But all that changed in 2018 when Borgata added live dealer games to its collection. Partnered with Evolution Gaming, games are live at 888 Casino, Hard Rock online casino and SugarHouse online casino. More details on their launches here.
The games at Golden Nugget and Betfair are broadcast live from the Golden Nugget’s land-based venue in Atlantic City. The eight available live dealer games at Golden Nugget, however, are now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is the first and only site to do so in New Jersey and the US. The games at Betfair Casino remain a nightly event from 3 p.m – 3 a.m.
Hard Rock hosts the live dealer games for it and the other casinos at its AC property daily.
Live dealer games in New Jersey
Live dealer games combine the convenience afforded by gambling online with the social interactivity of a live casino setting. As the name suggests, live dealer games feature real dealers. They use real playing cards and roulette wheels to determine the outcome of individual games.
In April 2018, after months of wondering when other New Jersey online casino sites would join the Live Dealer market, Borgata soft-launched four live dealer games on Borgata online casino as well as its affiliated sites PartyCasino and playMGM. Golden Nugget and Betfair are no longer the only online gambling sites to offer the innovative gaming experience.
888 Casino’s, Hard Rock online casino’s and SugarHouse online casino’s live dealer offerings include American roulette, baccarat, blackjack, three card poker and ultimate Texas Hold ’em. Ocean Resort Casino plans to follow suit before the year’s end.
Golden Nugget Casino currently supports eight Live Dealer games: blackjack, roulette, baccarat, casino poker and a live casino floor roulette. There are currently five blackjack tables, and one each of roulette, baccarat, and Casino Hold ’em. The site can offer up to seven casino poker tables.
Live Dealer Blackjack
The most obvious difference between Live Dealer Blackjack and other online variants of the game is that the former is dealt from a traditional shoe.
Otherwise, the rules at Golden Nugget and Betfair Casino live blackjack will come off as familiar, albeit somewhat more rigid, than what NJ online casino players have come to expect:
- Shoe consists of 8 decks
- Naturals pay 3:2
- Dealer hits on soft 17
- Players can double down on any two cards, and double after split
- No re-splits
- Players cannot hit re-split aces
- There is no late surrender
Under this rule set, the house edge is 0.72 percent. This is considered quite high for blackjack. It’s assumed these mediocre rules — and the 50 percent cut card penetration – was chosen to discourage card counters, who could run rampant under more favorable conditions.
The betting spread for live dealer blackjack, and other live dealer games for that matter more closely resembles that found on live casino floors. For live dealer blackjack at Golden Nugget Casino, the minimum wager is $10 and the maximum $1,000.
Golden Nugget online live dealer blackjack also features two side bets, both of which are popular at land-based casinos in Atlantic City. They are Perfect Pairs and 21+3.
- Mixed color pair (player’s first two cards): 6-1
- Same color pair: 12-1
- Perfect pair (same suit): 25-1
- Return-to-player (RTP): 95.91 percent
21 + 3
- Suited Trips (player’s first two card plus dealer’s up card): 100-1
- Straight Flush: 40-1
- Three of a Kind: 25-1
- Straight: 10-1
- Flush: 5-1
- RTP: 93.72 percent
Live Dealer Roulette
Outside of the fact that Live Dealer Roulette outcomes are determined by a real roulette wheel, the game varies very little from other roulette games played online.
The wheel features two zeroes. Players don’t receive a return on their investment when a 0 or 00 is spun. This brings the house edge up to 5.26 percent, which is quite unfavorable for the player.
The minimum wager for Live Dealer Roulette is $1, and caps out at $1,000.
Live Dealer Baccarat
Like its blackjack counterpart, Live Dealer Baccarat is spread over a real felt. It uses physical playing cards to determine game outcomes.
Using the standard 5 percent commission rule, the house edge for winning banker bets is just 1.06 percent. For player wins, it’s 1.24 percent.
The tie bet is generally best avoided, as the house edge is nearly 15 percent. There aren’t too many NJ online casino games that have a lower return.
Live Dealer Baccarat also features a Dragon Bonus Player side bet. This pays out on naturals and non-natural wins where the player wins by at least 4 points:
- 1-1 for a natural win
- 30-1 for non-natural win by 9 points
- 10-1 for non-natural win by 8 points
- 4-1 for non-natural win by 6-7 points
- 2-1 for non-natural win by 4-5 points
The house edge on this attractive side bet is just 2.65 percent.
The betting spread for Live Dealer Baccarat is $1 – $200. By comparison, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to play baccarat for a minimum wager of less than $5 at land-based casinos.
Live Dealer Casino Poker
Casino Hold ’em is a table game that turns the player’s focus back toward the dealers. In doing so, players of all skill levels can feel confident about playing the game. There is no need to worry about sharks and grinders roughing up the novices.
The game uses the typical 52-card deck. Each player places an ante and receives two cards.
Based upon his or her two cards, each player must then decide whether to fold or place the call bet. A fold causes the player to forfeit the ante bet; the call bet must be twice the value of the ante.
The dealer deals the entire five-card community board. Players and dealers alike will make the best possible five-card hand out of the five cards on the board and the two cards in their hand.
New Jersey mobile live dealer games
Expect Live Dealer games on tablet devices soon.
Live dealer games played online versus live
Live dealer games bear more similarities than differences to table games spread at brick and mortar casinos in Atlantic City. Both feature real dealers, real playing devices (chips withstanding), and both encourage social interaction. Live dealer players can even tip.
Of the few differences, most favor the online live dealer format.
For one, the game moves at a somewhat brisker pace compared to live, as all calculations are handled digitally. Then, of course, there is the convenience of being able to play from one’s own home computer. Anonymity may also be a plus for some players.
At present, the main disadvantage of live dealer is accessibility. The format is only supported by one casino, and at only select times during the day.
Land-based casino players also have more side bets to choose from, although some may argue this is actually a disadvantage, as these bets tend to pay low returns.
Finally, the rule sets are a bit more rigid compared to live Atlantic City games and even the online market’s all-digital games.
Free live dealer at NJ online casinos
New players on Golden Nugget online casino can take advantage of a $20 no-deposit bonus when they sign up with the site using the online promo code PLAY20.
This will essentially get them started playing Live Dealer games on the site for free. There is a one-time wagering requirement. However, casino games count just 20 percent towards meeting it.
Golden Nugget online also offers new players a 100 percent first deposit match bonus of up to $1,000. The wagering requirement is five times the deposit, plus the bonus. Casino games count only 20 percent towards meeting the requirement.
Betfair offers new players a $30 no-deposit bonus if they sign up with the online promo code PLAY30.
There is no specific wagering requirement on Betfair. However, players must make a minimum deposit of at least $10 before they can take any cash off the site.
Betfair also offers new players a 100 percent first-time deposit bonus of up to $1,500. There is a 20-times wagering requirement and casino games count just 10 percent towards meeting it.
Top live dealer games in New Jersey by return
Despite the somewhat unfavorable rules, Live Dealer Blackjack offers players the best return at 99.28 percent. Baccarat banker bets are a close second at 98.94 percent, followed by player bets for the same game (98.74 percent). The best side bet is the Dragon Bonus Player bet (97.35 percent).
After that, there’s a fairly big gap, as Live Dealer Roulette and most side bets offer returns in the 95 percent area.
Can live dealer games push Golden Nugget across key revenue threshold?
On its own, it’s unlikely that live dealer games resulted in a significant revenue uptick for Golden Nugget Casino. Why?
- The number of blackjack seats are capped at 21 across three tables. Digital blackjack games can theoretically service an infinite number of players.
- There are just one roulette and baccarat table, and they’re only open 12 hours per day.
- Online casino makes the bulk of their revenue via slots.
That being said, when live dealer first launched, Golden Nugget was taking in roughly $3.5 – $4 mm per month. That figure has soared ever since.
Admittedly, the introduction of more slots and the launch of Play SugarHouse under the Golden Nugget umbrella probably played a huge part in the surge. But it wouldn’t be unheard of if Golden Nugget’s live dealer games attracted a new demographic, who started out at Live Dealer games and graduated to fully digital endeavors.
A critical product for NJ online casinos
We don’t have great data on how the live dealer product performs relative to traditional online gambling products in markets like the UK.
But it’s obvious that, absolute performance aside, the product has been a growth center for operators and has quickly become a staple at top casino sites like Sky, bet365, and William Hill.
The live dealer product may serve an even more important function that revenue generation at New Jersey’s licensed online operators.
One of the standing issues facing online operators in New Jersey is a lack of consumer familiarity and trust with online gambling products. Live dealer products could provide a useful tool for bridging that divide.
By bringing the worlds of the online product and the live casino product closer together, online casinos may find that consumers who are primarily comfortable with the land-based casino product gain a greater comfort level with the online casino product.