It was great to attend the London International Casino Exhibition (ICE), my first business conference since February 2020 and I have three take always I’d like to share.
1. I caught Covid while there – no surprise really.
2. It was busy but not as busy as in previous years.
3. Live Casino is moving ahead at a pace, with new suppliers, games and some innovative changes.
I need to start by saying these are my observations and are not part of any official study.
It’s no wonder I caught Covid. I spent most of my time in close contact with people from all over the world that I’d not seen for the past two and half years. Hugs and shaking hands were the norms. Masks were not obligatory, and I counted about a dozen people with masks on over the 4 days I was there.
Fortunately I am triple jabbed so had a very mild illness – which seems common with other cases I know of.
Since returning home, it feels like 50% of the people I know who attended also caught Covid. However, to validate this, I ran a poll on LinkedIn to see if I could get the real numbers.
Of the people that responded to the question, 21% were positive for Covid while 79% were negative. This leaves me to believe the true figure is probably about 35%.
I make no judgment, It is what it is, I thought it was something interesting to share.
It was not too busy
Outwardly, the conference looked the same, but many of the usual bigger exhibitors either did not attend or attended and didn’t have stands.
I guess with everything in constant flux it was difficult for some to commit to such a large expenditure for stands when restrictions could be imposed with very short notice.
Those that did attend probably appreciated the increased visibility they were able to gain from the bigger players being missing. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say.
As for me, I got to see all of the live casino operators that had stands and some that didn’t. I was disappointed I didn’t get to see some but glad I got to connect with people I’d only met through Skype.
Live Casino at ICE
My whole reason for attending ICE is to meet with the Live Casino providers – both established and new.
It allows me to get a feeling of how the market is developing and if there are any new games trend to watch out for.
It’s also my chance to meet with the newer providers that I’ve come across or who’ve contacted me wanting a face to face.
So here’s my rundown of all things live casino.
There was no big stand from Evolution this year. I got to meet with Fredrik Bjurle who previously just worked for Evolution, but now has the additional role of Chief Product Officer at Ezugi.
It’s always great to catch up with Fredrik. The live games roadmap for 2022 is much the same as Todd Haushalter presented back in February. There are a few adjustments to the delivery schedule, but this is to be expected.
The same is true of the Ezugi Roadmap which Fredrik presented back in February. The much-awaited blackjack Video game is presenting some challenges for the regulators, so it will be interesting to see which markets pass this game for use.
DigiWheel is a company now owned by Evolution, so I took a look at this innovative product.
I was very impressed with what I saw and learned. It’s a gigantic wheel, but what’s different is the whole of the wheel is a display panel that can show different images.
One minute it’s a Dream Catcher wheel, the next it’s showing some sports game.
I’m very much hoping that Evolution will use this as a way to get their entertainment games shows onto the floor in land-based casinos.
I can just see Dreamcatcher or Crazy Time in a Las Vegas casino. Let’s hope that becomes a reality.
7Mojos is one of the new operators I reviewed about 18 months ago.
They have continued their development, refining their games and gaining some market position.
They’ve also taken the bold step to create a USP, with their new Galaxy Studio. This brings a space theme and a younger feel to the presentation of the games.
I like the look of this.
Pragmatic Play had by far the biggest stand at the conference.
A few years ago when they launched their live casino operation they made some very bold statements about wanting to become the best live casino provider.
Well, I have to say they are doing a very good job. Behind closed doors, some of their competitors are quite complimentary about the games they have produced so far.
For me, Sweet Bonanza Candyland has been a refreshing change. It’s the only live game that makes me smile when I enter it. It’s bright, happy and fun and it’s good to play too.
Pragmatic has another blockbuster on its way with Boom or Bust Live, which we’ll see sometime in July. It’s a presented entertainment game driven by rolling dice.
Authentic Gaming has seemingly been a bit quiet since its purchase by Scientific Games now known as Light and Wonder.
They have added two additional table games to their already robust roulette portfolio – Baccarat and Blackjack, which positions them well for entry into more markets.
Expect to see Authentic games appear in Ontario, Michigan, Italy and Spain. XL Roulette is going to be available on the desktop soon.
Playtech didn’t have a stand, and finding their meeting room was a challenge. But as always I got a warm welcome from Kevin and Edo. As usual, a few surprises were shared with me.
If you didn’t already know, Playtech Live has shut down its Asian studios in the Philippines. It happened a little while ago but explains why some of the tables are no longer available in the Lobby.
The main news is a slight shift in focus on the development of new live games. While network games will still dominate the portfolio, Playtech live will be developing more customer-specific games.
We’ve recently seen this with the Safari Slots game at 888 and now a new live entertainment game has been launched with the Entain group of casinos.
This will be a trend that will see online casinos offer their USP in a live casino, and therefore drive more traffic to their casinos. It’s a clever idea, and as an active player, I very much look forward to playing more of these unique games.
Expect more changes to existing games, a tie-up with the Jumanji brand, more Millionaire games and expansion in new markets.
Italy and the US will see existing games modified for launch in those countries – such as Double Zero Quantum Roulette in Michigan.
More entertainment games are in development with Everybody’s Jackpot and Jokers Club being two currently in development.
Mega Fire Blaze Roulette has been a massive success, it’s by far my favourite roulette game with Multipliers. William Hill has their version now, and we’re likely to see Baccarat and Blackjack get the Mega Fire Blaze treatment as well.
There is certainly lots to look forward to and who knows, I might take a visit to see the studios in Riga again.
Vivo Gaming has a new Chief Commercial Officer, Neil Howells and it was great to hear their plans for the future.
They were most excited about their latest user interface and playing UI’s, which I had a quick look at.
I promised that I’d say that while their promotional giveaways are rather dull, their games aren’t so you should certainly take a look.
CreedzRoom is a Betconstruct live casino studio, with a great selection of games. They are the first to offer Blackjack Switch, which is a real fun game to play.
A robotic dealer arm, dealing a game of Baccarat drew me to their stand. Once costing over £150k these robots now come in at £15k and offer the Asian market a cost-effective way of playing live dealer without a human.
I saw these a few years ago and uptake has not really happened. Perhaps now with a reduced price tag, we might see one or two tables with these dealing the cards.
New Live Casino Providers
One of the two new providers to catch my attention before the Conference was Winfinity and Digitain. I met with the guys from Winfinity and we chatted briefly about their great new live casino games and the studios in Riga. I have an open invite from them which I’ll probably take up late this year for a visit.
I’m impressed with the quality of what they have produced so far.
Digitain is based in Armenia and has very big plans in the live casino sector.
The head of the live casino is Matthew Charlesworth who has a long pedigree in Live casinos, having worked on both the operator and casino side.
Again they are keen for me to fly out and take a look at what they have developed and I’ll certainly do that and report back. So watch this space.
Swintt is another live casino provider that’s just launched.
They have tables streamed from a studio in a Las Vegas casino– which caught my attention, but unfortunately very little information. I’m hoping for a visit in October when I visit G2E.
At the moment they have seventy-nine brands using their live casino software which offers Roulette, Bacarrat and Tiger Bacarrat on a Mobile-first basis. Blackjack is due to be launched shortly.
A UKGC license is being applied for and should be live by the end of the year.
I was disappointed not to meet with Stakelogic and On Air Entertainment, both new suppliers who entered the market during the past 12 months.
I’ll catch up with them both offline and publish updates when I have them.
As conferences go I enjoyed this one, probably because it’s been a while since I attended one and because it was smaller than usual. There was less to see, so it wasn’t as hectic and tiring getting round to everyone.
The organisers did a great job, and although I caught Covid which was due to my behaviour, it didn’t lessen the experience.
Over and above everything, Live Casino is doing particularly well. The constant stream of new entrants into the niche constantly amazes me. As a player I love it, and the more innovation the better as far as I’m concerned.
My only plea to the providers is don’t mess with the core games. Don’t change the rules of a game on us – by all means, add extra features, bonus rounds and side bets, but keep the central game true to itself. Create new games we’ve never seen before – preferably that require some degree of skill to play. From the big providers I hope to see more mashup games, like the ones Playtech has been producing for the last few years and Pragmatic/Evolution are now starting to do.
Will we see a BTG/Evolution Live-RNG game? I hope so.