Last year, the Times of Malta declared that more than half of the gaming revenues for the top iGaming companies were being generated by live dealer casino products. Many of the pioneering software providers that have traditionally focused on creating the best slot experiences for desktop and mobile users are venturing into the live dealer vertical.
NetEnt is a prime example. The Swedish studio is considered one of the top seven slot providers and has innovated the video slot scene for more than a decade, bringing HTML5-powered responsive slot games to our screens, but its NetEnt Live division consists of real-time, live-streamed games with a gaming atmosphere to rival any land-based casino floor.
Many consumers are attracted by the prospect of playing immersive live dealer games because they offer a land-based casino experience from the comfort of their own home. All that’s needed is a fast and reliable Wi-Fi or 4G connection to get started. The HD-quality visuals are crystal clear, giving players a unique perspective of the action as it unfolds on the tables.
However, there is far more to running a live casino studio than meets the eye. Below, we’ll explore the technological foundations required by the leading iGaming brands to run 24/7 live casino studios.
We might as well start with the components that are arguably the most important element of any live dealer gaming experience – the studio cameras. The positioning and clarity of the studio cameras are vital to ensure a slick and immersive gaming experience. Most live dealer table games will have multiple camera angles for you to choose from, tailoring your perspective of the action from the word go.
For example, a standard live dealer roulette table will usually offer three studio camera angles. The first being a basic overview of the betting table and the wheel. The second being top-down overview of the roulette wheel exclusively, and the final being a top-down overview of the betting table.
The in-game monitor is the eyes and ears of how the online action is unfolding for the live dealers. It displays to them what the active players can see on their desktop and mobile screens. The in-game monitor is also useful as it can pinpoint any players that may be taking longer than usual to place their bets, giving dealers a prompt to help newbies and maintain a steady flow of the game.
The in-game monitor is also used to help dealers know when a player’s bets are lost and their cards can therefore be removed from play. It’s the in-game monitor that allows dealers to interact in real time with the players, with messages relayed via the live chat box.
It’s also important to acknowledge the role that the dealers themselves play in the functioning of live casino games. These dealers are professionally trained before they enter the live casino studio floor. This means they know the rules of every game they manage like the back of their hands.
The dealers are not only trained to deal and manage the flow of the game, but they are also selected for their engaging personalities. Many of the live casino dealers you encounter will have genuine charisma that make every deal or spin as fun as the last.
Optical character recognition (OCR) technology
If you have played at a live dealer casino before and wondered how the user interface manages to display the values of cards and hands so fast, it’s largely down to OCR technology. OCR is integrated into the dealer’s shoe of any card game and indeed wheel-based games like roulette. It is used to convert meaningful data – like the value of a physical card – into a digestible, digital format.
When a dealer takes a card from their deck, the card is slid over an OCR camera, which immediately captures the value of the card and overlays it onto your user interface via the Game Control Unit. OCR technology has been used for many decades to help digitize analogue industries and ages. The British Library recently used it to digitise the Magna Carta, and now it is helping to bring land-based casino gaming to life online.
Game Control Unit (GCU)
The GCU is another key component in a live casino studio. Think of it as the heartbeat of any live table game. It’s attached beneath the game table, helping to maintain the flow of data from the table to your desktop or mobile screen. The GCU is designed to encode the live stream broadcast to your device. This ensures the best possible viewing experience.
In many ways, live casinos would not be achievable without a rock-solid GCU to encode and encrypt the broadcast, ensuring a secure and slick gaming environment.
A layman’s explanation of how a live dealer studio works
The process of running a live casino game varies from game to game. For the purposes of this example, we’ll use live blackjack to explain how the studio operates a game of blackjack with multiple players online based in various parts of the world.
For starters, the dealer and the table will be broadcast live to the screens of the players sat at their table. The broadcast will be streamed and embedded within the intuitive betting interface of your chosen live casino site. Players can watch the dealer interact to their messages in real time via the live chat box facility.
Bets can be placed on the user interface by dragging and dropping virtual casino chips into the blackjack seats you wish to play. Once those bets are placed, they are removed from the screen and the action begins. The dealer deals each card via its OCR camera, which quickly relays the hand values on-screen to players. You’re then given the option to play your hand to its conclusion via the user interface. It’s possible to change your view of the blackjack table by changing the camera angle, so long as multiple angles are offered.
Live casino interfaces have also been developed to be fully responsive, ensuring players can enjoy their favourite table games on any desktop or mobile device, regardless of screen size.