Live dealer casino games have been with us for a relatively short space of time. However, since the inception of online casino gaming around 20 years ago, live play has grown to become one of the most popular gambling activities in the world.
The Early Years
To understand the proliferation of live dealer games, it’s important to grasp the challenges that the industry faced in the early years. To begin with, there wasn’t even a legal framework within which an online casino could operate.
The rapid growth of the world-wide-web in the mid to late 1990s had caught Governments and lawmakers unawares, forcing them to play catch-up in the regulation of new, unfamiliar online territories such as virtual gambling.
However, things changed in 1994 with the passing of the Free Trade and Processing Act of Antigua and Barbuda. For the first time, gambling establishments could apply for licenses to operate online casinos legally.
This seemingly innocuous statute let the genie out of the bottle as it were, with other countries such as the UK and Malta following suit. Legislation was updated and regulatory bodies established, thus paving the way for a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to flourish unabated.
But despite the raft of new regulations, there were still plenty of technical obstacles that had to be overcome.
The Birth of Online Casino Gaming
In 1995 Microgaming unveiled the earliest example of online casino software, which was duly installed on its Gaming Club website. Unfortunately, real money couldn’t be wagered because it wasn’t possible at that time to securely transfer funds between player and casino.
The solution was found in 1996 when Cryptologic introduced a cryptographical method of money transfer which was safe and reliable. Following an extended bout of testing, the new payment system was deployed on InterCasino, which became the first online casino to accept real money wagers.
Unsurprisingly, things started to move rather quickly after this breakthrough. By the end of 1996, around 15 online casino/gaming sites could accept online payments. By 1997, the number had increased by over 200.
Early online casinos featured around 20 casino games – a far cry from the massive range of games now available to gamers. What’s more, they were hindered by feeble internet connections that were both slow and unreliable.
Nevertheless, the introduction of broadband connectivity from 1996 onwards improved internet speeds and reliability. Online casino developers now had the tools to create truly interactive live casino platforms.
The First Live Casino Platforms
Planet Poker offers the earliest example of live casino play. Its poker room, which was launched in 1998 made full use of the Broadband Revolution. Although, data transmission speeds were slow by today’s standards and video quality choppy and pixelated, Planet Poker was one of the first operators to show what could be achieved with improved internet speeds and more reliable connections.
The Modern Live Casino Experience
The gradual introduction of more sophisticated online casino software over the years, not to mention vastly improved internet connections, heralded the end of poor quality video streaming. Today, live dealer players can enjoy uninterrupted HD streaming technology and reliable platforms upon which to play live dealer games.
Gone are the days of single game platforms too. Thanks to the emergence of software developers such as Microgaming and Evolution, players can now try their hands at multiple variants of traditional casino table games such as poker, roulette, blackjack and baccarat. In addition many online casinos are available 24/7. Game-play is far better as well with an extensive range of in-game features available to players including live chat and statistics.
Professionally Croupiers and Dealers
Further proof of how far live casino gaming has come can be found in the way croupiers are prepared for the live environment. The standards expected of dealers in bricks and mortar establishments are now the same for live environments.
Additionally, specialist academies have been established such as Malta’s Online Live Casino Academy, which properly prepare dealers for a career in front of the cameras. On top of this, most live providers also require their croupiers to undergo extensive training.
Refining the Live Casino Experience
Companies such as Evolution Gaming, NetEnt Live and Microgaming continue to push the bar when it comes to live dealer casino gaming, harnessing the full potential of the very latest technologies. Some of these companies, Evolution Gaming in particular, have started to refine their live casino offering by increasing the streaming options for its online casino customers.
Live Streaming from Specialist Studios
Many specialists offer live casino game streaming from purpose-built production studios. These studios, which often feature an extensive range of table games, consist of dedicated rooms that have been specifically designed according to the brand requirements of online casino operators. Evolution actually features three different studios located in Latvia, Malta and Canada.
Live Streaming from Land-Based Premises
Then there are casinos like Grosvenor who prefer to install and operate live casino suites on their own premises. This allows operators to use their own staff while emphasising their bricks-and-mortar brand to live clients. Providers such as Evolution even provide installation services and all the equipment that goes with setting up a live casino broadcast, such as camera, lighting, monitors and microphones.
Live Casino for Mobile
And finally, to truly underline just how far technology as brought us in the last twenty years, most live dealer specialists offer optimised live casino games via tablet and mobile devices. Developed for each device and operating system, these platforms comprise intuitive interfaces and closely match the capabilities of their larger desktop cousins. To think less than twenty years ago, players couldn’t even deposit money for an online casino. How times have changed.