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Barstool Casino and Sportsbook is the latest US gaming brand to get its own custom live dealer studio. That concept first appeared with DraftKings in New Jersey in 2019, though the company has since opened a second in Pennsylvania. BetMGM followed suit in Michigan this year.
Like DraftKings Casino, Barstool owner Penn National is making this move in the Garden State to start with. All four of these custom studios are the work of Evolution Gaming, one of the world’s top live dealer suppliers and almost the only option in the US at the moment.
In New Jersey, regulations stipulate that live dealer games have to be streamed from the premises of a licensed casino, so Evolution has made its home at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. Barstool’s new studio, like DraftKings’, is an extension of that existing space.
Most New Jersey online casinos offer live dealer games now. Aside from DraftKings and Barstool, however, these stream from one of two generic studios, either Evolution’s or Ezugi’s. The products and sometimes the dealers are therefore the same from one site to the next. Building a custom studio is one way to differentiate one’s live dealer offerings from the competition’s. That may be more important for sports-focused companies like DraftKings and Barstool, as they have a different audience than pure casino companies.
Jon Kaplowitz, Head of Penn Interactive, said:
The combination of Evolution’s great team and proven ability to deliver the widest range of quality online casino products quickly to market makes them an ideal partner for Penn Interactive. We are especially excited about the development of the custom Barstool-branded studio, which allows us to further utilise the broad array of media talent at Barstool Sports and provide our customers with yet another differentiated gaming experience.
Live dealer blackjack and other casino games are increasingly popular in the US. Purely digital online casino games provide quite a different experience from retail gambling. For those who prefer the latter, a live-streamed human dealer is the best available alternative when playing at home. That was especially important for a large part of last year, when casinos suspended operations due to COVID.
Evolution currently has a stranglehold on the US market for these games, but will soon face a new challenger. It was actually the second company to enter the market, after Ezugi. However, it soon acquired its former rival. The two New Jersey studios remain separate, but most casinos offering Ezugi’s games now offer Evolution’s as well.
True competition will arrive in Michigan in the form of Playtech. It announced back in March that it had received the green light to open a studio of its own in the state. That hasn’t happened yet, but should soon.
Meanwhile, Evolution will face a decision in Connecticut. That state’s iGaming market was supposed to open today but has been held back two weeks. Its emergency regulations will allow Evolution to stream live dealer games from out of state until March next year. After that, however, it will have to decide whether the state warrants opening a new studio. Connecticut has only half the population of New Jersey, and twice that of West Virginia. The latter still does not have a live dealer studio, due presumably to its small size.
In a separate announcement this week, Evolution revealed it had expanded its relationship with newcomer Betway Casino to include live dealer games. Betway was already offering slots supplied by Evolution subsidiary NetEnt.
Evolution stock is down just over 1% this week, but up 83% year-on-year.