March 1, 2011
Going Live Around The World
The boom in the live gaming industry, along with the proliferation of mobile technologies, has opened up exciting new opportunities for expansion into new markets for those with the foresight and expertise to stay ahead of the game. eGaming Review talks to Martin Reiner of Visionary iGaming and Jens Von Bahr of Evolution Gaming about the growth of live gaming.
eGaming Review (eGR): What were the key drivers behind the growth of the sector in 2010?
Marty Reiner (MR): Formerly a niche product in Europe, and considered a primarily Asian market concept, the live dealer market became 100% mainstream in 2010, with the premier live gaming brands distributing via regulated brands in Europe and taking advantage of worldwide demand in currently unregulated environments.
Live gaming delivers high player retention, and is very adaptable to different market segments. This has enabled Visionary iGaming to market to established Tier 1 brands who are seeking to round out their product offering as well as to net cafés and new turnkey sites that use live dealers as their core product.
Jens von Bahr (JVB): There has been quite a dramatic change in attitudes towards live gaming, as there was a perception that live gaming would simply cannibalise RNG revenues, but operations have proven to generate incremental revenues.
Operators have recognised live gaming as the key product for the future and the importance of securing market share now, as it will be very costly tomorrow. This belief and the improved quality of service have led operators to promote live Gaming more.
Additionally, as operators have looked to differentiate themselves, strengthen their brands online and deliver more localised and personalised communications and offerings, the benefits of real-time live gaming are obvious. Personalizing promotions and sending individual messages to players have proved to be a very effective way to create player loyalty and attract new players online.
eGR: How has the growth of live gaming affected the online gaming sector as a whole?
MR: In 2010 live gaming rose to the forefront of many sites seeking to demonstrate innovation to their player base. It is not uncommon to see live dealer promotions featured on home pages of established sites and separate navigation bars that distinguish it from RNG casino games. In 2011 live dealer is now a 'must have' rather than a 'nice-to-have' product. The 'early adopters' who initially offered the product are beginning to leave those without it behind.
JVB: The thrill of the live gaming experience has shifted from novel addition to a must-have key component. Just as Bingo went from the periphery to mainstream very quickly, it's now the turn of live gaming.
Now operators present Live Casino as a top-tier tab alongside Sportsbook, Poker and Casino, rather than simply a sub-category of Casino. Additional marketing resources have been allocated to Live Casino and the most successful operators have a dedicated Live Casino manager, highlighting the significance of this product.
eGR: Which markets are embracing gaming experience in particular?
MR: The biggest live gaming market in the world remains in Asia, where players simply do not trust the RNG experience. However, the biggest growth markets for Visionary iGaming are: Europe, Canada, Mexico and Latin America. In Europe, the evolving regulatory environment plays a big role. In 2011, Visionary iGaming will establish a fully licensed, European division that will be UK white listed. The rest of the Americas are even more complex, but are rich with opportunities for a quality live dealer product that caters to their unique requirements. This will include private branding, live dealer in Spanish and Portuguese, and custom back-office features. Visionary iGaming is extremely well positioned to embrace this part of the world with its headquarters and dealing studios located in San José, Costa Rica.
JVB: Live Casino is gaining popularity everywhere. The UK is a key market, but strong growth has been seen in central, eastern and Mediterranean Europe. There are high expectations that Italy will be a key market in 2011.
eGR: To what extent can technology play a role in ensuring the players receive the optimum gaming experience?
MR: At a fundamental level, technology is the enabler for live dealer gaming, but it is the marriage of technology and business process that spark the magic. Analogously, the internet fundamentally enables social networking, but Twitter and Facebook bring it to life.
With live dealer, companies such as ViG which foster the community experience, are blending technology and Web 2.0 trends. This enhances the user experience from one centered upon strictly gaming to one including friends, community and entertainment and, in turn, leads to high player retention.
New internet standards such as HTML5 will have a profound impact in years to come by enabling more end-user devices and making it easy to include multimedia content without using proprietary plugins like Adobe Flash. This breakthrough will enable live dealer on iPhones, for example.
JVB: Increased bandwidth, the ability to stream TV quality video over the Internet and chat facilities have all contributed significantly to delivering a complete interactive entertainment experience to players.
Additionally blue-screen technology is a cost-effective way for operators, online and land based, to create complete branded environments online.
Land-based casinos could 'blue screen' the casino entrance, lobby, casino floor and tables from their 'bricks and mortar' venues, to create a familiar environment that enhances their brand online and so customers feel completely at home in the online environment.
This can be extended further to deliver truly customised and localised offering for the individual markets. Such technology and Evolution's vast experience offers land-based casinos the natural extension to taking their offline content online.
eGR: What do you predict will be the major trends in the live gaming market over the next three years? How will your company position itself to meet these challenges?
MR: Localization and privately branded tables will be a key trend. Visionary iGaming has recently invested in a large, state-of-the-art dealing facility capable of adding 30 more customised and private tables, and will soon be offering Spanish roulette to the Latin American market. Clients are also swarming to the privately branded tables to secure seats at the new ViG classic blackjack game.
In terms of regulation, Visionary iGaming is seeking a UK white listed license to penetrate this growing market further, as well as keeping a very close watch on the potentially easing legislation in the US. We are positioning ourselves to act as soon as those borders open. We will also cater to more markets on more devices.
Visionary iGaming is constantly upgrading its platform to keep up with and leverage the most state-of-the-art technology. In the short term, we will be migrating our multimedia user interface to HTML5 and enabling mobile applications, among other things.
JVB: Regulated markets such as Italy, Spain and Denmark and soon, potentially, the US, will result in huge further growth in live gaming and a demand for more localised products, and will require significant investments in compliance and resources. Evolution already has localised products specific to the UK and Italian markets, and offers unrivalled levels of localization and customization to allow its operators to gain competitive advantage. To retain its position as the world's leading provider of Live Casino, it is crucial that Evolution delivers new, scalable live games and offers the best liquidity of live games. The number of tables will increase significantly so that all players have the ability to join a table at any time, which will see a huge increase in the number of dealers and pit bosses hired, to ensure that the highest levels of service are retained. Today, we employ 400 staff; in three years' time it is anticipated this figure will be in excess of 1,500 staff.
Martin Reiner is the CEO of Visionary iGaming, a premier provider of Live Dealer 2.0 casino games, and has been bringing innovation to Live Dealer egaming since 2005. Before launching ViG, he was CEO of Vuetec, parent of the Dublinbet brand. Prior to that Mr Reiner was SVP of business development at the Chicago Board of Trade, one of the world's largest derivative exchanges.
Jens von Bahr is the CEO of Evolution Gaming. Jens has been at the helm of the company's successes since it launched in 2006, negotiating partnerships with many of the biggest names in the online gaming industry. His passionate belief in the use of innovative technologies to drive business success has firmly established Evolution Gaming as the pioneer and leader in video-streamed live dealer gaming.