Going live in Latvia: Playtech’s groundbreaking live gaming studio

CasinoBeats talks to Playtech’s Kevin Kilminster for the lowdown on the gaming giant’s multi-million pound next-generation live casino facility in Riga

THE old town of Latvia’s capital, Riga, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by the remains of fortified 16th century city walls.

On paper, it seems an unlikely location for something as strikingly 21st century as the world’s largest purpose-designed live gaming studio. But then again, little about Playtech’s multi-million project to take live casino to a new level fits an obvious pattern.

What was once a failing shopping centre has become the epicentre of the gambling technology giant’s live casino operations. In a vast 8,500sq.m space – dwarfing any
similar facility in the industry – croupiers dealing in six different languages preside over
roulette, blackjack and card tables 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A dedicated video room with a state-of- the-art, custom-built video wall, gives licensees complete control over the visual environment. Everything one could imagine to find in a casino is there –
except, of course, the players.

“No one else is investing in live casino in the way we are at Playtech,” states Kevin Kilminster, Playtech’s head of live casino innovation.

“No other company has the capacity to undertake this kind of project. Designing and developing such a vast and unique space has been a huge task – not to mention a significant financial investment – but we are convinced this is a vital step forward in delivering a future-proof live casino offering,” he says.

The goal when designing the Riga facility was, Kilminster confirms, “to provide as authentic
and entertaining experience as possible”. Much work has gone into creating a real-world feel for players; most recently the addition of Grand Royale, a new custom-designed VIP area with a ‘salle privée’ central table. Players can interact with dealers and even leave tips – all without leaving home.

“There’s a reason these players have chosen live casino over an RNG-based game, and our goal is to bring that gameplay to life.”

“Our market research suggests that as much as 60 per cent of live casino players have never actually been to a land-based casino,” says Kilminster. “However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a concept of what the experience is like, or that they aren’t interested in
enjoying the look and feel of the casino environment. There’s a reason why these players have chosen live casino over an RNG-based game, and our core goal is to bring that gameplay to life.”

The immense scale of the Riga studio allows for several tier-one operators to host bespoke,
fully branded areas, with themed and well-designed seasonal rooms throughout the year.

The space has been designed to allow for future expansion and the addition of further
brand-specific areas, particularly given Playtech’s strategy of rapid expansion into newly
regulating markets.

“Just as we’re committed to ensuring players enjoy a seamless experience across all verticals, our licensees are passionate about maintaining the look and feel of their brands, regardless of channel,” says Kilminster.

“No other provider is in a position to deliver these kinds of distinct spaces for several tier-one operators under one roof.”

While the live casino facility is designed around delivering a distinct experience, it is still very much at the heart of Playtech’s core strategy. In September, 2017, as part of its Playtech ONE omni-channel strategy, the company launched its first ever live casino game to share liquidity cross-vertical with slots games.

Age of the Gods Live Roulette extends Playtech’s award-winning Age of the Gods brand to table gaming, with a small percentage of each stake going towards a four-tier progressive jackpot. This can be triggered randomly by any main game spin in any of the eight games in the series – even if the spin is not a winning spin – with a guaranteed win if the jackpot game is triggered.

“Given the popularity OF Age of the Gods, it felt A natural choice for our first extension of a slot theme to live casino.

“Given the popularity of Age of the Gods series, it felt like a natural choice for our first
extension of a slot game theme to live casino,” says Kilminster. “Our video wall functionality enables us to really bring the look and feel of the brand to the live environment – the gameplay imagery is genuinely striking. The game also features a three-reel slot bonus round, providing an added crossover appeal. Delivering this consistent quality of player experience across all verticals epitomises what we are trying to achieve through our omni- channel strategy.”

So what’s next for the industry’s largest purpose-built live casino facility? “We’ve achieved so much in the past year, and will look to continue this strong momentum over the next 12 months,” says Kilminster.

“We now have the technology and structure in place to deliver the next stage in our planned vision for our next generation live casino offering.

“As seen throughout the last year, we are now utilising other elements and opportunities
within the wider Playtech offering to deliver new concepts and features. Only Playtech has
the resources and capability to adapt and lead live casino in this new direction, as already
seen with products such as our bespoke Cheltenham Roulette casino and sports crossover
for Coral,” says Kilminster.

“Our ‘experience first’ approach will remain central to delivering an ever-improving
live casino offering throughout 2018.”