Real money casinos now stream live dealer games in three of four regulated states, with a majority of brands participating

Live Dealer Games Are So Popular, Even Social Bingo Sites Are Getting In On The Craze

Seeing a real face in an online game matters to players. Live dealers are popular in real-money online casinos, and now a social casino is doing something similar. The publishers of Live Play Bingo claim their product would be the first social casino game with live hosts calling winning numbers 24 hours a day.

There are already other social casinos with games featuring live hosts, but none that run 24/7.

The social casino game controversy

Social casino games are highly popular and equally controversial. For some, they scratch the same itch as gambling, yet social casino companies don’t have to contend with the same legal and regulatory issues as “real” gambling companies.

That could change, however. Current lawsuits regarding the games are taking on Apple’s App Store and Google Play for even offering them.

Plaintiffs contend that the free-to-play apps take money for the chance at more playing time, which constitutes gambling. They say the social casino games are, therefore, online gambling apps.

Previous cases against the game providers have ended in settlement. That leaves the subject of social gambling up in the air legally speaking, without a judge’s final ruling to set precedent on the matter.

Why Live Play Bingo was a social game that needed a live host

San Francisco-based Live Play Mobile claimed in its Aug. 17 announcement about the live hosts that it was “the first publisher to launch a 24-hour-a-day, live-hosted social casino game with its debut title, Live Play Bingo.”

Live Play Mobile CEO Stuart Lewis-Smith said:

“We are building a fresh new category by combining the best of social, live-streaming and linear TV experiences, whilst [sic] simultaneously delivering our vision of enriching players’ lives with real human interactions in our games.”

Lewis-Smith is a gaming industry veteran. He was the CEO of Idle Games (Acquired by Sony), and senior vice president and general manager at GSN Games​ before coming to Live Play Mobile, which describes itself as “a new social gaming platform that combines live TV formats with mobile games.”

The live host announcement touts the social casino game market as a $7.7 billion opportunity in 2021, with bingo as its fastest-growing category, according to Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.

Live Play Mobile’s announcement described the new product as performing well:

“Early engagement metrics are encouraging, with 43 minutes of video consumed in Live Play Bingo per player per day – approximately 50% higher than the average social casino game.”

The company’s 25 hosts broadcast from studios in Hollywood and London. They call out bingo numbers, announce winners and otherwise entertain players.

Live dealer games are sweeping the regulated US real money casino market

Real money live dealer casino gaming has been around in the US since 2016. Golden Nugget Casino was the pioneer in this regard, allowing Ezugi to open a studio on its premises in Atlantic City. Ezugi was subsequently acquired by its rival Evolution to form an effective monopoly in the US.

Evolution’s dealers oversee games including baccarat, blackjack, craps, poker and roulette at studios in Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. From April to June 2021, Evolution’s North American operations – which included Canada and Mexico – generated €27.2 million.

West Virginia is the only state with legal online casino wagering that doesn’t have an Evolution studio.

Evolution won’t hold its monopoly for much longer. Playtech is preparing to open a studio of its own in Michigan. Playtech Live Casino will operate out of Southfield, 20 minutes northwest of Detroit, which also serves as Evolution’s home in the state.

Playtech’s platforms power Parx Interactive‘s products, per a partnership agreement reached in February 2021. Parx powers Play Gun Lake, the online casino and sportsbook of the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians. However, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) hasn’t yet approved live dealer for Play Gun Lake.

Playtech has even bigger plans to come, according to its March 2021 press release about the Michigan live dealer studio:

“The confirmation of Playtech’s first US live entertainment studio is the latest milestone in Playtech’s US roadmap, as the leading technology supplier executes on its strategy to deliver its software and services to every regulated state in the US.”

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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