It’s no secret that live dealer games are on the right trajectory to overtake slots in popularity, but how did we get here? I’m going to take a look back through history (only as far as the late 90’s, don’t panic). We’ll look at how it all started, where the big bursts of technological advancement happened, and even a few figures for those of you who are fiscally-minded.

So, whether you’re a fully paid up member of the live casino gang, or you can’t really see what all the fuss is about, by the end of this all, I hope you’ll see why live dealer games are such a big deal.

Let’s Start at the Start

1996 was when it just began to kick off for online casinos. The first ones emerged and people (cautiously) began to play classic games like blackjack and roulette – and slots too. The graphics were what we’d fondly call ‘retro’ today and the animations were no more sophisticated than PowerPoint’s beloved slide transitions. With that said, the casino industry had tapped into a desire for online games and there’d be no looking back from here.

From here until the early 2000s the focus was on creating excellent RNG games. And that focus paid off. Hundreds of successful casinos sprang up with top-notch games, many of which we still love today. However, bubbling away in the background was the idea of something a little closer to life.

The Early Live Dealer Experience

It was 2003 when the very first live dealer casino games hit the market. They weren’t great, but they were pioneers – and if you’re asking me, that’s what counts. Live streaming technology was still a long way behind what it is today, but it was good enough to deliver a steady (if a little pixellated) live stream of a studio.

Playtech and Microgaming were at the forefront of this shift to live-streamed games and they were met with a little bit of commercial success. Things would pootle along quite happily until the beginning of the 2010s. Believing in the idea, and being willing to push it further, were the two attributes that would eventually propel this idea to stardom.

Things Get Warmed Up

By the 2010s the live dealer branch of casino gaming was no longer a niche genre. The market was reported to be worth around $2 billion globally – sure its small fry compared to the online casino industry, but it’s a good chunk bigger than it ever had been! By this time, Evolution Gaming had got on board, who we all know are the biggest players in the game right now.

The live stream quality had got a whole lot better and the variety of games on offer had increased too. Live dealer game shows were becoming more than just a fad and you could find a bunch of live dealer poker options too. Things were on the move.

Virtual Reality Enters the Building

2018 was a year where it seemed the gaming industry as a whole was determined for VR technology to be the next big thing. Many of the big console brands released VR games and – never one to miss an opportunity – the casino industry followed suit. Players were given the opportunity to customize their avatar and their live dealer environment. The whole thing became even more immersive and as such, Evolution Gaming made a mahoosive profit – just shy of $400 million in 2019 (compared to just over $30 million in 2010). Not bad.

Here We Are!

Let’s call everything from 2020 onwards the present day. Live dealer games are now vying for attention with slots. Most online casinos say that live dealer titles account for a considerable proportion of their revenue. As I’ve been using Evolution Gaming as a marker of success, in 2020, they reported revenues in excess of $500 million, thanks in no small part to their excellent live dealer catalogue.

While Evolution is the ‘big fish’ in the live casino pond, there are other companies making their mark now too. Advances in technology have meant that video quality, live chat, and streaming reliability have all improved. Plus, you’ll now find many games with multiple different camera angles and even customizable settings. Some studios are even experimenting with augmented reality (à la Pokemon Go) and mobile live streaming. In fact, you’ll find that the majority of live dealer games are now available to play on mobile, marvellously glitch free.

Combine this with a handful of celebrity hosts and even more variants of beloved games, and I personally don’t think it will be long at all before this sector is overtaking slots. In fact, if I was a betting woman (which I am) I’d have a sizeable wager on it.