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You can now legally play live dealer casino games like blackjack and roulette in three US states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Live dealer games are a recent invention, having been introduced to the USA in 2016. They seamlessly blend the convenience of online casinos with the social experience of interacting with a real human dealer.
If you’re interested in trying out these novel products, you’ve come to the right place. On this page, you’ll find information about where to play live dealer games, how they work, what types of live dealer games are available in the USA, and more.
The most popular live dealer casino games in the USA are blackjack and roulette. Depending on the casino and the state you’re playing in, you might also find games like baccarat, casino poker or big wheel, but those two classics are the most common.
Online casinos stream live dealer games from a studio operated by a third party company. This means that you’ll see the same games – maybe even the same dealers – at most casino sites offering them. Some online casinos have built their own custom studios, however, to provide you with a unique experience.
Here are three of the best real money online casinos in the USA for playing live dealer blackjack and roulette. You’ll find at least those two games at every online casino offering live dealer.
Which other games are available depends as much on the state as the specific operator. It takes time to get regulatory approval for new games, so more recent states like Michigan will have a smaller selection no matter which casino you visit. Long-established states like NJ have a wider variety of games, but most operators will only offer a few of the more niche products, rather than the entire lineup.
Live dealer in: New Jersey (custom), Pennsylvania (custom) and Michigan (generic)
DraftKings isn’t just a daily fantasy sports company anymore. It’s been building out its casino product since the tail end of 2018, and a big part of its strategy has been custom games.
It has extended that strategy to its DraftKings Casino live dealer offerings. In July 2019, it became the first USA online casino to build its own custom live dealer studio. It did so in New Jersey with the help of Evolution Gaming, which operates a generic studio in the state as well. Thus, its games use the same technology as other companies’, yet feature dealer uniforms and background decor with DraftKings branding and an overarching sports theme.
DraftKings later did the same thing in Pennsylvania, again with Evolution’s help. It does not yet have its own studio in Michigan however, and it’s not clear whether it has plans to build one. That said, DraftKings players in Michigan can still enjoy live dealer games, but in that state, they’re streamed from the same generic Evolution studio as most of the other casinos.
Live dealer in: New Jersey (generic), Pennsylvania (generic) and Michigan (custom)
BetMGM Casino is the overall USA market leader in iGaming. It’s also the top brand in both New Jersey and Michigan at the moment. It has a fairly popular sportsbook as well, but is nonetheless predominantly a casino company, unlike DraftKings.
In Michigan, it has emulated DraftKings’ strategy by contracting with Evolution to build a custom live dealer studio with its own branding. Its market leadership in that state is more dominant than elsewhere due to the presence of the MGM Grand in Detroit. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it offers games through generic studios.
BetMGM is a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and Entain. The former owns numerous retail casinos around the US, including Detroit’s MGM Grand. BetMGM players are automatically enrolled in MGM’s M Life Rewards program, making it a good choice for those who enjoy playing both online and in person.
Live dealer in: New Jersey (generic), Michigan (generic)
Golden Nugget is the largest online operator with an almost-exclusive focus on the casino vertical. Although it does offer sports betting for those who want it, casino products are its top priority by far.
That emphasis on casino led it to be the pioneer of live dealer gaming in the USA. At a time when other companies considered it a gimmick with little potential to take off, Golden Nugget worked with Ezugi to open the first live dealer studio in the country, at its own property in Atlantic City.
It has since contracted with Evolution as well, so you’ll find both company’s games if you’re playing on Golden Nugget’s site in New Jersey. The company is also active in Michigan, though only Evolution’s games are available there. Golden Nugget is expected to arrive in Pennsylvania at some point, having obtained a certificate to do so as an out-of-state qualified gaming entity. When it does so, it will presumably have live dealer games either immediately at launch or shortly thereafter.
Live dealer games are now available in three states. The main challenge in offering these products is that they require a special studio and that, for the moment at least, all states require the studio to be in the state. Additionally, in New Jersey, the gaming laws are such that the studio must be located within one of the Atlantic City casinos.
What that means is that only the bigger iGaming states have live dealer games:
There are two other states with legal online casinos at the moment: West Virginia and Delaware. Additionally, Connecticut is expected to launch online casinos later in 2021 or early in 2022. However, all these states have small populations, which is probably why none has a live dealer studio yet: The potential revenue might not be worth the cost of building one.
This could change, however. The Department of Justice lost its case over the Wire Act, which means the Act no longer applies to any interstate gambling except sports betting. That, in turn, means there’s no law against using a live dealer studio in one state to offer games in another. It would still require direct negotiations between two or more state regulators to make this possible, but at least the federal barrier has been removed. Regulators will likely be involved in such discussion to offer multi-state poker, and could negotiate shared live dealer studios in the process.
In the meantime, the availability of specific games varies from state to state, based on what the local regulator has approved. New Jersey has had live dealer studios since 2016 and therefore has the widest array of games. Michigan and Pennsylvania only saw their first studios open in 2021, and therefore have a more limited selection for now.
The table below shows you what games are available in each state. Not every operator offers every game, though staples like live dealer blackjack and live dealer roulette will always be present.
|Dragon Bonus Baccarat||Yes||No||No|
|Three Card Poker||Yes||No||No|
|Ultimate Texas Hold'em||Yes||No||No|
|Side Bet City||Yes||No||No|
In a nutshell, live dealer games provide the retail casino experience using an online casino interface. Each game is different, just like every slots title is different, but the basic concept is the same.
Finding the game you want to play works like any other type of game at your online casino of choice. Typically, you’ll find all the live dealer games in a category of their own, but you’ll also see them appear next to traditional digital games of the same type. For instance, you’ll probably find Live Dealer Blackjack in both the “Live Dealer” and “Blackjack” categories of the site you’re playing on.
The first thing you’ll notice when you fire one up, however, is that you’re looking at live video rather than computer graphics. For most games, you should see a real human dealer standing at a table very similar to those you’d find in a real casino. If you’re playing roulette, there will be a wheel. For most other games, there will be a dealer shoe full of cards. The only significant difference from the casino equipment you’re familiar with is that the cards will have large print numbers and suits, so they’re easy to read on camera.
Placing your bets and taking other actions (like hitting or standing in blackjack) is as simple as clicking buttons on the screen, just as if you were playing a traditional online casino game. Instead of the computer resolving the action, however, your instructions get relayed to the dealer, who will deal cards, spin the wheel, etc. just like at the casino. The only thing that’s simulated are your chips. You’ll see casino chips appear on the table when you make your bet, but they’re digitally superimposed on the video feed.
There’s audio as well as video, so you can hear the dealer talk to you. They can’t hear or see you, however. Instead, you have access to text chat if you want to say something to the dealer or other players at your table.
That’s how the basic live dealer experience works. There are a few variations on the concept, however.
One common twist on live dealer blackjack is called “infinite” or “unlimited” blackjack, depending on the site and live dealer studio it’s coming from. They both work on the same principle.
The idea here is that there’s only one hand dealt, but any number of players can bet on it. Each player also makes their own decisions about whether to hit or stand, whether to split, and so forth. This means that if you stand, you’ll still end up seeing the next card if other players hit.
The real advantage of these versions of blackjack is that they’re faster than regular blackjack, and a single dealer can serve any number of players. That keeps the costs down for the operator, which means you can play for low stakes, in some cases as low as $1 a hand, whereas most live dealer games have similar or higher minimums than you’d see at a regular casino.
Like infinite/unlimited blackjack, these are two names for the same thing. Also like those blackjack variants, the idea of these games is to speed things up while cutting costs, thereby allowing for lower minimums than are otherwise possible.
Here, that’s accomplished by removing the dealer entirely. This isn’t a social experience like live dealer games. It’s for players who want the same pace of play as digital roulette, but want to see a real wheel and ball. The setup is live streamed on video just like other live dealer games, but the wheel itself is an automatic machine that launches the ball and records the result on its own.
Not to be confused with auto roulette, lightning roulette isn’t just roulette sped up. Rather, it’s an exclusive variation on the game, featuring augmented reality graphics and offered by Evolution Gaming, the main USA live dealer casino provider. Behind the dealer is a virtual “screen” much like the one your television weather forecaster uses. After bets are placed, but before the spin, the screen will display between one and five lucky numbers that have been “struck by lightning” and have increased payouts.
Bets on colors, even/odd, and so forth pay out as in normal roulette. The special lightning mechanic only applies when you’re betting single numbers. If your number gets chosen as a lucky number and hits on the spin, you’ll get a random payout of between 50-1 and 500-1. However, numbers that don’t get selected to be lucky only pay out 30-1, rather than the standard 36-1. That reduction is necessary in order to fund the greater payouts on lucky numbers, while still maintaining the house edge.
Side Bet City is another proprietary game by Evolution, available at only at a couple of New Jersey online casinos. It’s a variation on the somewhat uncommon retail casino game 3-5-7 Poker. Essentially, you bet on whether the first 3, 5 or 7 cards off the deck will form a winning hand. The better the hand, the better the payout. The main difference is that there’s an All Lose betting option. Pick this and you’ll get paid out 0.7-1 if none of the three hands makes a winning combination.
Aside from the slightly novel mechanics the main appeal of this game is the custom decor and dealer costumes, meant to evoke 1980s-era Las Vegas.
Live slots are an unusual experiment currently only available at the Hard Rock Online Casino in New Jersey. They operate similarly to live dealer table games, except that there is obviously no dealer when it comes to slot machines. In that sense, live slots are more like auto roulette than they are like other live dealer games.
These games consist of a bank of physical slot machines at the brick-and-mortar Hard Rock Casino that are equipped with special devices allowing them to be operated remotely through players’ online casino accounts. Cameras point at the machines so players can see the action, and money is seamlessly transferred between the machine’s balance and the player’s online casino account.
Live dealer has a few benefits relative to conventional online casino games, but some downsides as well. They’re both very valid choices, but they’ll appeal to different players for different reasons. Here’s an honest look at the relative merits of each to help you make an informed choice.
If you’re not sure whether you prefer live dealer or traditional online casino games, there’s a middle ground option. Look for games that have the words “First Person” in the title. These are part of Evolution Gaming’s line of hybrid products.
When you first load up a First Person game, it will look like a digital version of the game in question, and work just like the traditional casino games you’re used to. However, the game’s interface will include a Go LIVE button. Click this, and you’ll be whisked off to a live dealer version of the same game. Another click will take you back to the purely digital version if you get tired of the live dealer experience.
At the moment, there’s really only one company providing live dealer games in the USA: Evolution Gaming and its subsidiary Ezugi. However, competition from Playtech should be arriving soon.
Evolution is based in Sweden and is the largest, though not the only live dealer gaming company in international markets. In the USA, it owns and operates the only live dealer studios in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
In New Jersey, it was actually the second company on the scene. The first live dealer studio in the USA was a partnership between Ezugi and Golden Nugget, with the latter providing the space and Ezugi the technology. That took place in August 2016.
Evolution joined the market two years later, opening its studio on the premises of Hard Rock AC. However, one of its first acts after arrival in the USA was to buy up the competition. It acquired Ezugi in Nov 2018. Both studios still operate and Ezugi maintains a separate set of games, but it hasn’t expanded at all and doesn’t look likely to under Evolution ownership.
There are additional branded studios for particular online casinos. DraftKings Casino has its own studios in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, while BetMGM Casino has one in Michigan. These too are powered by Evolution, however, and located on the same premises as its generic studios.
In Mar 2021, Playtech announced that it had secured a long term lease allowing it to open its first live dealer studio in the USA. The studio will be located in Southfield, Michigan.
Playtech is a major B2B gaming software supplier. It provides the casino and sportsbook platforms for many online operators, but is probably best known among end users for its slots products like Buffalo Blitz and Age of the Gods.
It was actually the pioneer of the live dealer industry, launching the first ever such games way back in 2003. Fifteen years later, it ramped up its efforts with a new flagship studio in Riga, Latvia, which opened in Feb 2018. It has only been making forays into the USA since 2020, starting in New Jersey through a partnership with Bet365. It has since entered another strategic partnership with Parx.
Bet365 has no presence in Michigan, but Parx does: It supplies the technology for Play Gun Lake Casino. However, its home base is in Pennsylvania where the original Parx Casino is located. This may mean that Playtech aims to expand into Pennsylvania at some future date, but beginning in Michigan makes sense as it’s the most recently launched of the large iGaming states, so there will be less catching up to do.
The history of live dealer games in the USA is a young one, but here’s the story to date, in chronological order.
Here are short answers to some of the most important questions about live dealer casino gaming in the USA. Some are more succinct versions of the information above, others cover details that didn’t fit into those longer explanations.
Evolution Gaming offers legal and licensed, real money online casino gaming with a live dealer in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Its subsidiary Ezugi also operates in NJ, and a rival, Playtech, should launch in Michigan soon.
Live dealer games undergo the same testing and licensing as any other online casino games. As long as you’re playing at a casino that’s been properly licensed by the relevant state regulator, you’re guaranteed a fair game.
All games offered by licensed and regulated USA online casinos are guaranteed to have truly random outcomes. Neither a live dealer nor a digital random number generator is more legitimate than the other.
Live dealer gaming has been available in the USA since Ezugi launched the first studio in 2016.
Evolution and other live dealer companies are awarded supplier licenses by state regulators. These licenses are separate from the operator licenses, and allow third party suppliers to offer their games through licensed operators, but not independently.
Live dealer companies allow online casino operators to offer their games in return for a cut of the revenue, often 10%.
The number one live dealer game is blackjack, by far. Roulette is a distant second place, while games like baccarat and casino poker are more niche products.
Augmented reality is the integration of computer graphics into a live video stream in real time. Evolution has integrated the technology into some of its custom games in various ways, but has only rolled it out to a limited extent in the USA so far.
DraftKings and BetMGM both have custom studios powered by Evolution technology. DraftKings has studios in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, while BetMGM’s is in Michigan.
The Delaware and West Virginia online casino markets probably aren’t large enough to be worth building a live dealer studio in state. For the time being, that’s a regulatory requirement, but it could change in future. These states could get live dealer gaming if it becomes possible to stream the games from a studio in another state.
No one has yet come up with a satisfactory way to offer craps as a live dealer product. Most USA online casinos don’t even offer craps as a purely digital game, as it doesn’t translate well to the online format. Compounding this, when it comes to live dealer play, is the fact that players want to roll the dice themselves, not to watch an on-screen dealer roll them on their behalf.