OPR Q&A: Evolution’s Jeff Millar On Branded Live Dealer Products

Evolution sees itself and its clients as competing with the likes of Netflix, not just with other parts of the online gambling industry.

That’s because consumers have so many entertainment choices now. Live-streaming online casino games is quickly becoming a popular one, Evolution’s Jeff Millar told Online Poker Report.

The commercial director for North America said as US online casinos continue to grow, so does Evolution’s business. The Malta-based company’s 2021 annual report also shows Evolution’s live dealer products increased 54% during 2021, becoming the major driver of its 90% rise in revenue.

In the US live dealer market, Evolution and its subsidiary Ezugi are the dominant brands. At the moment, the only competitor is Isle of Man-based Playtech, which launched live dealer studios in Michigan and New Jersey on Christmas Eve, 2021.

Connecticut launch coming soon

Evolution may be launching its fourth live dealer studio soon in Connecticut.

Kaitlyn Krasselt, communications director for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), told OPR:

“Evolution will be an online gaming service provider to both DraftKings and FanDuel for live online casino gaming.”

DraftKings Sportsbook and Casino and Mohegan Sun Casino are the Connecticut online casino operators, partnered with the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes, respectively.

Krasselt said the DCP Gaming Division would inspect the studio site in March, then work with Evolution on a soft launch.

Branded live dealer studios

What Millar calls “live casino” also has customization options for operator partners. Millar says eight North American online gambling operators are taking advantage of these to differentiate their brands.

As Evolution’s annual report puts it:

“For live casino, the most basic agreements normally include access to, and streaming from generic tables, while more complex agreements can include dedicated tables and environments, VIP services, native speaking dealers and other customisations to produce a live casino experience that is as unique as possible for the end user and helps the operator to stand out from the crowd.

“Dedicated table fees are monthly service charges to operators who have opted to provide dedicated tables for their end users. Dedicated tables are reserved and used exclusively by the operator and can be customised completely to the operator’s requirements as regards studio environment, graphics, brand attributes and language. The fee varies from customer to customer depending on factors such as the type of game, number of tables and active hours.”

These branded live dealer studio experiences are only available to online gamblers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, at the moment.

Michigan allows operators to have branded live dealer tables, but the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) hasn’t yet permitted branded studios to launch.

DraftKings partnered with Evolution to offer online gamblers branded live dealer experiences..

Image credit: Evolution

Our interview with Millar is given verbatim below. Bolded headers are OPR‘s questions, and the answers are in Millar’s own words.

How many branded live dealer studios do you have in the US and Canada? For which operators?

Right now, we have approximately eight dedicated studios and 81 dedicated tables across North America with multiple operators including BetMGM, FanDuel and DraftKings, among many others.

All our studios are experiencing an exciting level of growth, and there are more tables and new game types being launched in the near future. So definitely keep your eyes peeled for upcoming news from us.

How different are the brand experiences?

Different as night and day. This is the great thing about a live branded experience – no two studios are exactly alike.

Physical backgrounds can range from simple branded backdrops to complete built-and-decorated interiors. Operators can choose to use their logos and other branding elements to create their own unique online setting. There are also options around 3D-rendered graphical backgrounds, using super-realistic images on ultra-high-resolution wallpapers in the room to create an illusion of a three-dimensional space.

Or, if operators are feeling cinematic, they can use blue screen backgrounds, which offers virtually endless creative freedom by utilizing the same technology that’s used in movie and TV studios. Any background image – still or video – can be superimposed onto a plain blue backdrop behind the table and dealer. Recreate a stunningly realistic casino room, a city skyline, or even a complete multi-room casino with an entrance lobby, and the most convincingly ‘real’ architectural features. The only real limit here is the breadth and depth of someone’s imagination.

Was it your idea to offer these branded live dealer experiences, or did operators ask for them?

The original concept of providing branded live dealer experiences was Evolution’s. We’re always looking for the new idea, the next best thing to offer operators to keep them competitive in this insanely innovative industry. We want them to be the best they can be, and that means that we as a provider, need to keep up with emerging trends and offer products that will help them stand out.

Branded tables and studios are a great way to make this happen. The draw here is that control over the customization process is entirely in the hands of the operator. They can design the look and feel entirely to their individual needs – this means full control over branding, as well as providing the ability to run their own live promotions and cross-promote other facets of their brand that they want to get out there.

And the end result? Greater player loyalty.

The original idea might have been ours, but now that operators have seen the benefits of a branded experience, it’s their creativity in building their brand into these studios that makes them pop.

It’s definitely a partnership – we provide the means and the technology; they bring their one of a kind branding.

Do all of the dealers work for Evolution? Do any work directly for the brand they’re representing?

We like to keep our live dealers in the Evolution family.

There are a couple of reasons for this, but the key for us is training. We provide all our dealers with extensive training on how to operate our games, and to make the experience as engaging and entertaining as humanly possible for our operator’s players.

And this is the beauty of Live Casino. It’s possible to create interactive environments tailored to a player’s specific needs – including providing players with dealers that speak their language. The people in front of the camera are fundamental in retention rates and when you have someone that can tune into a local culture, that builds a wonderful rapport with repeat players. All our operators get the benefit of our training programs, and we like to provide the best talent available.

When will your CT studio open?

We’re aiming to launch our Connecticut studio later this year. We’ve already launched in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Vancouver – so this next step is going to be exciting.

Our aim for this year is to be the first provider in every state as each state opens. We want to be with our operators every step of the way and to provide them with that competitive edge when it comes to being able to advance into a new market.

What else should OPR readers know about branded live dealer?

Forging relationships with players is one of the most challenging aspects of this industry – there’s so much choice out there.

And it’s not just other iGaming providers that are challenging us for people’s time, but the wider entertainment industry, as well. It’s why we prioritize retention and player loyalty. If you’re going up against the likes of Netflix for a player’s time, you need to be able to ensure you’re speaking directly to customers and understand where, how and why their needs might be shifting.

Players have so much more control over their gaming experience than in previous years. They choose when to play, how to play, and on what device to play on. We, the providers, need to push the boundaries and keep evolving in order to be open to all the opportunities of our industry.

When operators partner with us, their players not only find a myriad of choices, but also a live experience that is different from wherever else they may be looking.

It’s all about telling a story. If a live dealer studio hooks a player’s interest from the get-go with a unique design or feel, that player is much more likely to return for a second, third or even a fourth time – and hopefully many more after that.

- 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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