The latent supremacyBy Lewis - 8 June 2020
Chris Townsley, Group Vice President EMEA at Limelight Networks, explains how content delivery is changing how online gambling is streamed.
The past few years have seen a rise in live streamed gambling – with many in the under 30s segment preferring the virtual experience. The persistent trend is that some gamblers just do not get the same thrill from algorithm-driven randomisers as they do from ‘live’ games in-casino. They prefer to participate virtually in real world games with real life dealers and tables which are streamed from locations all over the world.
The pressure to maximise content availability and reduce any friction in experiences due to streaming issues has led to increased focus on how online gambling providers are thinking about their content delivery. A new decentralised approach is gaining favour, which uses new connectivity and capabilities at the edge to deliver superior experiences when using live streamed content.
Essential to the virtual gambling experience is immediacy – to reduce any potential friction or interruption to gaming, the chance for too long or inconsistent latency of streams must be reduced. Offering streams which are delivered with sub-second latency allow interactivity between players and dealers and are an indispensable part of replicating all the thrills of an in-casino experience. Especially when it comes to streams available across multiple platforms, all players must have the same opportunity to place bets and calculate their chances, making the quality of content delivery about more than just experience, but integral to the mechanism of the games themselves. When the dealer turns over a card, no-one wants to be even a second behind the other players deciding what their next move will be.
Over the past few years, WebRTC has emerged as the most suitable streaming technology to deliver near real time capabilities in browsers. In comparison to HTTP chunked streaming like HLS and DASH, WebRTC can deliver video with sub-second latency. WebRTC can achieve latency in a range from 800 milliseconds to as low as 200 or 300 milliseconds, depending on distance and local internet connectivity quality, making it very close to a real time playing experience. The extremely low latency of video streamed over WebRTC also makes the format more suitable to add interactive features, such as chatting with the dealer or updating other players about the betting tractions going on around the table.
Personalisation at the edge
WebRTC has also found favour with stream providers as it can be played on popular browsers running on the various viewing devices without the need for Flash or another similar software plug-in to be installed on the device. This means that WebRTC can accommodate players from all over the world, regardless of their device or browser. The current industry trend also indicates that newer WebRTC solutions could scale remarkably well, helping gambling services to easily manage a global transient audience that can see dramatic changes in demand over the course of 24 hours. The leading providers in content delivery offer gambling operations access to a network of WebRTC severs located all over the world, to scale stream delivery and optimise the streams locally for each player, balancing latency and picture quality.
Bringing more content processes to the network, edge also creates the possibility to personalise live streams more for the end user. With the proliferation of online gambling services, the importance of brand recognition and building brand loyalty is on the rise. This has led to increasing interest from gambling providers in using software development kits to customise the gambling application to match the look and feel their customers have come to expect from that brand – without compromising video delivery, giving players a distinctive experience which keeps them returning to their favourite providers. In turn, this generates more advertising possibilities for gambling sites, because it is easier to leverage existing knowledge about individual players and their previous online behaviour in personalised suggestions – with each end user player receiving their own stream.
Mitigating cyber disruption
However, with so much personal data involved, gambling providers need to be careful their content delivery network also protects them from cyberattack and compliance issues. By harnessing a content network with many local server locations and edge functionalities, it is possible to take a more granular approach to authorising content access based on geolocation. This is the first step in ensuring that content is used according to the correct regulations in each country, and that each player receives the correct service for their usage permissions (for example, as determined by their service subscription level) and can be sure they are enjoying legitimate content.
The structuring of content delivery networks can also impact how gambling platforms deal with the potential disruption of cyberattacks which target their corporate IT infrastructure. One of the most common ways in which hackers try to infiltrate these systems is through bot attacks, which try to gain access to systems in the guise of legitimate traffic or content requests. While most WebRTC video streams are encrypted to prevent theft, planning and thought is also required to ensure video content is requested by a legitimate customer. A key decision factor for choosing a CDN for WebRTC delivery is access control. The ability to authorise users based on geolocation, IP address white listing, or tokenisation restricts access to legitimate players. Because gambling operations involve a perfect storm of vast amounts of consumer personal data and large sums of money, securing the many web applications that run the business against attacks to steal personal data such as credit card information, is critically important. The combination of web application firewalls and bot management protect internal web applications by detecting good bot traffic from nefarious bots – blocking potential attacks.
Gambling is still the business of creating entertainment destinations. But the way to transport customers has evolved and along with it, content delivery technologies and strategies. As the variety of platforms and devices continues to grow, gambling providers are now using their content delivery networks to prepare for the future. As we see the edge become more connected and complex, we can expect to see it play an increasingly important role in the delivery of low-latency, high-engagement video streaming experiences.