Interested in how the live dealer casino industry evolved? The below discussion touches on some of major milestones, including formation of key platform providers, operators and regulatory jurisdictions around the world. Live dealer casinos are a vertical within a vertical and therefore a relatively niche industry still in its formative stages but the journey to date has still been an interesting one.
1994 - The birth of an online casino regulatory framework and casino software giant
In 1994 the Caribbean nation of Antigua Barbuda passes the The Free Trade and Processing Zone Act, 1994 and the Directorate of Offshore Gaming is formed within the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC) with specific mandate of enforcing the licensing and regulatory framework set out in the Act. Antigua Barbuda becomes the first jurisdiction to issue online gambling licenses to gaming and wagering companies in 1994.
Casino software giant Microgaming is formed on the back of the development of what is claimed to be the first online casino software platform. Microgaming will go on to become one of the largest casino software developers, by any measure, with a game suite in 2009 of 400 random number generator games, mobile casino games, poker, bingo, and live dealer casino games.
1996 - A North American licensing and regulatory presence
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is founded out of the North American Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, providing a licensing and regulatory regime for operators hosted within its territory. Kahnawake goes on to become a prodigious licenser of online gambling operators including a number of live dealer licensees.
Soon afterward the Interactive Gaming Council is founded by a group of online gambling operators, including Microgaming, to provide the industry with a unified voice, political lobbying clout and fair gaming code of conduct for members to adhere to.
1999 - A second casino software giant is founded
Playtech is founded by a group of software engineers and multi-media industry entrepreneurs lead by majority owner Teddy Sagi. Playtech will go on to become an industry leader with dozens of large name licensee casinos including Bet 365, Befred and William Hill, a 2006 London Stock Exchange listing and a reputation for leading the industry with product development and innovation.
Their product suite as at 2009 includes 150 RNG games, mobile casino games, bingo, one of the industries most comprehensive live dealer platforms and a poker network (iPoker network) claimed to be the largest in the world pre-UIGEA with up to 30,000 concurrent players at peak times.
2000 - A European region online gambling licensing jurisdiction is born
The Alderney Gambling Control Commission is formed as the regulatory authority enforcing the operative provisions of Alderney’s recently enacted online gambling legislation…The Gambling (Alderney) Law, 1999. It goes on to become a significant online gambling licensing jurisdiction with licensees including Gala Ltd, Blue Square Ltd, Full Tilt Poker and more recently Evolution Core Holdings Ltd, owners of the Evolution Gaming live dealer platform.
2003 - eCOGRA is founded and Playtech launches its live dealer platform
eCOGRA is founded as a not for profit organization providing a best practice operating framework for the online casino gambling industry.
Playtech launches its live dealer platform.
Specialist (now defunct) live platform developer CWC Gaming launch CasinoWebCam, taking a live feed from CWC’s dealer studio based in San Jose, Costa Rica.
2004 - An EU Member State puts licensing regime in place for online gambling operators
The Gambling Act (UK) 2005 is enacted in the United Kingdom, paving the way for licensed UK based online casino operators who may advertise within Britain via mainstream media. The UK Gambling Commission is formed to oversee compliance to the Act’s operative provisions.
The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority is formed pursuant to the Gambling Act (Gibraltar) 2005 and another jurisdiction opens its doors to operators wishing to apply for licenses.
The Remote Gambling Association is formed following a merger between the Association of Remote Gambling Operators and the Interactive Gaming, Gambling and Betting Association.
Live roulette is born in the UK, with Vegas 24/7 Broadcasting Ltd (later acquired by NetPlayTV Plc) offering a live roulette game on a dedicated Sky Digital channel for UK subscribers.
2006 - Microgaming, Evolution launch live dealer platforms
Microgaming begin their foray into live dealer gaming launching live baccarat.
Evolution Gaming is founded as a specialist live dealer platform provider with a dealer studio in Riga, Latvia. In the three years to 2009, Evolution goes on to sign some of the biggest names in online gambling to their platform, including BetVictor, Unibet, 888.com, and William Hill.
The Bush Administration passes the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act making it illegal for US financial institutions to facilitate transactions between US residents and online gambling operators not licensed in the US.
Dublinbet launches, claiming to be the first online casino streaming games from a real ‘bricks and mortar’ casino…the Fitzwilliam Card Club and Casino in Dublin, Ireland using Vuetec’s Java based streaming and bet interface platform.
UK betting institution Ladbrokes signs a licensing deal with CWC Gaming for use of its live dealer platform.
2007 - Smart Live Casino begins broadcasts of roulette and blackjack games on Sky TV
Smart TV Broadcasting limited and AIM listed NetPlayTV Plc, owners/operators of Smart Live Casino and Supercasino.com respectively are issued remote gambling licenses by the UK Gambling Commission. Both casinos begin offering their live roulette and blackjack games over dedicated Sky and Freesat channels in addition to casts on their website under the new licensing and regulatory regime.
2008 - More big names add live casino games
Blue Square launch their live casino powered by Evolution Gaming.
NetPlayTV Plc launch their internet casino Supercasino.com, leveraging their live existing live ‘for TV’ roulette product and adding live blackjack to their product offering. As well as internet, distribution channels expand to include Freeview.
Unibet launch their live casino powered by Evolution Gaming.
William Hill Online is formed as the joint venture vehicle of Playtech (29%) and William Hill Plc (71%) and launches the William Hill Casino Club which includes live dealer games (from the Playtech naturally).
Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) launch their live casino powered by Evolution Gaming.
Entertasia (now EntwineTech) signs a master license agreement with RNG game developer Cryptologic, for the supply of their live dealer platform to Cryptologic licensee casinos.
2009 - Latvia’s live gaming footprint grows
Playtech opens its European based live dealer studio, located in Riga, Latvia – the same city where Evolution Gaming’s dealer studio is located.
In May, UK television regulators Ofcom reclassify the definition of ‘teleshopping’ to include gambling, opening the door for casino game operators to purchase time on free-to-air channels. In September Supercasino.com starts broadcasting its live roulette games on Channel Five.
Evolution Gaming expand the size of their Latvian dealer studio by 400% to accommodate more tables and dealers.
Unibet is named inaugural winner of the Live Gaming Operator of the Year award at the EGR awards.
2010 - Established Asian platforms eye Western markets
Sportingbet become the latest addition to Evolution Gaming’s licensee list.
Evolution Gaming are named EGRB2B Live Casino Supplier of the Year
Microgaming completes a major live games platform upgrade and adds live blackjack
Entertasia (now EntwineTech) partner with CTXM to focus on developing games for Western markets
Chartwell Technology Inc. partners with HoGaming to develop a Euro-centric live dealer product. Chartwell/HoGaming live dealers are added by Victor Chandler (BetVictor) early 2011
2011 - Localising live games
Betfair add Playtech’s European dealer studio games.
Evolution Gaming are named EGRB2B Live Casino Supplier of the Year for the 2nd year running
Evolution Gaming gain certification from Italy’s AAMS to provide licensed live games in Italy and announce the launch of Venezia live roulette tailored to the Italian market complete with Italian speaking dealers. Ventuno live blackjack for Italians is soon to follow.
EntwineTech launch live games playable on iPad.
2012 - Introducing dedicated live casino rooms and live games for mobile
Unibet is the first operator to get a get a dedicated live casino room from Evolution Gaming. William Hill follow soon after.
In November Grosvenor and Blue Square casinos become the first to launch Evolution Gaming’s live roulette for iPad
2013 - Streaming from European land based casinos
Developments in the iPad/Android live casino game space gather pace. Evolution launch live blackjack for iPad, Playtech launch live roulette for iPad, and live dealer Apps start appearing in the UK Apple App store.
Net Entertainment gets into live gaming.
Playtech announce intentions to stream games from tables within Casino Gran Madrid in Spain. Evolution Gaming follow suit, launching Spanish live roulette streamed from within Casino Rincon de Pepe, also in Spain.
Later in the year, Evolution Gaming announce live games streamed from Italy’s Casinó Campione d’Italia.
Playboy Bunny dealers make an appearance at Microgaming live casinos.
2014 - Bitcoin makes an appearance
Malta based operator Vera & John becomes the first licensed/regulated casino offering live dealer games, to accept Bitcoin deposits.
Evolution Gaming and Playtech both launch multiple-table play capability. Later in the year Evolution wins it’s 5th successive Live Casino Supplier of the Year award.
On the regulatory front, the UK introduces its new licensing and POC tax laws.
2015 - POC forces consolidation
A wave of mergers and (attempted mergers) takes place in the wake of the UK’s new online gambling laws and taxes. 888, Unibet, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Gala Coral, 32Red, Bwin.Party, Paddy Power and Betfair are all involved in moves to consolidate.
Private live casino areas keep growing and the biggest operators are no longer content with just the one exclusive area. William Hill ends 2015 with three separate private live rooms having launched the Vegas and Macau branded rooms during the year.
The mobile channel sees strong growth in customer take-up and operator adoption.
2016 - Licensed live dealers in the US
Atlantic City’s Gold Nugget Casino launches a range of live dealer tables at their online site, with technology provided by Ezugi, becoming the first licensed live dealer casino available to American (New Jersey only) players.
In the 4th quarter of 2016, almost 50% of revenues generated by Evolution Gaming’s platform are derived from mobile devices.
2017 - Bigger studios, more casinos & VR goggles
Playtech spent the bulk of 2017 undertaking ‘the world’s largest ever live dealer migration’ into their new Riga studio.
In-casino live dealer tables were one of the real areas of development for the year. Thanks to Evolution, Authentic and Extreme Live Gaming, players could now join the action on the floors of a number of bricks and mortar casinos in Romania, England, Gibraltar and Denmark.
Fast play was also a trend for the year with speed deal/spin tables appearing everywhere, and from left field came talk of VR Goggle playable live dealers.
2018 - US based live dealers for EU play
In July Authentic Gaming and Foxwoods Casino launched the first US based and licensed live dealer game playable by European online players.
A series of announcements from Evolution Gaming mid year signalled their ambitions for a strong US based presence: the launch of an Atlantic City dealer studio; in-casino tables streamed from the floors of a bunch of Atlantic City casinos including Ocean Resort Casino, Hard Rock Casino and Resorts Casino Hotel.
2019 - Rise of the live game shows
Momentum builds on a new category of live game – the live game show. Releases start to come thick and fast in 2019. First from Evolution, then Playtech as well as popularity with players is proven.
Industry consolidation continues. The big one…Flutter Entertainment buy Stars Group to create the worlds largest online gambling company, valued at around €11 billion.
2020 - Goodbye NetEnt live dealers
After NetEnt accepted an almost €2 billion takeover offer from Evolution, speculation turned to what would happen to NetEnt’s live dealer games. A few new releases towards year end suggested they could remain.
This was not to be, with NetEnt’s Malta studio shut, and all games discontinued just before year end.
On the regulatory front, the UK Gambling Commission followed through on threats to ban the use of credit cards to fund online gambling.
After sitting on the sidelines for some time, Playtech declares their intent to participate in the US live dealer industry with their first US studio in Southfield, Michigan.