Q&A: Golden Nugget AC Grows Live Online Dealer Games

No, they’re not avatars. The winsome dealers behind a glass wall at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City are live dealers serving online players. iGamingPlayer.com talked to Tom Winter, senior vice president and general manager, Online Gaming, Landry’s Inc./Golden Nugget, about the virtual games, which debuted in August 2016 and have been growing ever since.

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No, they’re not avatars.

Those winsome dealers behind a glass wall at the Golden Nugget Atlantic City are live dealers serving online players. iGamingPlayer.com talked to Tom Winter, senior vice president and general manager, Online Gaming, Landry’s Inc./Golden Nugget, about the virtual games, which debuted in August 2016 and have been growing ever since.

iGamingPlayer: Golden Nugget was the first casino—and so far the only one—to offer live online table games in Atlantic City. How has the concept been received so far?

Tom Winter: We’re very happy with the performance to date, which exceeds our expectations. Some days, live games generate as much revenues as the corresponding random number generator (RNG) table games and account for more than 10 percent of our overall revenues. We believe it could be up to 15 percent over time, even if our current exclusivity on Live Dealer in New Jersey obviously gives us a boost.

What’s encouraging, too, is to see that 20 percent to 25 percent of our active patrons play Live Dealer, and this product is our fastest growing segment. It shows that slot players like it too. It brings new demographics to online gaming.

You launched with a single dealer and grew from there. How many are on the job now?

Winter: We started with three tables—one roulette, one baccarat and one blackjack—eight hours a day. Six months later, we’re offering five tables (including two additional blackjacks) 10 to 12 hours a day, from 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. till 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. We’ll soon have more than 20 dealers working in our studio.

Demand has steadily grown. This summer, we’ll open a larger studio with enough space for 18 tables. By the end of the year, we think we could have more than 10 concurrent tables open 16 hours a day.

All the dealers are gorgeous women! So is your audience primarily male?

Winter: Yes, more than 75 percent of live players are males, and they’re slightly younger than our average patron, around 40 years old.

Do you offer incentives to get these players to the Atlantic City casino?

Winter: The majority of live players were already playing RNG games online, but a number of them are new. Brick-and-mortar slot players were the first to embrace online gaming. Table game players, especially high rollers, need the excitement of live action with a real dealer. We’ve filled that gap.

We encourage players to engage with the brand wherever they are, in AC or online. All our internal studies show that online is not cannibalizing land-based play at all. Players who start in our brick-and-mortar casino then sign up online actually end up increasing their visitation in AC.

The reason is simple: players can’t go to AC as often as they’d like, and online is a complement. Plus, no website or mobile app, as good as it is, will ever replace the full entertainment experience of a brick-and-mortar casino. Thinking patrons won’t go to AC because they can play on their smartphones makes no sense at all. You go to Vegas or AC not only for gambling but also for dining, shows—and you go there with friends. That’s essentially a social experience, while online is a solitary experience, focused on gambling and killing time.

Last, online players are 10 to 15 years younger than brick-and-mortar players. Online gaming is a business in itself, but also a way for traditional casinos to reach the next generation of players.

How does the online experience differ from the in-house experience?

Winter: Online Live Dealer rules and odds are very much the same as land-based. Roulette and baccarat are common draw games, i.e. with a virtually unlimited number of concurrent players, while blackjack is limited to seven players. That will change in the coming months. We’re working with our technology partner Ezugi on blackjack bet behind, hybrid blackjack (player’s cards dealt randomly by the computer, dealer cards dealt by a real dealer) and common draw blackjack. These new options will ensure that every player has an opportunity to play at any time, with bets as low as $1. High rollers will instead prefer to play on traditional higher limit tables.

What’s the most popular game? And the maximum bet?

Winter: Blackjack is the most popular, just like it is on the floor. But roulette is doing well too, and baccarat is increasingly popular. Minimum bet is $1 on roulette and baccarat, $10 on blackjack, with happy hours at $5. Max bet is $500 but we go higher upon request.

You’ve said live dealer games have instilled a trust in the integrity of online games. What did you mean by that?

Winter: When we survey brick-and-mortar players who don’t play online, they give us three main reasons for not playing online.

  • One, they look for social entertainment rather than gambling. Live Dealer can help, since you can chat with the dealer or other players.
  • Two, some say they fear they wouldn’t control their spending as much. For them, we need to do a better job as explaining all the responsible gaming tools we have online such as deposit, play and loss self-imposed limits or cool-off periods.
  • Last but not least, some say they don’t trust RNG games (“How do I know it’s not rigged?”), not so much on slots—which are similar to land-based, with an even higher payout online—but certainly on table games. Patrons are used to seeing a real person dealing the cards and they don’t trust RNG table games as much. For them, Live Dealer is the best answer.

Finally, it’s fun to watch the online dealers at work at the Golden Nugget. One friend who saw them thought they were holograms behind that glass pane! Is the online room an attraction in itself?

Winter: Yes. People are intrigued by what they see, ask questions about it and realize that they can play traditional table games online when they go back home. That’s a very nice and original way to present our offer.

Check out Golden Nugget’s online live dealers at GoldenNuggetCasino.com

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