Sunday, 20 August 2017
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 02:04

"Joe_Going All In With Ace’s & A King" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Joseph De Luca

Going back to the first appearance of casinos on the internet in 1996, blackjack dealers and croupiers at the virtual table have lacked a certain humanity; that is, they’ve always been computers. While necessary in the days of dial-up internet, it’s nevertheless a jarring experience for players who are used to (or prefer) a more social game. In the modern, ultra-connected world though, live dealers are a natural extension of classic casino games.

Time Zones
Casino has been slow to incorporate social elements into its online offering despite a fondness for technology (the industry has invested in virtual reality games and even wearable smartwatch games) but it’s not so much a lack of interest keeping chat functions out of casino as a perceived lack of necessity; after all, blackjack, roulette, and slots are largely solo experiences.

All that has been changing in recent years though. Leading brands have been increasingly incorporating social elements into their casino games. A case in point is bgo, an operator carrying blackjack, slots and live roulette games, has enhanced its online experience to include a live video feed of a dealer, allowing players to watch their cards being shuffled and dealt or talk to the croupier (and other players) via a chat window.

Live dealers are an industry-wide phenomenon. At Gala Casino, dealers are selectable according to region (Asian and European), an option that helps brands overcome issues involving players in different time zones. Other websites, like TonyBet, offer variety in personalities and appearances of the dealers themselves.
As far as getting involved is concerned, the process is much the same as signing up to play standard blackjack or roulette. Taking bgo as an example, simply visit the “Live” section of their website and pick a game. Pressing the “Play Now” button will prompt the player to create an account. Choose a variant and dealer, a seat at the table, and place a bet.

"Glücksspiel" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by maltehempel_de

Customer Retention
With all the above in mind, it’s perhaps fair to say that live dealers represent a watershed moment in online casino history, a point when interaction among players and even between iGamers and the brand itself became more important than ever. But if websites and mobile brands have survived so long without casino’s trademark croupiers, why bother now?

According to Chartboost, customer “retention”, a marketing term that refers to people who keep returning to a business over a period of time (compare that to “acquisition”, the art of getting new ones), is higher on websites and gaming platforms with social and/or multiplayer features. Put another way, greater social opportunities translates to more customers over time. Humans are social animals. We like to belong.

It’s entirely possible to forget about the above though and attribute casino’s newfound sociability to the emergence of millennials (people born after 1982) as one of the dominant consumer groups in the world. Millennials love technology; more than that though, they love social media and being involved closely with brands, right down to seeking out companies that share their values.

If casinos are willing to evolve slot machines to appeal to a younger demographic, it’s not so much of a stretch to assume they’ll do the same for AI dealers. The onus is now on casinos to develop the idea further - could a social network in which players create shared experiences or join up for games find a home on a casino website?

In many ways, online casino is still in its infancy - there's still plenty of time to tell if social media and casino will make good bedfellows. And there's plenty more innovation to come.