Ady Totah, CEO and co-founder of LuckyStreak, took time to share his thoughts on the direction of the live dealer casino sector with Jonny Whitfield, Editor if iGaming magazine and website , discussing among things, the effect of the pandemic, the fresh US market and AI on live dealer offerings.
JW: What are the newest and upcoming unique live dealer innovations from your company and the subsector as a whole?
AT: It’s a fast-moving space with high customer expectations. You have to move with online casino technology and UX developments, and we are no different.
We’re in the midst of a UI/ client-side overhaul, retouching and modernising all our live games. We’re making them sleek, more contemporary in design, adding more features, making them more playable and mobile-friendly, and improving performance with less buffering, lower battery consumption, just better all round.
We’re also continuing to develop our casino marketing and promotional tools in general, doubling down on the quality of our player reward and retention products. We want to put more power in the operators’ hands; we know how to create great live dealer games but operators know how to manage their players and drive up ARPU and so consulting with our customers in central to this process.
Across our sector as a whole, promotional tools are an area of increasing focus; we see others doing it, but it’s under-developed. We’ll also see continued development of hybrid games, some call them gameshows but they’re an RNG, a presenter and CGI. Pragmatic Play’s Sweet Bonanza is a good example, companies moving away from the traditional playing cards and roulette wheels to broaden their offering and appeal to a wider base.
JW: How will artificial intelligence, virtual reality and other emerging technologies continue to affect the social element of live dealer content?
AT: I don’t believe that VR and AR will have an immediate effect on live dealer and casino in general. The biggest deficiency is the hardware; headsets and goggles are not comfortable or convenient for majority of users.
The industry likes to say gambling is an immersive experience, but online gambling isn’t immersive, it’s light entertainment and people don’t want their senses masking. I question how much demand there is for a totally immersed sensory-overwhelming experience; do people want to be removed from their world where they can grab 30 minutes to relax and play a game, have a coffee, smoke a cigarette, chat with people? I don’t think enough people – and casino fans in particular – do.
AI is an extremely potent tool, but we’ll see it have its first impact in marketing, and in operations, for BI, for monitoring and anti-fraud tools; these are in our short/ medium term plans.
As for social, we’ll see more social gaming in casino but there is much more to be done before the benefits from AR/ VR are seen.
JW: How is your company and the wider industry upgrading live dealer casino solutions and incorporating the latest trends and technology?
AT: There’s a fine balance between introducing new technologies and damaging credibility in front of “old school” players. An example is OCR; we have the choice to use it for card scanning, but we chose not to because we feel it will raise more questions from players than offering us operational benefits.
There are innovations that have an immediate implementation, such as cameras monitoring how often dealers are smiling, which reduce the management overhead. But we are a little more conservative; we believe in the human touch.
For example. one of the Live Casino Studio Floor Manager’s responsibility is to stay close to dealers, be their human contact, grade performance as well as consider their welfare; we don’t want to replace that with a computer, that’s going away from the direction we are going in, being a people-first business, keeping people at the heart of everything. Technology supports, it doesn’t replace.
How can it drive the sector forward? We won’t see it in our game features, but it may be used to control and manage the gaming floor behind the scenes in a way a human can’t; we are using software advancements in the auxiliary side of running a studio, for example monitoring game performance, RTPs, surveillance on fraud may use OCR somewhat.
JW: Which markets are you targeting for live dealer expansion? And what have you made of live dealer growth in the US?
AT: We are at a relatively early stage of our licensing and regulation journey. It’s a rapidly changing market with lots of licences and certificates to consider; on top of Latvia and Curacao, we’re looking at expanding our Italian presence, getting IoM and MGA licences, and we have an eye on Latin America
The US clearly will be very lucrative and the future is bright, but it’s complex and our focus will be elsewhere for the next 3 years
JW: Does your company plan to incorporate new or original live dealer titles to break away from the traditional stable of content?
AT: For us, the next 12 months will focus on improving and upgrading what we have, expanding our offering with variants of our existing live casino games, and continuing to improve our operator player engagement tools.
We are also considering an entirely unique proprietary game, which we’ll start work on before the end of the year but you’ll have to ask us more about that in Q4!
JW: How do you reflect on the live dealer subsector’s growth since company’s entrance?
AT: We launched in 2015 (we started developing our games in 2014). In the early 2010s there were “live markets”, like Asia and Turkey. Now live is a must-have product everywhere. It’s being tied into sportsbook, game shows, RNG; it’s a power multiplier to online gaming.
Thanks to its success, it’s the fastest growing sector of igaming, and naturally we’re seeing more companies enter the market; there is room for more, unlike slots where it’s a saturated market.
One of our biggest successes is credibility and relationships; we have created a name for ourselves as a partner that businesses like to work with. We are lucky to have clients that are growing their business with us, that are taking more products, that are inviting us to work closer on technological solutions for casino live dealer streaming like chroma key, and many of our innovations come from customer demand. Our founder group comes from this industry and that experience has enabled us to achieve what we have, to invest, take risks, build relationships.
Unlike a software studio, we employ a lot of people that work in the games, such as games presenters, team leaders, pitbosses, floor managers, shufflers. It’s a human-first business which has been both a challenge and a success. We have nearly 250 staff, most working in our 1500 sq ft, purpose-built Riga studio.
Owning, managing, controlling your own studio is absolutely paramount in this business. The studio employees should be direct employees of your brand; they are core to our product and our success. Rental studios and contract workers are not the solution and it devalues the value of live; it’s more than building a UI and selling the product. Your studio is integral to success, and humans are core in all aspects of that.
Due to the success of live dealer, and the entry of new providers, we will see some trends. I am excited to see where the big companies, with their talent and capabilities, will take it. But with lots of newcomers, we’ll see more people doing distinctive things to stand out. Robot arms are an example, a great use of technology but dehumanises live casino and it’s not what it’s about.
JW: How do you think the live dealer subsector has been affected by the return of land-based table games post-pandemic?
AT: With Covid, we saw land-based casino move online. But since, they have returned to their traditional business. Our role is to convert these weekend warriors into 24/7 online players. And the more success land-based casinos have in acquiring new customers, the more they are to convert to the online space.
With Lucky Land-based, we can support that, enabling land-based operators to stream their games online and take their brand beyond the walls of their casinos to launch online brands. Lucky Land-based streaming includes a full set of the necessary streaming equipment, ranging from high end cameras and microphones to advanced monitors and lightning, alongside our proprietary live casino software.