Evolution: Live dealer and RNG in the USA

September 19, 2023

Evolution's North America CEO, Jacob Claesson, discusses the current and future US iGaming landscape with Gaming America.

What is most important when devising a new live casino game? Familiarity or innovation?

Taking into account where the ‘new’ US market is at the moment, in terms of its development, it’s not about one or the other – I believe it’s about finding the right balance of familiarity and innovation. Operators need a core live casino offer first – so typically a selection from roulette, blackjack and baccarat, and maybe some Poker variants too.

Then you add more games to broaden and enhance the offer. With the choice that’s available from the extensive Evolution live portfolio, those additional games could be anything from casino classics with unique, innovative twists (titles such as Lightning Roulette or our Live Craps with its unique interactive tutorial and easy mode for new players), to unique, all-new online live game shows such as our hugely popular Crazy Time. It’s still early days for live dealer gaming in the US, so the initial challenge is getting people to know that it’s out there and available. The familiarity of games is obviously a big part of that – people recognize what they know and what they are familiar with. However, at the same time, standard roulette, blackjack and baccarat alone are not enough for operators to truly compete, or to really excite the wide range of player types that make up an operator’s potential market.

To use just one example, we currently have seven different variations of blackjack in the US: regular blackjack, infinite blackjack, lightning blackjack, free bet blackjack, speed blackjack, power blackjack and VIP blackjack. Now if you enjoy playing blackjack, you’re most likely going to be drawn to an operator that offers a varied and intriguing mix of blackjack tables, rather than one that only offers standard blackjack. It’s human nature – people like to explore, they like variety and choice and they like things that are new and different.


We know you’ve recently released new high-limit live games with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. Can you talk us through the growth you’ve seen in live casino in North America and what the trends are across the market?

We’ve seen strong growth in live casino in North America, largely down to having great partners, beautiful studios and tables, and super-engaging games of all kinds. We want ‘live’ to cater for all player groups, from the first-time entry players right through to the VIP players with high demands and expectations for quality and service.

We see that live-dealer players today are playing more game types than they did two years ago – which is consistent with the growth of our offering. However, we also see players that only play Craps or Lightning Roulette, which shows how important it is to have a broad games portfolio that caters for all player types. We pride ourselves on understanding players’ needs – all players’ needs – and then meeting those needs.


What is the current goal for the RNG division of Evolution in North America?

Globally we are working towards double-digit growth and we of course expect North America to contribute to that growth through Evolution first-person RNG games; and from online slots from our NetEnt, Red Tiger, Big Time Gaming and Nolimit City brands. In fact, we are currently working on bringing distinctive slots titles from our Nolimit City

slots brand into more North American jurisdictions, following a successful Ontario launch in August.


Can you give us a breakdown of your current US markets? Which state is your most active?

To date we’re live with studios in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Michigan and our games are also available to players in West Virginia, and in the majority of Canadian provinces. Activity is high in all ‘live’ states and we’re very happy with the rate of growth. I cannot share internal data on which state is the most active, or which generates the most revenue, but I can give you an example of how healthy that growth is generally. In West Virginia, live dealer has definitely contributed to this growth.


We know Rhode Island could be active by April – do you have plans to launch there? What other states do you foresee legalizing iGaming?

Our goal is to be operational in all US markets and, wherever possible, our aim is to launch operators on day one as each ‘new’ regulated state opens for iGaming. I am sure we’ll get better understanding of the contenders to be next up to regulate, in the next six months or so. These are exciting times for operators and players alike – and it’s nice to see the jobs that live dealer creates becoming a more central part of the conversation about regulating iGaming.


What is your opinion on the metaverse? Do you think it could be a threat to live casino games, or something that can further those games and give them even more of a platform?

I don’t see the metaverse as a threat, but as a platform or means of playing just like any other – that is, just like mobile, tablet and desktop. Obviously, it’s different and the possibilities could be very exciting indeed. In fact, we’ve already developed games capable of being played in virtual reality mode. So naturally, we’ll continue to monitor technology and market developments, and act accordingly, just as we do with all new technologies. Right now, it’s fair to say VR headsets and controllers present an equipment and cost barrier to entry for players. The vast majority of actual and potential online live casino games show that players already have easy access to a smartphone, a tablet, a desktop or a laptop computer. What’s more, those devices work really well for all players, allowing them to fully enjoy our games, many of which already offer an immersive gaming experience or, indeed, augmented reality features that further enhance the player experience.

Of course, there will always be a small percentage of gamers who will want the very latest kit – the VR headsets and the controllers – and they will not be too worried about the price of early adoption. But from what we see now, those players mostly sit in other online gaming segments.

So will the metaverse and VR eventually become as universal as playing on a smartphone? That’s impossible to call from where we stand now – only time will tell. As I said when I was made CEO of Evolution North America in October 2021, iGaming in North America is still only in its infancy and I am very excited about the opportunities ahead of us, and that is still very much the case. The metaverse may well prove to be one of those opportunities and, if so, I am sure it will be one of many. For the moment, though, there are a lot of 'basics' the iGaming industry in North America needs to get right first.


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