According to the consultancy firm Grand View Research, annual online gambling revenues should reach $127 billion by 2027. Many industry analysts believe that the rise of live casinos is among the top contributing factors for this sector’s predicted upswing. The ability to enjoy authentic casino gameplay from home drives hordes of players away from land-based venues and onto digital gambling platforms.
However, live-dealer tables are not a new thing. They have been around since 2003 when Playtech launched their first iteration. Yet, it wasn’t until smartphones became commonplace that the genre took off. In 2009, Riga-based Evolution Gaming took the reins on this industry segment and revolutionized the interactive gaming sphere.
Evolution’s Beginnings and Current Size
Evolution Gaming launched in 2006 to appeal to casino players who did not get excited by RNG-powered games. After a slow start that involved partnering with other live providers, in 2009, the company opened its first studio in Riga. In 2014, it debuted a smaller one in Malta, which focused on non-English speaking dealers.
Today, Evolution also has studios in the US, Canada, Georgia, Romania, and Belgium. It boasts a staff of over 8,000 employees, of which around 3,000 are croupiers. This expansion happened over a decade and included branching off into a new market every few years. Such growth required the laborious process of attaining approval from each region’s gaming licensor.
Game Expansion in the Mid-2010s
Naturally, Evolution began by offering classic casino table games. Over the years, it incorporated versions of these. For example, its blackjack offer now consists of Free Bet, Power, Speed, Infinite, and Party Blackjack. In 2015, they decided to introduce casino-poker variants, such as Caribbean Stud, Three-Card Poker, Side-Bet City, Ultimate Texas Hold ’em, and Casino Hold ‘em Poker. At this time, baccarat variations entered the mix, and soon after, the dice games Sic Bo and Dragon Tiger made their way into their catalog as they sought expansion into Asia.
In 2017, they started their game show experiment by launching Dream Catcher, a Wheel of Fortune-type game. After it found an audience, the company saw potential in the genre and created Mega Ball and Monopoly Live. In July of 2020, they unleashed the complex Crazy Time on the industry. It is an enhanced version of the Big Six and Evolution’s most expensive product ever. It proved a gamble that massively paid off.
Evolution Acquires NetEnt
In June of 2020, Evolution Gaming announced its intention of purchasing Swedish gaming juggernaut NetEnt. In November of the same year, the two parties released a statement that they had agreed on a purchase price of $2.1 billion.
NetEnt had a long-standing reputation as one of the top slot providers in the industry, responsible for highly-popular titles such as Gonzo’s Quest and Starburst. It also held a section of the live market with its NetEnt Live brand, which focused on blackjack. Once the merger officially went through in December of 2020, Evolution closed NetEnt Live as the restructuring process began.