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Bringing the brick and mortar casino experience online

By - 22 June 2020

During an impassioned demo of his latest product, Simon Croft, Principal CEO of Live Solutions, explains how the integration of video technology for players, a real physics engine and an equivalent to a casino’s eye-in-the-sky is the future for online table games.

Could you give an overview of the product?

Essentially, we offer a brick and mortar casino experience online. Players see a live presenter who they can speak to as well as everyone at the table over video. The games we currently feature on the software are Blackjack, Roulette, the Western and Asian versions of Baccarat, Craps, Dragon Tiger and Fan Tan.

How is the product different from anything else in the market?

There are several ways our product differentiates itself from the competition, namely that is completely unique. The intuitive technology powering the product makes it more natural for players compared to a live dealer scenario wherein players are constantly having to break off from decision making to send messages to the dealer. Our software does not break up the play whatsoever.

We also believe Craps is the only proper version online that is multiplayer with a real physics engine driving the dice. The games load instantly as whenever players experience any loading time, they immediately become disengaged. We also offer instant replay so anyone can replay a round instantly after it has happened.

Where did the idea for the product originate?

Alongside being the Principle CEO of Live Solutions, I am the owner of Blackjack.com and it was in this role around ten years ago that I noticed the popularity of our promotional models in the industry and conceived the idea that they could be integrated into our online operations, but the technology was not there. Three years ago, I decided to go ahead and do it. We began with the presenters first in what was the equivalent of a live dealer product but without live dealing in an RNG scenario.

With the advancement of video technology, we decided to go ahead and get the players on screen too. We were developing this product at the same time as Zoom, but we think we have a more sophisticated technology.

What feedback have you received from operators?

We received a lot of interest at ICE London in our product including several tier ones and COVID19 has thrown those conversations into sharp relief. As a result, we are being accelerated up integration queues – where previous discussions with operators concerned potential direct integration waits of up to two years, that has now become six weeks.

The demo interface we are experiencing is going to change shortly following a series of improvement requests from operators. For example, on Blackjack we are adding betting behind, adding the perfect pairs and 21 plus three side bets and changing the dealing style to make it much more akin to a live casino rather than an online version.

What social responsibility measures are in place?

The table host can see the actions of every player meaning they are our first line of defence for social responsibility-type obligations. They can spot immediately if there is anyone potentially underage, signs of drunkenness, or players with symptoms of depression. It is a much more personal method of identifying problems in addition to the algorithms already in use. We do not expect our presenters to take any actions other than to escalate matters to the control room.

The control room is our equivalent of the eye in the sky. Any control room staff member can react to a trigger by a presenter and visit the table invisibly. They can speak to the player individually in a private chat to discuss their welfare. We are conscious of not taking too much responsibility in this regard as that is the operator’s job so all our operators get their own control rooms where they can talk to the players over video, audio or text.

We are trying to emulate the best of land-based casinos online. Staff in a land-based casino are much more adept at dealing with problems than online ever can be as it is face-to-face. The closest we can come to face-to-face is video.

How are you addressing players potentially behaving inappropriately?

Every player can turn off somebody else’s video for themselves as well as their own video and audio. We are aware that some people prefer to be private and control what they are seeing and hearing. On a higher level, presenters can make a player unviewable and unheard should they be misbehaving to all the players at the table.

Comically, the player is unaware of this so he can continue doing what he wants to do without the audience they desire. Simultaneously, such actions send a message to the control room where appropriate action can be taken. We do also have a standard in-game text chat service despite it generally being obsolete. This is just in case anyone is having technical issues or feels uncomfortable with their video or audio being shared but wants to enjoy the product.

How does the product encourage engagement and retention?

The control room is split into two. We have our eye in the sky and the operator’s control room where VIP management can also be handled. If you contrast having a personal conversation over an email, it is clear what wins out. Having a personal relationship with your players is the ultimate tool in improving retention.

We also have the fan club – a tool that allows players to join a presenter’s fan club notifying them when a favoured presenter is live at a table. It sends the web push through the operator using our software to encourage the player back whilst the presenters also build up a following and can be tipped in-game.

How do you see the product developing in the future?

We see it as the future of table games. There is an obvious next step in introducing Poker as we think we can better what is currently out there. However, there are issues associated with Online Poker, namely stopping people from cheating. We have never been involved in Poker so we would probably need to partner with an experienced Online Poker operator. Another area of interest is Bingo. We could get involved with every aspect of gaming – it is just a question of our approach. The possibilities are endless.

Simon Croft has been in the iGaming business for 23 years. In that time he has owned and operated iGaming data centres and payment solutions companies. He operated and still owns Blackjack.com and is the founder of Live Solutions Ltd.

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