The German market embracing regulation and licensing for online casinos and sports betting for the first time has presented both challenges and opportunities for operators.
With online casinos alone expected to reach €3.3bn a year by 2024, it’s no wonder some of the biggest casino and sports betting brands are keen to enter the fray and fight for their share of the market.
But there are challenges, too, with some suggesting that regulations are too stringent for operators to be able to drive the growth they need to succeed.
The rules could also have an impact on the popularity of certain games, with live video-based content and, in particular, live dealers expected to become increasingly popular in the market.
To learn more about live casinos and some of the difficulties operators face when streaming to players across devices, especially on mobile, we spoke to Oliver Lietz, Founder of nanocosmos.
Q: Do you think we could see a spike in interest around live games in Germany over the coming months and years? If so, why?
A: Yes, I do. The advantage to regulating online casinos and sports betting is that the rules are now clear and known for operators active in the market.
This legal certainty will allow operators to innovate within the rules that have been set, even if they are perhaps more onerous than in other regulated markets.
The regulations appear to apply the greatest restrictions to online slots, so operators will be keen to build out their content offering with additional games such as live casinos.
Live casino provides an authentic, engaging, and entertaining experience and, as player preferences mature, hits the spot for an ever-growing audience.
Now that the German market is legal, it means that players have both clarity and security, and this will likely increase uptake even further.
Indeed, the latest estimates suggest the online casino market in Germany could reach €3.3bn in 2024, and I would expect live casinos to account for a sizable share of that.
However, there are many technical challenges to be faced when it comes to delivering live gambling products to global audiences, and Germany is no different.
Q: What challenges do operators and providers face when it comes to streaming live casino into the German market?
A: One of the greatest challenges operators and providers face is ensuring that players receive the best possible user experience on both desktop and mobile at all times.
This requires a robust live streaming platform and powerful technology.
The key to delivering a superior user experience lies in the so-called “latency” of the video, which is the time delay between when the live dealer does something and the viewer sees it.
Think of making a “wave gesture” on a live video platform such as Zoom, which you expect to be seen immediately in real time for the whole audience.
This is not guaranteed in traditional live streaming environments. A maximum latency of around one second is required as higher values destroy the use case as bets would come in too late.
Accessing the content on any device easily is also a challenge.
Mobile web browsers are easy to access but are the most complicated channel to crack for a multitude of reasons but one of the most prominent is the differing bandwidth/internet quality across the country.
Even though Germany is a modern and advanced country, consumers still suffer from low bandwidth and this has a significant, negative impact on the live casino experience they receive.
To be able to monetize the content, the operator and/or provider needs to ensure that the live game is still available to the audience in near real time, regardless of the bandwidth available.
Q: Do you have a specific example of how low bandwidth impacts the player experience?
A: Of course. If a person is at a remote location in a mobile network, or even traveling into the city on a bus, their phone will connect to different bandwidths along the way, perhaps going from 3G to 5G then back down to 4G.
If the person is playing live casino at the time when they hit a low bandwidth spot, the stream will likely buffer or, worse, disconnect/reconnect or simply not work.
This ruins their experience – there is nothing worse than placing your bets and just as the host is about to spin the roulette wheel, the game cuts out.
This, in turn, could see the player prematurely end their gaming session or even leave the casino for a rival brand that offers a superior live dealer experience.
Q: How can these challenges be overcome?
A: Most operators are taking a trial and error approach when it comes to the settings used for live casino streams instead of using technologies and platforms that provide the insight they need to get it right.
A live streaming platform requires the use of low latency, adaptive bitrate playback to cope with all different types of network situations and, ideally, an analytics platform to get insight on the quality of the live streams. All of this technology is available to operators today.
Q: How do these technologies work and help operators deliver a superior live casino experience?
A: The absolute key is a live streaming platform which provides the ultra-low latency of the video content from the dealer to the player. Otherwise monetization is impossible.
Also, for a player to access a live casino stream from their smartphone, a level of bandwidth is required. If the player cannot access that bandwidth – they might be on 3G when the stream has been set for 4G – that is when the stream buffers or disconnects.
To prevent this from happening, the stream quality needs to be reduced by switching to a lower quality stream encoded with a lower bitrate.
With adaptive bitrate playback, the stream automatically adjusts to the best quality for the available network. If the player moves into 4G coverage, the stream quality is improved.
The live transcoder on the live streaming platform converts the original live stream from a high quality input stream into the different lower quality streams used depending on the bandwidth available.
What’s more, operators only need to send a single stream from the live encoder and the cloud live transcoder takes care of the additional formats.
Any additional metrics sent back to the platform helps to understand the quality of service of the live game. Some live streaming providers also add an analytics system to apply business intelligence to the whole application.
Q: In addition to the technology they use, can operators and suppliers do anything else?
A: Operators and suppliers should work with a technology provider whose platform provides the right features, stability, and insight they need to fine-tune their settings.
This includes the visibility of each player, where they are located in the country and the bandwidth they are currently on.
From this, a clear picture of the German market can be seen and the stream tweaked so that it delivers the best user experience at all times. And this will be key to live casino reaching its full potential in Germany.