Michigan Online Casino Players Must Wait Longer For Live Dealer Games

Posted on January 27, 2021 - Last Updated on January 28, 2021

Last year’s most pressing question by Michigan bettors was answered on Friday when online gambling launched statewide. But there are still questions unanswered, most specifically about what’s next for 2021. Among them: When will live dealer games be available at Michigan online casinos?

Michigan launched eight online casinos last week with games such as slots and video poker, and table games like blackjack and baccarat. Seven more online casinos should launch in the coming weeks or months.

But live dealer games, one of the more popular features for online casinos, did not launch in Michigan. Here’s where things stand for what could be a game-changer for the online casino industry.

When will live dealer games launch in Michigan?

NetEnt, which is part of the Evolution Group, announced Tuesday that Evolution will open a live casino broadcast studio in Michigan later this year.

The studio will be the company’s third in the US, joining New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and 11th worldwide. But that’s just one part of the equation.

Evolution applied for a supplier license through the Michigan Gaming Control Board but has not yet been approved. Like the sportsbooks and casinos themselves, Evolution needs the final OK before going live.

Once live, Evolution will offer live blackjack, roulette and baccarat with more games coming later.

Evolution contracted with BetMGMFanDuelPointsBetWilliam Hill, and WynnBET for live dealer casino and more deals could be on the way. The company essentially has a monopoly on the market at present, though Playtech could someday join the fray.

Pennsylvania live dealer launch took 15 months

The most recent comparison for a state launching live dealer games comes from Pennsylvania.

The Keystone State launched online casinos in July 2019 but didn’t have live dealer available until October 2020 when BetRivers, DraftKings, and Hollywood Casino all added the games.

There are some differences in Michigan’s favor on this front though.

When PA launched online casinos, there were questions about server locations related to the Wire Act that slowed growth. Pennsylvania online casinos thought for a time they could use servers from nearby New Jersey, which has had live dealer since 2016. They ultimately could not.

Those concerns have not prevented a robust launch of online casinos in Michigan. For instance, on launch day last week, BetMGM Casino had 150+ online games available.

“Pennsylvania launched its first online casinos in the summer of 2019, and the libraries were very limited compared to neighboring New Jersey,” said Katie Kohler, who covers the gaming industry for PlayPennsylvania.

“Players were also very eager for live dealer, which didn’t come along until well over a year later. I hope Michigan doesn’t have to wait as long as we did here in PA for this popular offering.”

Per Michigan’s internet gaming administrative rules, servers are required to be in the state unless otherwise approved.

Live dealer expected to boost online casino growth

The state that has had live dealer studios for the longest time is New Jersey.

When Golden Nugget online casino in NJ started its first live dealer games in 2016, the innovative game was new to the US. Ezugi Games, now a part of Evolution, opened a studio at Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City. It was an expensive risk that proved successful in more ways than one.

At the time, GN casino was the only site to offer it. Eventually, its online partner Betfair jumped on the live casino train, too.

As such, the addition of a live casino to the apps began to affect Golden Nugget’s bottom line. In August 2016, the month live dealer launched, Golden Nugget and its online partners reported $3.5 million in revenue. Within 12 months, the revenue had climbed to $5 million. And by 2018, Golden Nugget had $10 million in revenue, more than double its nearest competitor.

Thomas Winter, the head of online gaming at Golden Nugget, told PlayNJ in 2018 that the growth is “in part attributable to live dealer.”

“The benefits of offering live dealer far exceeded the extra cost. As we scale with multiple brands, costs are dropping. This is still more expensive than to offer electronic games but we are reaching reasonable levels, that will see more operators reconsider their approach. We clearly saw a change of perception in the last few months.”

It wasn’t long before other NJ apps joined the fray and added live dealer, leveling the playing field. There is no reason to think the addition of the games won’t do the same for Michigan online casinos.

What are live dealer online casino games anyway?

Once they do finally arrive in the state, players will see a new tab show up on the app or the casino website. Enough to spark some curiosity, sure, but live dealer games are just like it sounds. They are live games available online. Generally, the table games include:

  • Blackjack
  • Roulette
  • Three-card poker

But they can also include more unique games such as Monopoly Live and Deal or No Deal Live (pending approval). You can play from home — or anywhere in Michigan — and have close to the experience of playing at the casino.

There’s a live dealer located in a studio with whom you can interact. You can also interact with other players as you might on a casino floor.

It’s fair to say the anticipation for live dealer games in Michigan will grow well into 2021.

Matt Schoch Avatar
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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