What Are Live Dealer Games, and When Are They Coming to PA Online Casinos?

Live dealer games bring social interaction elements of the live casino to online gaming, but when will players in PA have the option?

Online casinos have been live in Pennsylvania for a little over a year. The safe, legal arrival of iGaming in the commonwealth pleased players and added much-needed tax revenue during coronavirus-caused shutdowns.

Slot libraries continue to grow, and currently there are 11 online casinos in PA.

However, there is something that is missing and it’s at the top of nearly every player’s wish list — live dealer games.

What is live dealer?

Live dealer games give you the chance to play casino table games, like blackjack, at home in real time with a live dealer.

Golden Nugget was the first to roll out live dealer in New Jersey in 2017. Since then, many more casinos have begun streaming live dealer. The most common games are blackjack, roulette and  baccarat.

What’s the difference?

If you play blackjack now at any one of PA’s online casinos, the cards are electronically dealt by a built-in random number generator (RNG).

Live dealer games are transmitted from a remote studio and livestreamed to computers and mobile devices. A dealer, just like if you were at a casino, deals the cards.

Some reasons players prefer live dealer:

  • Social interaction
  • Slower pace
  • More entertaining than playing against RNG
  • Trust playing a live dealer more than an RNG

Live dealer tutorial via PlayUSA

When is live dealer coming to PA?

There is no firm date when live dealer will arrive in Pennsylvania, but a number of operators have teased its launch.

Here is the “coming soon” timeline of live dealer in Pennsylvania.

January 2020:

Evolution Gaming signs agreement with Parx to power live dealer casinos in PA and NJ.

Parx players will be able to choose from a range of live dealer table games streamed from Evolution’s existing New Jersey studio and its planned PA studio.

Matt Cullen, senior vice president, interactive gaming and sports at Parx Casino, commented:

“Parx was the first Pennsylvania casino to offer RNG blackjack games online, so extending our online offering to include world-leading Live Casino from Evolution is a natural next step. Our online blackjack player base in particular will love Evolution’s Live blackjack offering, which includes Infinite Blackjack, with no limit on the number of seats available at the table, as well as several other blackjack variants. Overall, we are very confident that all the players types will be very excited by the rollout of Parx Live Casino in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.”

May 2020:

DraftKings launches its online casino.

According to a representative from DraftKings Casino, the PA platform will ultimately have 280 games. The rest of the library will roll out in stages and include live dealer games. The rep said:

“While we do not have an exact time frame, all 280 options will follow quickly after launch, including those that feature a live dealer and those that are DraftKings branded.”

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August 2020:

Evolution signs deal with PointsBet and says live dealer is coming to PA.

Evolution announced a deal with PointsBet, an Australian bookmaker. While unclear whether PointsBet plans to enter the PA online casino market, what was made clear is that an Evolution live dealer studio is coming to PA by the end of 2020. Currently, Evolution has studios in New Jersey, but it confirmed plans for new studios in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

August 28, 2020:

A press release on Aug. 28, 2020, confirmed a partnership between Evolution Gaming and BetMGM, which plans to debut online betting products in Pennsylvania before the end of the year. The arrangement will see BetMGM become one of the first in PA (and Michigan) to offer Evolution’s suite of live dealer games. BetMGM vice president of gaming Matthew Sunderland said:

“Evolution offers everything we need to enable our brands to roll out an extremely rich, world-class online live gaming experience across the US and their new state launches road map is very much in accord with our own alongside building on our current leadership position in gaming in New Jersey.”

Evolution Gaming Malta CEO Johan Nordstrom said of the partnership:

“We are honored to have been chosen by BetMGM to be partners in the fast-developing US live gaming market … This is a natural extension of our existing relationship with GVC Holdings’ brands.”

Live dealer games subject to lower tax rates

Players are clamoring for live dealer in PA. Obviously, providers and operators want to give them what they want. In addition, live dealer is a table game, so it’s taxed at a lower rate.

Pennsylvania online gambling tax rates:

  • Online slots: 54%
  • Sports betting: 36%
  • Online table games: 16%

Sebastian Johannisson, chief commercial officer at Evolution, commented:

“With table games subject to lower tax, our Live Casino is a very attractive proposition for operators too, as well as its wide appeal to players — both familiar with online and those having played in the bricks and mortar casino — offering a very important and significant contribution to operator revenues.”

Article updated on Aug. 28.

Player’s Choice: Online Slots Or Table Games? The Answer Might Surprise You

Pennsylvania online casinos have shown an interesting trend that defies industry expectations as players flock to online table games over slots.

In the confines of brick-and-mortar casinos, slots are more popular than table games. It’s long been the preference of players to sidle up to the slot machine instead of taking their turn at the table.

In terms of revenue in 2019, slot machines in Pennsylvania raked in $2.4 billion compared to table games’ $900 million.

However, with the arrival of PA online casinos, recent numbers hint at a shift.

More wagers recently at online table games

Table games have yet to surpass slots in terms of revenue. But in November and December, table games saw more action than online slots.

Total wagers for online casinos in November:

  • Online table games: $176,459,102
  • Online slots: $140,300,742

Total wagers at online casinos in December:

  • Online table games: $209,993,140
  • Online slots: $175,330,191

Perhaps it was just a matter of timing that the statewide numbers skewed this way. Initial offerings at casinos consisted of mostly slots. As rosters added table games, data from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) shows that the players’ attention shifted to the tables.

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Big things happened to the gaming industry in 2019

Five online casinos arrived in Pennsylvania in 2019.

  • Hollywood Casino
  • SugarHouse
  • Parx
  • Mount Airy (PokerStars)
  • Mohegan Sun (Unibet)

At Hollywood Casino, slots have outperformed table games each month. So far, it’s the only casino in PA where that is the case.

Table games topped slots three of the last six months at Parx. Parx was the only operator with online blackjack and gained an early advantage until the other casinos added the game in late August.

Fueled by progressive slot favorite Divine Fortune, slots ruled at SugarHouse. But in November, table games surpassed slots for the first time, and it did so by nearly $20 million. SugarHouse leads PA online casinos in revenue for both slots and table games.

Mount Airy (PokerStars) had the biggest gulf. In November, table games saw $37 million in action while slot play hit only $10.8 million.  The numbers continued to grow the following month as table games ($54 million) widened the gap from slots ($19 million).

It has the benefit of being the only operator in Pennsylvania offering internet poker. Also, PokerStars Casino features 13 table games, which is more than Parx (10) and SugarHouse (seven).

What’s next?

Table games receiving more wagers than slots is an anomaly. Players prefer slots because they are easier to learn and play. Most table games require a level of skill. Pennsylvania has proven different (so far) when it comes to online play.

The PGCB publishes a monthly breakdown of online slot and table games. Since New Jersey does not split their report but rather lists online casinos as a whole, it’s difficult to see what is more popular there. But the best guess is slots are more popular.

For operators, the popularity of table games in PA is no doubt welcome news. A major reason is table games are subject to a much lower tax rate (16%) than slots (54%).

Parx already is upping the ante to capitalize on the clear interest in online table games that exist in Pennsylvania. They will soon become the first in the state to host online live dealer games, including roulette, blackjack and poker. With these additions, table game revenue could outpace slots, even more, going forward.