Here are my choices for the best live dealer casinos in 2015. The main criteria for selecting these casinos are the safety and security of the site, but I also considered factors like game selection, customer service, payout promptness and software quality.
What Is a Live Dealer Casino? How Do Live Dealer Casinos Work?
A live dealer casino is an Internet casino that tries to simulate a more traditional brick and mortar gambling experience by using live streaming video instead of RNG (random number generator) software. They require a fast Internet connection, but an estimated 80% of Internet users now use some type of broadband connection. Internet speed is no longer an obstacle to playing at an online live dealer casino for most gamblers.
With the focus on actual dealers and live streaming, these casinos don't offer much in the way of slots or slot machine games. Instead, they focus on providing popular table games, like the following:
- Casino Hold'em
- Sic Bo
All of these games are presented using real playing cards, real roulette wheels, real dice, and played with real people dealing. (I should mention that Casino Hold'em and Sic Bo are actually more unusual options that are not available at many live dealer casinos. You can play Casino Hold'em and Sic Bo in a live dealer version at Bet365, though, which is my top-ranked online casino outside of the US.)
The History of Live Dealer Casino Games on the Internet
Online casino gambling is an old activity nowthe first Internet casinos used random number generators exclusively. Intercasino and 888 both launched in 1996. Live dealer options are a somewhat more recent innovation, based in part on limitations caused by streaming technology and connection speeds.
Playtech is one of the largest names in the online casino gambling space, and they launched their first live dealer games in 2003. And while live dealer casinos are popular, it's still considered a niche market. Over 3000 online casinos operate throughout the world today, but less than 60 of them offer live dealer games.
This should surprise no one. Slots and video poker games make up at least 2/3 of the revenue in the Internet gambling industry. The interest in table games in general is lower than the interest in video poker and slot machines. And the cost of offering games using live dealers is significant when compared to running RNG software.
Live Dealer Online Casinos in the US
Unfortunately, most US online casinos have stayed away from the Live Dealer market. BetOnline and 5Dimes are two of the rare US casino sites with live dealer table games -- both are decent casinos in general but not on my list of top online casinos for US players. Still, if you want to play at live dealer casinos in the US, those two are just about your only options.
Free Live Dealer Casino Games
One aspect of Internet casino gambling that I enjoy is the ability to try casino games for free before making a first deposit. This option isn't available for live dealer games. Given the cost involved in having an actual employee running the game, it would make little sense to offer free or "play money" versions of their table games.
If you're not sure about the kind of experience you can expect when playing at a particular casino with live dealers, try making a real money deposit. Then log in and observe what goes on at the tables without playing. (You're allowed to do this.) If you think it looks like fun, then play. But if you don't feel good about the experience you see on the screen, you can always withdraw your funds and look at another casino option.
What about Speed?
Online casino gamblers are used to lightening fast games. A random number generator only takes a millisecond to come up with a new blackjack hand. But real dealers take more time shuffling and dealing cards.
This is a perk for some people and a drawback for others. I prefer to play at a more leisurely pace, because I feel like I'm getting more entertainment value for my gambling dollar. Other people are in a hurry to get their money in action, so they're probably more suited for playing the standard RNG casino games found at almost all online casinos.
The fastest live dealer games are at Bodog (only for Canadians). Try the baccarat games there. You'll experience deals that take place on average every 9 or 10 seconds, which is significantly faster than many other Internet games of this sort.
Graphics and Sound Effects
Internet casinos use state of the art technology for streaming their live dealer games, but no matter how sophisticated their equipment is, you need a fast connection in order to get the best picture quality. One aspect of live dealer gaming that I enjoy is the use of oversized cards. That makes the experience user-friendly in multiple ways, not the least of which is the increased confidence in the results that I'm seeing on the screen.
Some Internet casino sites provide access to their live dealer games via their standard software interface, which means you'll need to download their software before playing. Other casinos offer these games via Adobe Flash, which most people already have on their computers.