Casino International Online (CIO): How long ago were the plans to launch your own live casino studio initiated?
David Pritchard (DP): Our own live casino had been under consideration for some time now but we decided at the beginning of 2013 that the time was right; we were confident, after monitoring and assessing similar projects, that we were ready to deliver a live Casino Studio that we would be proud of. The project began in earnest in March 2013.
CIO: What were the customer trends you recorded that lead to such an investment in live casino?
DP: There is no doubt that the live casino offering has grown in popularity over the last few years. As the product was fine-tuned players’ confidence levels increased. Our database of new players was growing on a daily basis; our regular VIP’s have always been loyal to us thanks to our VIP team who offer them a bespoke service. We also witnessed clients who would normally concentrate on our sports book and poker products crossing over to try their luck in the casino at the same time. We added BetVictor dedicated tables to the generic tables we offered at Evolution studios and manned these tables with British staff during peak hours. The feedback we received was great; our players felt more at home playing on the BetVictor tables. We wanted to give more and the only way we could do this was to build our own bespoke BetVictor studio, owned and operated by Victor himself.
CIO: Why was the decision taken to create your very own studio considering the various existing industry options?
DP: We honestly believed we could take the Live Casino offering to the next level, but the only way we could do this was to have full control of it. We now proudly run our casino in the same manner as any respected land based casino. Our Management team have a wealth of experience in running casinos all over the world and they have a passion for service delivery. We also have total flexibility with the promotions we offer, from monthly promotions to the ad hoc credits that have proven very popular with our players. This is a unique casino experience, built and run with our customers in mind; it’s their casino and we welcome all feedback as we aim to meet all realistic aims and expectations of our valued clients.
CIO: What were the key logistical considerations for such an undertaking?
DP: First of all the technology; we needed to find the right partner to help us deliver the finished product. Our technology needed to be both stable and rapid so we talked to various companies then decided on MediaLive; they offered us great flexibility so we could tailor-make our product.
We wanted our customers to feel they were in a real casino so we designed and built the set with this in mind. Our players don’t just face one table, they can see the action going on around them, and it’s all delivered with the best high-definition cameras. Then we had the staff; we needed to put a team of fifty people together, many of whom had not experienced dealing in a studio environment before, so the training process had to be meticulous and well planned.
The casino equipment also needed to be of the highest quality so we met with some of the best people in the business such as Cammegh in London to ensure our casino floor was fitted out to very high standards.
Obviously we take security very seriously so we also had to consider and implement security procedures for the casino which included storage and issue of cards etc. with precise logs being kept.
CIO: Any real nightmares along the way?
DP: Not really. We planned the project well and we stuck to the original plan and budget.
We knew we had to order all of our equipment with not just the normal lead time in mind, but with the challenge of getting it approved and passed through customs both on the Spanish and Gibraltar side. Again we worked hand-in-hand with our various suppliers and clearing agents to ensure we met all requirements.
CIO: How important do you think the verbal interaction between croupier and player is?
DP: This changes from player to player. We do have customers at the tables that prefer no communication at all; they just want to play their game. I’m sure some players actually play with the sound off; that’s their decision and we respect that. We do, however, have many players that love the interaction and we knew from the beginning that this was something we could excel in. When one looks at casino studios around the world they are staffed with dealers who are trained to perform their duties to a high level but they do appear to be almost robotic at times with little or no interaction between themselves and the player.
When recruiting our dealers an essential criterion was their ability to communicate effectively and we actively encourage them to interact with players and enjoy their time on the tables. The feedback we have received to date suggests our customers certainly appreciate this facility.
CIO: You officially refer to your croupiers as ‘dealer-tainers’; what can we expect from them?
DP: They are a great bunch of people and they love their job. We have a great team spirit here in the casino; we just need to harness that enthusiasm and we can’t go wrong. When I recruited dealers I was looking for a cross between a croupier and a DJ. We don’t just want them to deal, we want them to entertain. Our dealers will play a big part in all our promotions from Halloween nights to beach parties! You can even follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
CIO: Victor Chandler said: “I aim to play an important and hands-on role”. What can we expect of Victor himself in this experience?
DP: Victor is passionate about his casino; he has been hands-on from day one and he played a huge part in the design and delivery of the product. We have an exciting promotion calendar planned and Victor is very keen to get involved in this on a personal level so our customers can expect to see the man himself pop in often to say hi and give away some great prizes! We hope to have a number of celebrities pop in to say hello and have a former England Test cricketer, who is now playing his trade as a Sky TV pundit, lined up for very early in the 2014.
CIO: Victor also said: “We are convinced this takes our online casino to a different level to anyone else in the market place”. What is it exactly that makes this different from all the other established live casino products?
DP: We deliver a very special casino experience to our customers. Most live casino operators promise “a real casino experience” but frankly do not back it up with the service they provide. Our Management team are on the casino floor at all times; they ensure the games run smoothly and any customer queries are dealt with instantly. The feedback we have received on this has been fantastic. On other sites customers sometimes have to wait for hours or even days for feedback on any problems they may experience but we are able to talk to them one-on-one, solve the issue, and always follow-up to ensure the player is satisfied with the outcome.
The look and feel of the room, the way the games are presented by our dealers, and the fact that we can offer great promotions, is all aimed at our loyal BetVictor players.
CIO: Once the product is up and running and ‘established’ what will be the next stage of development for the live casino?
DP: Much will depend on our customers; they are already telling us about functionality and gameplay that they would like to add. After we went live we had a number of customers ask us about enhancing blackjack by allowing the player to double on any card. The change was developed and implemented live within two weeks of the first customer request. By making the player the central focus (though it can make planning more difficult) it will ultimately mean that we deliver the market-leading product – which will also be available on mobile devices early in 2014.