moment. These consist of standard blackjack and roulette, plus two variations on each.
This lineup suggests that Evolution isn’t running very many tables at first, possibly as few as three.
Infinite Blackjack allows an unlimited number of players to share a table, as opposed to the usual limit of seven seats. The main advantages of that are a lower minimum bet, and no wait time.
The three First Person titles, meanwhile, aren’t truly live dealer experiences at all but more of an introductory product. They use a conventional random number generator and 3D graphics to produce a digital experience similar to the live dealer products. Each of these games includes a “Go Live” button, which switches the player over to the equivalent game with an actual live dealer.
The selection of games and number of tables should expand dramatically once testing is complete, however. When Evolution secured its Pennsylvania license last year, Chief Business Development Officer James Stern spoke about the Keystone State’s potential:
“Demand for our Live Casino services in the U.S. has been phenomenal. We are delighted to be further expanding our U.S. operations by opening a standalone studio in Pennsylvania to serve both online operators and land-based casinos in the state.”
Announcing this week’s soft launch, Richard Schwartz, president of BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse parent company Rush Street Interactive, was similarly enthusiastic:
“The Evolution-hosted Live Dealer Casino has proven very popular with players at PlaySugarHouse.com in New Jersey. We are confident players in Pennsylvania will love these live action table games too. Extending our partnership with Evolution into PA supports our mission to continually offer our loyal online players the best mix of innovative and entertaining games available.”
Four years in, there are more NJ online casinos with live dealer games than there are without. It’s pretty well a given that this will become the case in Pennsylvania in short order as well.
As well as more blackjack and roulette tables, new types of live dealer games should be coming soon in Pennsylvania. In New Jersey, Evolution also offers baccarat, casino hold’em and three-card poker. Internationally, it has more games still, including big wheel games, gameshow-style products and even some involving augmented reality. There’s been no word about whether and when these more exotic products might appear in the US.
DraftKings also has a special relationship with Evolution and has enlisted its help in creating a custom New Jersey studio to stream exclusive games. These have sports themes and special DraftKings-branded dealer uniforms.