Udayavni Special

How online casinos ensured business continuity during the lockdown


Team Udayavani, Aug 10, 2020, 10:56 AM IST

Industries and businesses all over the world faced a new challenge in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. With social distancing in effect, everyone had to play by new rules. In order to survive and ensure business continuity, sectors such as the online gambling industry needed to make fast decisions to adapt. One, probably the most well known vertical inside the gambling industry, is online live casinos. While being digital, this vertical is heavily reliant on offline productions. The live casino games that are provided digitally online to players are delivered through live streams where players interact with a real-life dealer in real-time, placing bets and following the games, much like the experience of a traditional land-based casino.

The Challenge

Due to the social distancing rules, people could not move around freely outside to effectively travel to work. In addition, the number of employees that were allowed to be inside the workplace and live studios was limited. How it works is that in a live studio there will be a lot of table games setup, like Roulette, Blackjack and Baccarat tables. A real-life person works as a dealer and facilitates the game. For example, at a Blackjack table the dealer would comment on what’s happening, they would handle the cards from shuffling to dealing and responding to player actions, when to stand, hit, split or double. All this is recorded in real-time and then broadcast through a live stream on the live casino website. Players interact with, in this example, the live Blackjack game by watching the live stream and placing bets, making decisions and chatting through a graphical user interface embedded with the stream from their mobile device or laptop. The setup of having tables, recording equipment and related IT infrastructure takes up a lot of real estate and is not something that can be set up at home so live dealers can work remotely. This meant that fewer tables and games were offered than usual due to the restrictions of how many employees can be inside the workplace at the same time.

The Solution

The Covid-19 pandemic forced live casino operators to be more creative in their approach of delivering game experiences. Remote work, or ‘work from home’, has always been considered to be impossible when it comes to online live casinos, the rule that live dealers have to be in the workplace to carry out their job. The status quo for live dealers had to be challenged, at the same time, it was impossible to bring the setup needed to provide live roulette to the homes of individual employees. The solution for many operators was to offer hybrid games. The regular online roulette, for example, has a fully graphical interface where the table, wheel, action and bet placement is all rendered graphically and accessed in a casino app or website where the player interacts with the game. There are no human elements to the regular online roulette experience. What live casino operators did was to merge the concept of regular roulette with that of live roulette. So in the graphical interface of regular roulette, there would be a live stream of a dealer, working from home, who runs the commentary of what is happening in each round.

Most online casino operators also added new game providers to their portfolio of games to make up for the loss in their existing portfolio. Adding new providers was a different challenge, the process of adding a new game provider does not happen at the push of a button. Usually, there is a long integration process with different technical steps needed, this process can take weeks to months. To adapt fast, the integration process of new game providers needed to be fast-tracked. The regular processes needed to be challenged to see where time could be cut and how to more efficiently distribute the work needed across different people, teams or departments in the online casino company. As a result, new game providers were integrated with a pace never seen before and setting a standard for future provider integrations.

Aftermath?

In many ways, live casino operators came out of the lockdown stronger than before. In the process, they discovered that they are more flexible and more efficient than what was thought. With the Covid-19 still actively spreading, it’s not unlikely that we see stricter lockdown rules once again in India. If that happens, the gaming industry and the online live casino operators are well-prepared to handle restrictions and changes in consumer behaviour.

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