Thousands of people around the world enjoy live online casino games today, but the industry as we know it has been around for less than two decades. Join us as we take a look at the history of these games, and how they became as popular as they are today.
The beginning of virtual casinos
Before live casino games came along, people enjoyed games of chance, such as online blackjack and online roulette, at virtual casinos. The first digital casino is believed to have been developed and launched by Microgaming around 1994, not long after the internet first became accessible to the general public.
However, while Microgaming had developed the software to play casino games, it relied on another developer, a company called Cryptologic, to provide it with a way to secure financial transactions online. With the gaming platform ready, along with a secure way to make payments, the first online casino was born.
How these digital casinos worked
While these virtual gambling spaces were undoubtedly the first step towards bringing the casino experience to the internet, the games offered by these virtual casinos were more akin to video games, with everything being run by software. These virtual casinos used digital tools called random number generators (RNGs) to mimic how chance works in games such as blackjack, poker, and roulette; and, despite their differences, they offered players a great way to play without even having to leave their homes. It wasn’t long before other experiences including game shows and even online scratch cards joined the virtual gambling space.
However, there was no doubt that people were looking for ways to play that were closer to how they played at a real brick-and-mortar casino. A team of developers knew this as well and were busy working on a solution.
Recreating the real-world casino – the very first live gambling game
While the 1990s may not feel that long ago for some of us, many readers may not remember the times before broadband internet access existed – when it took minutes to download a picture, let alone enjoy streaming video. Thankfully, services that offered broadband speeds started to appear towards the end of that decade, and the internet as we know it today began to evolve.
It was no surprise that, with the arrival of broadband internet, the first live casino game service would come into existence. Started by a company called Planet Poker in 1998, this online poker site decided to launch the first-ever live dealer poker games.
Sadly, Planet Poker may have been ahead of its time, as the initial service it offered was rather poor as a result of the limited technology available. So while the service “worked”, the quality of the video stream was low-resolution, choppy, and pixelated at best. Despite the faults of its live gaming service, Planet Poker managed to stay afloat until 2017, its final year of operations, thanks to its other online poker services.
The launch of the first dedicated live gaming service
Where Planet Poker may have failed to kick-start a live casino revolution in 1998, another company would come along just under a decade later to change the way people played casino games on the internet.
This company, known as Evolution Gaming (although it recently changed its name to Evolution), launched its B2B live dealer service in 2006. It didn’t operate as a digital casino but instead ran a dedicated live game service that other companies could license and use on their own casino platforms.
The foundation for Evolution’s service looked much stronger than Planet Poker’s first attempt, as broadband internet had increased dramatically in speed and accessibility in the interim years, and improved web standards such as HTML5 were also in place. Looking back, it was inevitable that its product offering would turn out to be a hit because all the elements needed for it to be successful were now in the mix.
It wasn’t long before Evolution needed to expand to meet demand, and the company took its first steps to grow its infrastructure. Over the years, it has expanded or opened studios across Europe, including in Latvia, Malta, Belgium, and Romania. Most recently, it opened a studio in Pennsylvania in the US. Evolution has also acquired a number of competitors and slot developers to further develop its offering.
The library of live games has also grown since the company’s launch, and you can play traditional games such as Live Baccarat, Casino Hold’em, and Auto Roulette, as well as lottery games like Dream Catcher.
The other competitors in the live casino industry
While Evolution is undoubtedly the most successful service provider, there are many others on the market. Other game developers, such as Playtech, Microgaming, and NetEnt (whose slots and live services have been bought up by Evolution), have all launched their own competing services, but these companies are undoubtedly smaller players in a market that is dominated by Evolution.
The current and future state of the live gaming space
But regardless of this, live casino gaming is undoubtedly doing very well, and this trend is set to continue. The Live Casino Central article, “Live dealer gaming worth 32% of iGaming market!”, shares a global study by the market data and research organisation, H2 Gambling. This research has tracked the growth of live gaming, with this new genre peaking at 33.4% market share in 2019, before settling in at roughly 30%. What’s more, the gross gaming revenue from live gaming is growing year on year, heading towards an estimated value of €7.28 billion (£6.26 billion) in 2025. As you can tell, this is a lucrative and growing part of the online casino industry – with many exciting developments around the corner!
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