Insight from H2 Gambling Capital (H2GC) shows online gambling is growing at a much faster rate than land-based, and within the digital world, live casinos are growing the fastest. From 2016-2019 alone, live casino had an impressive 32% compound annual growth rate (CAGR). The sector has become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more players choosing to play their favourite casino games in a live setting.
But how does a supplier develop products that are going to give players in this growing market exactly what they’re looking for? Haitin believes Playtech has the answer.
“The thing that sets Playtech Live aside from all our competitors is that we are constantly learning. We’ve learnt that we need to focus on two core elements: our games and our dealers. Both must be the best when it comes to a live product.”
Online casino vs. live casino
The thrill of being in a land-based casino setting is difficult to beat – from competition across the poker table to crashing shoulders round a roulette wheel, it’s a difficult experience to replicate online.
Though online casinos have proven to be popular, the appetite from players for something more exciting has continued to grow. Live casino brings an extra edge to the online casino experience; with real players, real hosts and real money, players have everything they need without having to leave the comfort of their house.
Playtech’s big innovation challenge
Everyone in the igaming industry is constantly looking to evolve and ‘innovate’ their offering but here lies the classic Catch-22: the more innovation that comes, the harder it is to find new ways to innovate.
One of the biggest trends that has taken both operators and suppliers by storm is the use of AI in online gambling. Though AI is not a new phenomenon, it is still evolving to change the way online games are offered to players.
For Haitin, Playtech Live doesn’t use AI as a gimmick or a marketing tool; instead, it works behind the scenes to help elevate the product offering.
“I do think the use of AI is a marketing thing for many. With Playtech Live, we’re not pushing it as the main attraction, instead it’s demonstrated under the services umbrella,” he says.
“When we use AI in Playtech Live it’s not to create a new slogan; we actually use it to enable safer gambling and detect any unlawful activity while servicing our clients’ players. A lot of other use cases are already on the tables, whether it’s camera detection of the cards, or other types of analysis that we are using to monitor the gaming flow.
“We use these technologies rather than selling them. This way we are giving clients the best creative experience for players to indulge, have a responsible time, and ultimately, have fun. When using the services that are operated by AI, we do not shout about it just because of the granularity of the product, and that’s what makes it special.”
“As a technology-driven company, AI is ingrained in our systems, making it more than just a buzzword. It’s a fundamental aspect of who we are and how we operate.”
Bridging the gap with Playtech Live
While many suppliers talk about enhancing player experience, Playtech Live sets itself apart with features like augmented reality. With this innovative technology, players can now enjoy the immersive experience of sitting at a real casino table with a live dealer, all from the comfort of their own homes. It’s a game-changer that truly delivers on the promise of an enhanced and captivating gaming experience.
“I think what we are doing today with the live games is creating an IP which is being capitalised very differently to the way that you see normal games being released, marketed, played and put in the back of the room. We want our titles to live as classics for many, many years to come.”
Playtech Live: Bringing TV gameshow classics to the live casino world
For Playtech, building just another live casino product wasn’t going to reach the heights it had set out. Instead, the team focused on bridging the gap between popular TV game shows that already resonated with an audience and brought them into a live casino format.
“We have already acquired the best rights for the leading game shows form TV all over the world,” says Haitin. “All the classics are exclusively owned by us for the next few years. For example, the latest in our portfolio is the cult classic, Family Feud.
“Playtech Live is revolutionising the Live Casino experience by incorporating popular TV game shows. Through this innovative approach, players can seamlessly transition from watching and playing along at home to actively participating in the game through our Live Casino platform.
Building on success
Releasing casino games based on TV shows isn’t new for Playtech, having released Adventures Beyond Wonderland previously. This game saw huge success, winning the American Gaming Association award for product of the year in 2023, three years after it was initially launched in Europe.
Haitin puts its success down to Playtech having owned the product for three years while constantly developing and improving it based on player feedback. The newest version was then launched in the U.S with a huge investment and Playtech is now recognised in the market for bringing this innovation.
“The responsibility that these brands give to us in terms of how we represent them, the IP level, the creativity, and the installation level to be matching the ones that Hollywood is making, I think that tells the whole story. Producing a Jumanji game show, for example, is not straightforward but we manage to do it successfully.”
Playtech Live and the launch of Jumanji
Most recently, Playtech’s 2021 deal with Sony Pictures allowed it to acquire the gaming rights to Jumanji. Based on the 1981 fantasy book by American author Chris Van Allsburg, Jumanji has spawned its own franchise with a board game and multiple film releases. Now, it has a live casino spin-off.
“We make the games fun to watch even if you don’t play; we create the experience for you to watch and not spend money,” Haitin explains. “The age demographics are timeless.”
“Everybody loves an adventure – I don’t think we should disqualify the older generation from playing.”
Jumanji was a huge investment for Playtech, and according to Haitin, it’s the biggest online casino game show that has ever launched in the US.
Combining cutting-edge technology with the cinematic experience, the game takes players on an immersive journey through the sets of the film. This new live game, housed in one of the largest and most complex studios ever built by Playtech, is designed to immerse players in the full Jumanji 24/7 theme park experience.
“The new live game will see players embark on a journey through the heart of the jungle, encountering challenges and surprises along the way, such as facing stampedes of wild animals or unlocking the secrets of the enchanted board game.”
New partners, new demographics
Playtech Live is not only succeeding on European turf, it is now making waves across the pond too.
Despite Evolution having a majority market share in the States, Playtech has still managed to make moves in the industry with bestselling game shows and entertainment products. With the rights already secured for two of the most successful games in the world, Adventures Beyond Wonderland and Fire Blaze roulette, in New Jersey and Michigan respectively, Playtech is on course to continue this success way into 2024. So how does it plan to go about that – and what differentiates Playtech from the competition?
“Bringing that success into the American market and building the best products for the American consumer to have the option to choose and not to be forced with one type of a product that is there to empty its pockets,” explains Haitin. “That’s what we are trying to do and we’re trying to keep that spirit of fairness, responsible gaming, creativity and entertainment-led selection at the top of our strategy.
“I think that creates a vast gap between us and our competitors when they are trying to force their strategy. We are here as a pure B2B business and our goal is to make sure that the strategies of our licences are the priority – we are here to make them succeed with us, not us succeed through them.”
The Playtech family
Playtech Live is a vast offering and one that, according to Haitin, requires an exceptional team at the helm.
“Our people are very much embedding themselves in the Playtech family, seeing the opportunities to grow and to do more across the divisions,” he says.
Live casinos are popular because of the realistic gaming experience they offer players. Unlike traditional online casino games, live games are played in real-time with real dealers, creating an authentic casino atmosphere. So just how important is a happy workplace when it comes to happy dealers?
“At Playtech, we prioritise training and nurturing every member of our team, ensuring they are well-treated and deliver exceptional service with genuine smiles. This philosophy sets us apart. Whether you visit our live gaming tables at a casino or watch our TV shows, we understand the importance of creating a pleasant atmosphere and ensuring a positive experience. For us, it’s all about fostering good vibes and creating a welcoming environment at Playtech.
“Our dealers and hosts are undoubtedly the best there is.”
Casino innovation: Playing the long game
Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, Playtech is set to continue its trajectory of innovation and growth in the live casino world. With a drive to bring something unique to market, the company is expected to introduce new technologies that will further immerse players in the excitement of live casino gaming, as Haitin explains.
“We have a lot to look forward to. Over the next two years, there is much to anticipate as continue with the expansion of Playtech Live. It is highly likely that the utilisation of live applications will soar beyond our current levels. Personally, I am confident that Playtech will spearhead this expansion of live technology across various sectors, application scenarios, other technological domains, and even different industries.”
One area of development that Playtech Live is likely to explore is virtual reality (VR) gaming. By leveraging VR technology, players will have the opportunity to step into a virtual casino environment, complete with realistic visuals and immersive interactions. It’s an exciting vision of the future but one that Haitin is keeping under his hat – for now.
“There is a lot I can’t currently say. However, Playtech Live is going to take the most consumed product today in the world, which is video, into a different dimension, allowing people to consume video but also to participate in the video experience if they choose to do so without costs.”
Edo Haitin, Chief executive officer Playtech Live