As you’d expect they were both charming and made me feel welcome and at ease. I was certainly well looked after.
NetEnt Studio Location
The studio is on the sunny and very windy island of Malta (well it was when I arrived!).
The actual building is somewhat innocuous, with only the branded NetEnt sign above the door giving some clue on what lay behind.
I don’t know whether it’s by design or just a happy co-incidence, but on entering you’re greeted by a very ornate staircase sweeping up one side of the building.
It looks almost identical to the backdrop used for the VIP tables, which I thought was quite cool.
A common theme at all of the studios I’ve visited is a constant program of refurbishment.
NetEnt is no different, with the addition of extra office space nearing completion.
My tour started in the basement and ended on the rather impressive roof area which provides some great views of the island.
Live Dealer Training
I was taken to the Training area first where a number of new recruits were being put through their paces.
Training takes 3 weeks, with each new dealer being taught everything from card handling to presentation skills.
The lesson I interrupted was card fanning and dealing. Yep, when you see the dealer fan a new deck over the table, you can be sure they’ve done that hundreds of times before!
At the far end of the room was full working mock-up of a roulette and blackjack studio where the trainees could hone their presentation skills.
Nothing is really left to chance; there is training for everything. The aim at the end is to make it all appear as natural as possible on camera.
I had a play on a roulette wheel. It’s not my first go and probably won’t be my last.
I have a previous history of launching the ball across the floor, so chose to flick it rather badly to make sure it stayed inside the wheel.
I certainly don’t think I’ll be invited back to become a dealer!
Inside The NetEnt Live Casino Studio
Next stop was the studios.
They are spread over a couple of floors. You can see the progress technology has made between the two floors, which give a nice little history lesson on the progress made at NetEnt.
I particularly liked that the very first studio area is still in operation, which I was shown with great pride. It’s a nice touch and gives something to the history of the place.
Technology and Infrastructure is something I know inside out. I’m an operational person at heart, with 30 years of experience in IT. I know what I’m looking at and can tell a well-run operation from one that’s not.
For those interested, NetEnt’s infrastructure is looked after by a guy that clearly knows what he’s doing.
Everything is tidy, very tidy indeed. The server room is well racked, with all services protected firstly by a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and supplemented by external generators.
In geek speak that’s N+1 (Normal plus one layer of resilience) giving 99.97% availability. Three 9’s as it’s known is a happy medium of up time vs cost. The more 9’s you have the greater the cost and less downtime.
I’ve learnt over the years that what you end up seeing on the TV Screen, bears little relation to what’s physically in the studio.
A bit of software magic with some clever camera angles produces some stunning onscreen results. NetEnt embodies this, making great use of Green Screen technology to deliver a visual feast.
The tables, dealers, cards and supporting table furniture is all real.
The sounds, backgrounds and lobby imagery is all generated by clever people using clever technology.
This is really cost effective; the alternative solution is physical which needs more space and is more expensive as a result.
Camera Positioning & Rigs
A great deal of thought goes into the positioning of the cameras to ensure the final production looks as real as possible.
Mr Green’s Live Beyond Live is a really good example of how the two have been stitched together to make something different.
As for the actual studios, each table has a rig that holds the camera, lights and two TV screens containing the game instructions and Chat windows.
The techies have been really clever with the design of the rig. It protects the infrastructure from being damaged while also providing flexibility for moves and re-positioning, which is a constant process in this sort of environment.
Unlike other studios, which I’ve found to be dark and rather claustrophobic, NetEnt maintains an open environment which feels airy and light.
I imagine it’s a nicer environment for the dealers to work in as it feels more inclusive.
In common with other studios there is a mix of departments that support the dealers and the presentation of the games.
One of the most important is the monitoring, which is performed on two levels:
Firstly at a game presentation level, where the games and dealer performance is monitored. If there’s a problem with either it’s quickly spotted, escalated and dealt with.
The games and infrastructure is also monitored by a compliance team, who react to pre-set alerts when anything operates outside of accepted tolerance levels.
This level of monitoring and support ensures that players get the best possible playing experience. It ensures we are delivered games that are fair and when there are issues they are logged investigated and resolved quickly.
The other part of the monitoring which may not be so obvious is player behavior in chat.
In an ideal world everyone should respect each other, but from what I witnessed there appear to be some players that think this doesn’t apply to them.
The Dealers have to put up with a lot. They don’t have the luxury of being able to walk away when someone says something inappropriate. Bad behavior by players is rewarded with an instant chat ban and sometimes more.
While the dealers are trained to deal with these situations, it really is unacceptable. So please remember that when you’re next at the tables chatting away.
Staff welfare is a priority at NetEnt and this begins from the moment a dealer is picked up at home for their shift.
Eating and relaxation facilities are provided as well as transport to ferry dealers into work and home again at the end of their shifts.
While Malta isn’t that big, traffic is a problem, so this saves the dealers money and ensures their safety, especially when travelling outside of normal office hours.
The tables are open 24×7 so staff work shifts, on a 4 days on 2 days off rota. Regular breaks are provided which is why you see the dealers changing tables every 30 mins.
This practice is fairly standards across the industry.
I had to laugh when I saw the shift and table rota pinned on a nearby wall.
It’s a complicated beast that is in constant flux. I really feel for the shift managers who have to maintain this to ensure every table is covered for every minute of every day. I can only imagine how stressful that becomes when someone phones in sick!
They clearly do a good job as I’ve not noticed any obvious absences at the tables.
The Live Casino Games
NetEnt provides 2 live casino games, Blackjack and Roulette. Apparently we can expect some new games soon. I suspect these will get announced at the next major trade show, which is ICE London in February 2019.
Blackjack comes in two formats – 7 Seat and Common Draw, while Roulette is the European version with the option of La Partage on some skins of the game.
Side bets on Blackjack has recently been added. While innovation to lobbies with the Live Beyond Live Product has expanded the dedicated table offering for Mr Green.
Other dedicated tables are provided to a handful of operators including Unibet.
Up to now I thought they weren’t that serious about Live Casino.
Their games have stagnated over the past years with seemingly no new investment being made.
Glimpses of new products last year, like Live beyond Live has re-ignited my interest. The addition of Side Bets in Blackjack shows someone is taking an interest now.
However, now I’ve visited, I’ve seen another side that certainly bodes well for the future.
What I found was a professionally run operation that has all the component parts in place to support a large live casino client base.
The infrastructure is robust and flexible to support their product road map for the foreseeable future.
The dealers are well trained and clearly love working there. The vibe was relaxed but professional.
Overall I liked the size of the operation. It’s wasn’t too small or too big that you wouldn’t know everyone at least by sight.
It looks like NetEnt has a program to address the gaps in their existing games and deliver some new titles during the next few months.
From what I saw they are certainly prepared for a push forward.
My only hope is they innovate along the way to give players something they can’t get anywhere else.
I’d like to thank James and Anna for taking the time to show me around and listen to me waffle on about live casino.
I’d also like to thank the dealers I spoke to and to Cher who graciously agreed to have her picture taken with me.
Cher at work with the staircase in the background :-)
If you’d like to play with Cher, you can find her at the tables at Mr Green, Unibet and Leo Vegas. Be sure to say hello from me.
ALL ABOUT NEIL
I’ve been playing, reviewing and collecting data about online live dealer casinos since 2011. I monitor what’s going on in the industry so I can give the best and most impartial advice. I regularly visit live casino studios around the world, so I know what’s going on behind the cameras! If you want some information or just want my opinion on something, drop me a line using the form below.
Leo Vegas has a great mix of live casinos. Evolution (with dedicated tables), Ezugi, Pragmatic Play, Playtech & Authentic Gaming. There’s live-streamed Roulette from land-based casinos in Malta, Gibraltar & Italy.
Playojo is one of a few casinos that have Evolution and Playtech (UK Accepted) Live Games. Crazy Time, Adventures Beyond Wonderland, Lightning Roulette, Monopoly, Quantum Roulette + games from Pragmatic and Authentic Gaming. Regular promotions with Cash Back on each bet – win or lose. What’s not to like?
Mr Green Live Casino has games from 3 providers (Evolution Gaming, Pragmatic Play, and Authentic Gaming). With their dedicated Blackjack and Roulette tables, they are one of those casinos that have it all. Specific Live Casino Bonuses and promotions round things off nicely.
The USP that Hyper Casino has is unlimited 10% Cashback on losses, delivered to your account automatically the very next day. With live games from Evolution & Pragmatic, this is a cracking combination.
About Neil’s Casino Comparer Reviews
I have tried to be objective and consistent with all my live casino reviews. Hopefully, they will strike a chord with you, but I thought it might be helpful to explain the criteria I use to mark each of the casinos. Hopefully, the categories and explanations make sense.
Playability – What is the overall impression of the casino? Did I have a good time? are the dealers nice and chatty and is everything easy to understand? Does it have a good set of games and is there a comprehensive set of betting options? Are high stakes players taken care of?
Software – What is the software like to use and does it integrate well with the rest of the casino?. Are the images clear and is the video streaming fast? Have they taken more than the default shared tables? Is it available on mobile?
Payment Options – Does the casino have a good variety of payment options? Do they payout quickly and on time?
Security – How good is the reputation of the casino amongst other players? Do they hold a valid gaming license? Are they transparent about the security measures they have in place? Are they regularly audited? Do they publish this information?
Support – Do they have multiple methods for communication with me? Is support available 24×7? Do they have instant chat and are they quick to respond? Are they able to help me immediately? Do they have an online FAQ and self-help library? Are the support people knowledgeable about the product I’m playing?
Bonuses – Do they have bonuses?. How strict are the wagering requirements? Do they offer repeat bonuses?. Do they offer loyalty points and can they be redeemed for cash or playing credits?
After all that, would I play there regularly?
Neil’s Latest Live Casino Reviews
PlayOJO Live Casino Review
PlayOJO Live Casino has games from the Top four providers – Evolution, Playtech, Pragmatic & Authentic Gaming. With Cashback on all bets – Win or Lose and no wagering on Bonuses this is a great place to play live casino games.
Vbet Live Casino Review
VBet Live Casino has games from nineteen live casino providers. With great live casino promotions and quick withdrawals, it’s certainly worth trying.
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