Live dealer table games are no longer an exclusively real-money phenomenon for US online casinos, as some sweepstakes-model social casinos have joined the trend in partnership with international games suppliers. McLuck Casino recently became the latest site to offer casino-style live dealer table games, and others are likely to follow.
Social casinos allow users in most US states to play casino-style games like slots and blackjack for fun without making a purchase. Those using the sweepstakes model—like McLuck—also offer the chance to win cash prizes and provide a reasonable alternative to real money casinos in states lacking a regulated market.
Live dealer table games aim to duplicate the casino floor experience for online play. They use actual human dealers and physical game equipment to stream games from a studio to players’ computers and mobile devices. Blackjack and roulette are the most common live dealer games, though other casino favorites like baccarat are often available.
Live dealer studios sometimes expand on those staples with unique side bets and live dealer game shows to differentiate themselves. In that regard, the selection of games at sweepstakes casinos will differ from their real money counterparts. Regulated real-money online casinos in the US partner with Evolution, Playtech, or Authentic Gaming to offer their games. None of these studios serve social casinos. Fortunately, the laws governing sweepstakes casinos are different from those for real money gaming, so they can seek international partnerships for content.
There is also at least one option in the US to play Evolution’s live dealer games for play money. BetRivers.Net—the play money version of the regulated real money operator BetRivers—offers 15 games from Evolution, including blackjack, roulette, baccarat, poker, Lightning Dice, craps, Super Sic Bo, Crazy Time, Dream Catcher, and Football Studio.
Live Dealer Table Games’ Popularity is Growing
Since the boom in regulated online gambling that began in 2019, live dealer games have been taking the US by storm. Social casinos getting in on the action is just one example of that.
Last year’s annual report from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) attests to the games’ popularity with real money casino users. According to the PGCB, live dealer games accounted for over 50% of the total revenue from online table games that fiscal year.
Content suppliers have taken notice. Until recently, Evolution Gaming held a near monopoly in the live dealer segment at US online casinos. However, other gaming giants like Light & Wonder and Playtech entered the market in recent years. Another company, StakeLogic, will also make its US debut next year via Bally’s in Rhode Island.
Now, we see international content providers finding a new way into the US through these partnerships with social casinos like McLuck. Like the casinos, they can do this because the games use virtual currencies with no cash value, thereby falling outside of US gambling laws.
Which Social Casinos Offer Live Dealer Games?
By our count, McLuck Casino is the fourth US sweepstakes casino to offer live dealer games. Here’s what we found:
- McLuck: Blackjack, roulette, and baccarat from Beter Live.
- High 5: 12 games, including blackjack, roulette, poker, and baccarat, all from Vivo Gaming.
- Stake.us: 12 games, including blackjack, roulette, baccarat, Sic Bo, and Teen Patti. Some from Beter Live, others from the in-house Stake Live, powered by Pragmatic Play.
- Chanced: 13 games, including blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and Teen Patti. Some from Beter Live, others from Atmosfera.
Which Live Dealer Studios Work With Social Casinos?
Cyprus-based Beter Live seems to be the dominant force in the US sweepstakes casino space. It has partnerships with three of the four sites. It’s a newcomer to the space, having started to offer live dealer games from its Eastern European studios in 2021. However, some members of its leadership team come from Playtech and Entain and bring previous live dealer experience. The company has partnered with numerous European casinos, including Bet365. (Although that brand has an online casino in New Jersey, its American site uses Playtech as its live dealer provider.)
High 5 Casino is the exception, having chosen to partner with Vivo Gaming instead. It has studios in 15 countries, including one in Miami and counts over 200 gambling sites among its customers. It has also been around a lot longer than some of the other studios: 15 years, to be exact. The company holds licenses from several respectable regulatory agencies, including Malta and the Isle of Man.
In addition to Beter Live, Chanced Casino partners with Atmosfera (or “Atmosphera,” as Chanced refers to the company on its site). The company was established in 2020 and is headquartered in Armenia. Its studios are primarily in Eastern Europe. According to its website, it has over 250 partners worldwide.
Stake.us is unique in offering games under its own brand through a bespoke partnership with Pragmatic Play. Pragmatic Play is famous for its slots at social casinos, but it also has a live casino segment, and it often partners with casinos to create bespoke live dealer products.
Social Casinos Exempt From In-State Requirement
Live dealer studios cost a lot of money to operate. That’s why most suppliers choose to work only with real money operators. However, social casinos do have one advantage.
Most US states with legal real-money online casinos require live dealer games to be streamed from a studio within the state. The only exception is West Virginia, which, due to the small size of the market, has allowed its casinos to use live dealer games from neighboring Pennsylvania.
This requirement is intended to create jobs, but it also adds overhead for operators. Jason McCulloch, from Evolution’s partner Galaxy Gaming, told Bonus last year that the need for separate studios in each state has been an impediment to rolling out new games.
To stream 24/7, companies like Evolution need a substantial number of dealers and other staff employed at each location. For example, the company’s studio in Connecticut employs almost 300 people, while the one in Pennsylvania had more than 500 employees at one point.
To help compensate for those overhead costs, real money casinos usually have apply higher minimum bets to live dealer games than to the equivalent digital products. Depending on the case, minimum bets are often as low as $0.10 for purely digital table games, but the minimum bet for live dealer blackjack is rarely under $1 and often higher.
However, the types of social casinos discussed in this article follow federal sweepstakes law, not state-level gambling regulations. That allows them to use live dealer studios anywhere in the world. Many of the international suppliers base their studios in Eastern Europe or other regions with lower labor costs. Some of those savings get based on to the player in the form of lower minimums. Bonus found games running for as low as 0.50 Sweepstakes Coins.