According to Senior Vice President and General Manager, Online Gaming at Golden Nugget Thomas Winter, the new game is already gaining a foothold.
“We just launched Casino Hold ’em and it’s already proven very successful,” Winter told Play NJ in a recent interview. “Half of Casino Hold ’em players are new to Live Dealer. Poker players finally have a live variant of their favorite game and can bet as low as $1 per hand.”
The addition of Casino Hold ’em is strengthening an already strong product. A product only Golden Nugget and its sub-brands currently offer no less.
Live dealer was a gamble
Investing in a live dealer studio was a risky gamble for Golden Nugget.
The size of the New Jersey online casino market presents a difficult challenge, as the cost of operating a live dealer studio far exceeds a standard online casino game
The gamble has really paid off for Golden Nugget. Live dealer games have been a big part of the company’s online gaming success, propelling Golden Nugget to a 30 percent market share.
Number of live dealer tables have more than doubled
Over the ensuing 18 months, the number of tables and hours of operation have increased.
With the addition of Casino Hold ’em, Golden Nugget now offers eight live dealer tables. The tables run from noon to 3 a.m. every day.
The current breakdown of tables is:
- 5 Blackjack
- 1 Baccarat
- 1 Roulette
- 1 Casino Hold ’em
The reason the number of blackjack tables has increased is two-fold.
- First, blackjack is very popular.
- Second, unlike in a live casino setting where space is an issue, a single live dealer baccarat or roulette table supports 100 players. However, blackjack is limited to seven player positions, since player decisions and the finite number of cards in the shoe come into play.
According to Winter, three new games will come online within the next six months too. He says this will lead to increased hours of operation.
“As we add more games and brands, we’ll keep expanding hours of operation,” Winter said. “18 hours a day is probably a good objective for the end of the year and would already address 90 percent of the demand.”
Live dealer revenue > Online poker revenue?
Winter declined to give specifics about live dealer revenue but did provide some interesting facts about the games.
According to Winter, live dealer games have increased Golden Nugget’s online table game revenue by 150 percent since live dealer games were launched.
“Out of our top 10 games in wagering, four are live dealer tables,” Winter told Play NJ. “We believe Live Dealer has the potential to become bigger than online poker in revenues in the US.”
To put that into perspective, online poker currently generates around $2 million per month in New Jersey.
Winter also said 20-25 percent of Golden Nugget’s online casino customers play live dealer games, “usually in conjunction with slots or electronic table games.”
The first mover advantage
By taking a chance on live dealer games, Golden Nugget essentially cornered the market.
A live dealer studio is expensive to build. It also has high ongoing costs. As the only live dealer provider, the cost can be justified. By extension, if another casino wanted to add live dealer games it would be virtually impossible to do so profitably.
However, there is an alternative way to offer live dealer games without the studio cost: lease them from the Golden Nugget.
“We already signed agreements and you’ll see more brands offering live dealer from our studio in the coming weeks,” said Winter. “We think sharing our studio with more brands is a win for operators and patrons alike. We also have ongoing discussions with other operators.”
“Golden Nugget growth last year, more than twice the market average, in part attributable to live dealer, has demonstrated that 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.”
Considering the revenue growth, the capture of new players, and the ability to reduce studio costs by leasing the product to other operators, it’s fair to call Golden Nugget’s live dealer gambit one of the shrewdest moves in New Jersey online gambling history.