Evolution to Bring Livespins ‘Bet Behind’ Slots Streaming Product to US Market

Casino players in the US will soon be enjoying slots in a new, more interactive way, thanks to Evolution’s acquisition of Livespins. The deal, announced last week, saw Evolution—the largest supplier of live dealer products to the US market—acquire the startup for €5 million plus future performance-based consideration. Bonus spoke with Livespins CCO Michael Pedersen, who said that the US isn’t just a potential market for Livespins: It will be their focus.

Livespins’s product resembles some popular video-game streaming services, except built into an online casino and with a betting interface attached. It allows viewers to chat and interact with one another and the streamer while also sharing in their wins or losses.

Pedersen said that when Livespins has demoed its product at trade shows, the greatest enthusiasm has come from US and Canadian operators.

We got such tremendous feedback from North American operators that it was a pretty easy choice from early on that our first regulated markets would be North America. That also means that we’re not touching the more typical European regulated markets for now. The product’s built for North America, to some extent.

Licensing and regulatory approval are the remaining pieces of the puzzle to bring Livespins to market. However, Evolution’s North American experience and good standing with regulators should help that process along.

Pedersen says that before the acquisition, Livespins was “roughly halfway” through the regulatory process with the “Big Three” iGaming jurisdictions, meaning New Jersey, Michigan, and PennsylvaniaNow, they’re evaluating whether they will still need independent licensing or can piggyback on Evolution’s licenses as a subsidiary. The answer may vary from state to state.

How Does Livespins Work?

Livespins allows online casino players to bet behind a streamer who is playing slots.Slots streaming has become very popular on sites like Twitch. However, its crackdown on unregulated gambling streams has pushed some of that activity over to its rival Kick

Livespins, by contrast, would bring American viewers streams of slots play taking place legally at a casino in their own state. Viewers would be able to bet on the outcomes in much the same way they do with Evolution’s live dealer table games.

The visual presentation of Livespins’ games will be familiar to anyone who has used those video game streaming sites. The game fills most of the screen, while the streamer appears overlaid in the bottom right of the video window, typically from the waist up. On the right is a text chat box with messages visible to the streamer and other viewers. Livespins has added the ability to share animated GIFs in the chat as well as text and emoji-based messages.

At the bottom of the screen is the unique part of the product. The betting interface is very similar to the auto-bet feature available for many online slots. The user selects the size of their wager and, where available, the number of spins they want to participate in. (In some states, regulations may require users to confirm their wager for each spin separately.)

While betting this way, the player receives the same payouts as the streamer, scaled for bet size. For instance, if the streamer is playing for $10 a spin and wins $50, that’s a 5x payout. So, a viewer betting $1 would receive $5, and one betting $20 would receive $100.

Having multiple players betting on the same spin increases the risk for the operator. Some sites may choose to exclude the highest-volatility slots from Livespins. Figuring out how to handle the possibility of multi-million jackpots hitting on a Livespins stream is a problem that Petersen says the company will solve “some day.”

At launch, however, no progressive jackpot slots will be included in its streams to avoid that issue.

Making Slots Social

Live dealer technology has revolutionized online table games. The social aspect of playing blackjack or roulette at a brick-and-mortar casino is absent from traditional online play. It’s such an essential part of the experience that live dealer products account for roughly half of US online table game revenue despite their slower pace of play.

Slots, on the other hand, are an inherently solitary game, even at a retail casino. That’s perhaps why a previous attempt to create “live online slots” by Hard Rock Casino in New Jersey never gained traction.

However, streaming culture evolved to build a sense of community around video games, even those without a multiplayer aspect. Slots have undergone a similar evolution thanks to streamers like Brian Christopher

And yet, this usually means slot fans must choose between gambling without a social experience or engaging with a live stream, where they’ll have a social experience but won’t be gambling themselves. Livespins is aiming to bridge that gap.

Pedersen says they also hope to break down some of the stereotypes around slots and those who play them. He told Bonus:

In the US, Slots players are traditionally assumed to be an older demographic. Table games are viewed more as what the ‘cool kids’ are doing. I would like to think that we can help modernize the slots experience.

We’re inputting slots, right? But the output of Livespins is really a live experience.

 

More Value From Ambassadorships

Livespins will offer operators a range of levels of service.

At one extreme is a fully off-the-shelf solution, similar to Evolution’s shared live dealer tables. Streamers employed by Livespins would host unbranded streams, and any online casino partner in the state could allow its players to join in.

Other options allow increasing levels of control for the operator. The opposite extreme would be an experience fully managed by the casino, with Livespins merely providing technological support.

Although that option is much more work for the operator, Pedersen says it presents the most interesting opportunities. High-profile brand ambassadorships—often with sports stars or comedians—are a common feature of the US market. Hosting events where a celebrity ambassador plays on a Livespins stream would give operators a new way to leverage those relationships.

Pedersen also sees potential for one-off tie-ins with live entertainment events at casino properties. He said:

I’ll give you an example. All these properties have nightclubs. So let’s say a famous DJ plays one Friday night. He’s already coming in, so how much more would it be to add 30 minutes or an hour to his schedule so he can come in and host inside the Livespins studio? So the stream would be taking place inside the physical space, but to participate you would get online, scan a QR code, register, and then you would be able to bet behind him. So we think Livespins would be able to help operators with their omnichannel approach, trying to get the land-based audience to use their online services and vice versa.

This cross-marketing between gambling and non-gambling entertainment at retail properties is a hot topic at the moment. So is the balancing act of having an online casino product alongside retail operations.

A New Use for MSIGA?

As Pedersen says, it’s still early days for Livespins in terms of unraveling the complexities of state-by-state regulation in the US. At first, it will need to follow the same approach as Evolution, offering streams only within the state where the games are being played. (West Virginia is an exception, allowing live dealer streams from Pennsylvania studios.)

However, community-building is an important part of streaming culture. If Livespins catches on and particular streamers build a fan base, there may be demand for multi-state streams. Operators are especially likely to want that when it comes to appearances by their celebrity ambassadors.

Shared streams would require compacts between the state regulators. One such compact, the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement, already exists between five states for purposes of online poker. Michigan expressly forbids such agreements for anything other than poker, yet other states could potentially agree to such a deal for bet-behind slots streaming.

Asked if he sees that in the cards, Pedersen says it’s something that would make sense a little further down the road.

There’s no doubt that this product would be a great next step if they wanted to evolve beyond poker for player liquidity pooling across states. We would be happy with that.

It’s still too early for us to see where we’re going to land exactly. We’re very aware that this is a new product, the market has not seen it before, regulators have not seen it before. And that also means that we spend quite a bit of time with the regulators, explaining the concept, answering their questions, helping them get comfortable with the concept.

About the Author

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon is an online gambling industry analyst with nearly ten years of experience. He currently serves as Casino News Managing Editor for Bonus.com, part of the Catena Media Network. Other gambling news sites he has contributed to include PlayUSA and Online Poker Report, and his writing has been cited in The Atlantic.
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