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Evolution Gaming just lost its effective monopoly on live dealer casino gaming in the US. Its first rival will be Playtech, which has launched its live dealer products via online casino operators in Michigan and New Jersey. The technology provider made its announcement on Christmas Eve.
The move may add value to Playtech, which Aristocrat Leisure and JKO Play are already competing to acquire. Aristocrat bid $2.9 billion, but Playtech announced today that it will delay acting on that offer until Groundhog Day. In the meantime, Playtech is talking to JKO leaders.
Playtech entering the lucrative live dealer market will likely impress those suitors. Evolution, in its October earnings report, said that “high demand for live casino” grew more than 53% in Q3 2021 vs. Q3 2020. This includes Evolution’s global operations, not only those in the US online gambling market.
Playtech won’t be Evolution’s only rival, however. The two companies may soon have additional competition from Scientific Games (SG). SG announced in November that it had acquired Authentic Games in order to enter the US live dealer market.
Also, Playtech leaders have plans beyond flipping the switch to launch the live dealer gambling studios in Atlantic City and Southfield, Mich.:
“Both facilities represent the initial launch of Playtech’s entertainment-led Live Casino offering in the US and the next step in Playtech’s strategic expansion in the US.”
When word got out about Aristocrat’s takeover bid, Playtech’s stock price shot up from $12 to $18.33. Then when JKO announced it entered the picture in November, shares hit $22. As of today, the stock sits at $19.11.
As of today, Playtech’s live blackjack and roulette games are two of the six most popular games on Play Gun Lake, according to the Michigan online casino operator powered by Parx Interactive.
Also today, Bet365 in New Jersey listed live roulette at No. 1 in its new online casino products. That operator simultaneously launched the live dealer products with Play Gun Lake, according to Playtech.
Playtech calls the game Bet365 highlights Quantum Roulette Arcade:
“A key game in our multiplier roulette portfolio, Quantum Roulette has been tailored for the US market to create a new arcade gaming experience. It is a double-zero auto roulette table with a new 1000x multiplier, which is the first live multiplier roulette variant to be launched in both states.”
Games in the Christmas Eve launch include: roulette, blackjack, Baccarat and All Bets Blackjack, which allows “an unlimited number of players to participate in a game.”
“This initial offering will be followed by further launches, including a sport-led environment, a new arcade experience which offers a new way to engage on Live Casino, and the introduction of some of our leading Live Game Shows.”
Though SG is coming, Playtech and Evolution may get to enjoy their duopoly for a little while. Setting up live dealer studios takes time, above and beyond the need for regulatory approval.
In Michigan alone, Playtech’s work to launch live dealer began almost a year ago. In February 2021, it announced its partnership with Parx. The next month, it revealed that it had secured a lease on the Southfield property and would build a “state-of-the-art” studio in this suburb 20 minutes northwest of Detroit.
At that point, Playtech’s partner Parx hadn’t yet secured approval from the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) to launch its online casino gambling. In April 2021, MGCB gave that approval to Parx and the Gun Lake Band of Potawatomi Indians of Michigan, operator of the Gun Lake Casino in Wayland, Mich. It still took about eight months from that date for Playtech to begin dealing hands and spinning roulette wheels.
Today, MGCB Communications Specialist Mary Kay Bean told Online Poker Report:
“The Michigan Gaming Control Board on Dec. 22 authorized Playtech to livestream casino table games from a Southfield, Mich., studio. Playtech initially is providing live dealer games through the Gun Lake tribe’s online casino. Parx Interactive is the platform provider for Gun Lake’s internet gaming site, which operates under the Play Gun Lake brand.
“The initial live dealer games offered are blackjack, all bets blackjack, baccarat, American roulette and Quantum American roulette.
“Playtech was approved after fulfilling Michigan internet gaming regulatory requirements, including an onsite review by MGCB staff.”
As complicated as this process is, Playtech plans to repeat it, to each state’s specifications.
Back in March, Playtech COO Shimon Akad said:
“The new studio in Michigan is the first step in our US Live expansion as we look to deliver Live studios in all regulated states.”
If it does truly launch in all regulated states, that would include two – West Virginia and Connecticut – where even Evolution isn’t currently active.
On the operator end of things, live dealer has become less a matter of product differentiation and more of a requirement. Online casinos without live dealer games still exist, but become rarer every day. Today, for instance, PointsBet Casino announced that it was joining the bandwagon in New Jersey. For now, its selection includes only Evolution titles, so it’s merely coincidence that the timing coincides with Playtech’s launch.