To most players, live dealer casinos feel exactly the same as any other casino, requiring the same clicks, taps and swipes to get around and interact with the games. Diving into the technology, however, will show a vastly different set of systems that we will all explain in this guide.
With new casino websites regularly cropping up in Canada, it becomes harder for any one player to sift through the available live casino options to find the one that meets their needs. This is where our many years of experience testing, reviewing and playing at live casinos here at InsideCasino come into play, our expertise lets us thoroughly evaluate live dealer casino sites so you don’t have to. All you need to do is read our expert reviews and choose which one has the features you’re looking for.
A live dealer casino is, simply put, an online casino that offers table games that can be played live online with a croupier. As you look through casino sites in Canada nowadays, though, you might notice that most of them offer live dealer games alongside the “regular” online casino games.
This is the result of the tech evolving over the years. In the early days of live dealer casinos, the technology needed to get them working well in a live environment was revolutionary but not without it’s teething issues. In fact some casinos that offered games with a live dealer, had to do it via a standalone site.
Nowadays, modern systems, development tools and browsers have become advanced enough that they could all be integrated into a single website, which is now the norm for most of the top live casinos in Canada and around the world.
The main draw for playing at a live dealer casino is getting the chance to play games live with a dealer and other players from around the world. Now, whether this is the decider on choosing a casino to play at is up to you. That said, most players in Canada that have tried playing live, now always play live and won’t revert back to the old game versions, so you can draw your own conclusions there.
With a wide selection of live casinos available in Canada that continues to grow each year, it is important to know what goes into making the best live dealer casino. Our in-house experts at InsideCasino have decades of playing live online and understand every facet of the game. We know what is important for players and this is considered when we score the live casino in our reviews. You can use the Top Rated filter option above in our list of live casinos, to find the highest-scoring casino sites.
We have noticed several trends and patterns, such as three major characteristics that go into the best live dealer casinos that we have reviewed:
In the next sections, we go through these in a bit more detail.
One of the first things we look at when assessing a live dealer casino is their game selection. The best live casinos are expected to not only have a wide range of live games available, but also offer a good variety of live dealer tables and rooms, to accommodate lots of players. You can have a great game selection, but it doesn’t make for a great playing experience, if you are unable to get into a casino room because it is too busy.
As an example, the live games at Pokerstars offer a decent spread, including blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and a few variations of those, with each game having at least 6 game rooms to handle the large groups of players that roll in during peak game hours.
Mobile casinos have only become more popular among Canadian players ever since they entered the mainstream as an online gambling option. The best and biggest live dealer casinos have caught on to this, and have responded in kind by providing a similarly smooth live gambling experience when you play mobile casino sites, whether it is through a dedicated mobile app or a mobile-friendly website.
While different players will have different opinions on what sort of mobile gaming experience they are looking for, most live casinos offer a very polished gaming experience on smartphones and tablets alike.
Last but certainly not least is the casino bonus. As one of the core considerations for Canadian players, the best live bonus offers are also effective in the live casino context. They give players a bit more play time on a set of games, that generally don’t have much leeway for bonuses.
Nomini casino is a good example of a casino site that does actually offer bonuses specifically for live casino games. Players at Nomini can treat themselves to cashback bonuses from wagers made on live casino games.
Arguably the most fascinating aspect of live casino games, is what makes it all work behind the scenes. After all, just the basic idea of interacting with a live dealer on a game like blackjack already seems extremely complex – which it is. In this section, we will be explaining the magic of live casino games by breaking it down into its key components, which are:
Although today’s technology is technically able to create 3D models that look like people, all of the croupiers you see on live casino games are all real human dealers. In fact, many of the live casino dealers you see working have also had years of experience dealing tables at land-based casinos.
Just like a land-based dealer, online casino live dealers both set and maintain the pace of the games at the table. This needs to be done virtually online without any players infront of them. This is why their training is important, as live dealers have to be able to handle player actions and progress at the directed speed without any interruptions.
The best Canadian casino websites have a multitude of player rooms and dealers working. Generally the larger the casino, the larger the range of dealers. The experience of playing live online depends a lot on how good your live dealer is and how comfortable you are with them. It is common for a casino site to have live players from different countries around the globe and some players feel more comfortable with dealers from a similar nationality to their own.
Since the games need to be broadcast to players located from various locations across Canada, the dealer and their respective table is set in a dedicated studio with a full camera and lighting setup. The typical approach is to model the studio after a land-based casino, complete with the appropriate lights and decor.
The basic layout also calls for a single camera that shows the general frontal view of the table, making sure that all of the important markings on the table felt are clearly visible to all players (although this is also helped by other elements, which we will get into later).
Of course, that only really applies to a basic setup. In the spirit of competition, the way modern live casino studios look is quite a bit different. Environments can and do get quite creative with their look and feel depending on the kind of theme the studio wants to get across to the players, and multi-camera setups are quite common among many of the larger studios to give players more views of the play area to observe.
Studio cameras and lighting are nothing special, after all, they are just the backbone of any live broadcast setup. The real magic begins once we start to bridge the gap between the player and the live dealer, and this starts with the sensors.
Outside the viewing angles of all of the game cameras is a separate camera pointing down at the game table. This camera is used to feed the software the data it needs for OCR, or Optical Character Recognition. OCR software scans the video feed of the overhead camera, specifically looking for game objects like cards and chips. Then, the software reads what is written on these objects and translates them into information that is then read by the game and sent to the players.
At the heart of the entire live dealer game setup is the GCU, or Game Control Unit. Despite the fancy name, this is really just a computer that holds all of the software that handles the interactions between the live studio and the actions made by the players. This involves reading the OCR data, sending that to the players, receiving the player responses like bets and game actions, and sending that data back to the studio for the live dealer to respond to.
Since live dealers are interacting with players over the internet through the game software, they need a separate setup in order to be able to read player statistics like their bet amounts and game actions and lay things out on the table accordingly. Live dealers see this information on monitors that, like the OCR system, are placed out of range of the game cameras and can’t be seen by players.
Just like their regular casino counterparts, live casino bonuses allow players to get a bit more value out of their cash deposits. These bonuses commonly come in one of two forms: live dealer only bonuses and regular casino bonuses that can be used on live games.
Live dealer only bonuses are, as the name suggests, offered by casinos specifically to be used to wager on live games. Examples of these bonuses can be found on sites like Nomini casino, which provides a percentage of the player’s real money wagers back to use the next week (these are often called cashback bonuses). There is also a unique live casino bonus from LeoVegas Canada worth $1,000 + a $20 Golden Chip. At times, one may also find deposit bonuses offered specifically for live dealer games, which give you bonus cash based on how much you deposit.
Although live bonuses are often preferred by Canadian players, most live casino sites simply opt to offer a regular bonus and make it usable on live dealer games. This is the option that is used by Tonybet casino and many other top live casino sites. While the cash you get from these bonuses can work perfectly well when you wager them on live dealer games, you will have to deal with some restrictions like game weighting, which limits how much of your live casino wagers counts towards the bonus’ wagering requirement.
Given its primary goal of offering a realistic online gambling experience, the live casino games that you will commonly see in Canada include most of the classic table games that are popular among players. Whilst the variety of live casino games can vary depending on the casino, players will generally always be able to find the following:
Casino with live blackjack take this classic game of 21 to the Internet with its most authentic rendition yet, complete with many of the fun side bets and gimmicks that have had their start in land-based venues.
There is no graphical trickery happening at casinos with live roulette. The casino’s roulette tables, chips, wheel and ball are all moved exactly as they would in a real casino venue by a professional croupier.
Known by their variants like Punto Banco and others, live baccarat casinos have players betting on the player or the banker hands that are moved around with a pallet for that realistic casino table feel.
True poker enthusiasts will be hard pressed to find anything better than live online poker sites, that pit one’s skills and strategies against real players from across Canada and beyond.
Besides the arguable “Big Four” of table games, other casino classics have also had their online experiences vastly enhanced once given the live casino treatment are craps, pai gow, and many others. The live studio format has also given rise to the gambling game show, with examples like Dream Catcher and Sweet Bonanza Candyland exploding in popularity on release.
Unlike the typical video poker, online slots, or most other casino games you will find in Canada, live casino games do not have a free play option. This, of course, means that you will have to play these games with real money. And in this aspect, you will also find different variations of live casino game rooms that should cater to different budgets.
Although many live casino games are crafted to look glitzy and fancy, you don’t have to be a high roller to actually play them. Low stakes live dealer games are specifically designed for players who don’t want to put too much money behind each bet, and these games let you start for as low as C$1 per bet. A few examples include:
Of course, those who do have the bankrolls to play in the big leagues are treated to some seriously sophisticated game environments when playing high stakes live dealer games. We’ve made a list of some of the highlights below.
It shouldn’t be too big of a stretch to expect deal hunters to be on the lookout for the best paying live casino games to play on. Fortunately for Canadian players, live casino games are typically based on classic casino table games, which often carry a very high RTP. A few examples of these live casino table games include:
Of course, none of the games we’ve mentioned, or even the concept of the live dealer casino, would ever come to fruition without the software providers that make the games possible. Given the cost of starting and operating a live dealer game studio, it is no surprise that not a lot of companies have stepped up to the plate to make their own studio, but there have been several that have managed to stick around to this day, which we’ve listed below.
As it stands today, casinos with Evolution Gaming benefit from one of the online gambling industry’s largest conglomerates, owning such notable casino game developers as NetEnt and Big Time Gaming. Their core specialty, however, lies in live casinos, which has been constantly evolving since 2006 to become the leading name in the space today.
Despite being relatively young (the company launched in 2015), Pragmatic Play has quickly made a name for itself with high quality offerings in both regular online casino games and live casino studios, which fall under their Pragmatic Play Live arm.
Founded in 2013, Ezugi is another relatively fresh game studio with a particular focus on live casino offerings. Now backed by the might of the Evolution Group as a subsidiary, their live casino offerings continue to advance in quality and quantity.
Playtech is an example of a veteran in the online casino industry, with their start making backend software for new online casino websites in 1999. Since then, casinos with Playtech have branched out into just about every corner of online gambling, making software for online bingo, poker rooms, and of course, live casino games.
Authentic Gaming is a relatively small but rapidly-growing live casino studio based out of Malta. With a particular flair for card games, their live dealer games have been honed to near-perfection and rival some of the best in the business.
Few developers in the online gambling industry have the same level of prestige and history that casinos with Microgaming offer can offer it’s players. Founded in 1994, they are often considered to be one of the first online casino software developers, specialising mostly in slots and backend software before dabbling in live casino later in the 2010s as the concept became more popular.
One of the bigger barriers in the history of live dealer casino games was getting the technology working as well on mobile as it did on computers. The problem was mostly a matter of time because mobile computing power simply wasn’t at a high enough level when live casinos first blew up in the late 2000s.
Nowadays, though, you should have no problem playing casino games from a mobile, whether it is a smartphone or tablet. And of these, there are two main variations: dedicated apps and in-browser live casinos.
Casino sites like Zodiac casino were one of the earlier brands to break out into the mobile casino space with their dedicated apps. Downloadable on either the Apple App Store or as an application package or APK for Android devices, these apps stored most of their games’ data on the mobile device to make loading faster.
The sites you will find in our list of live casinos, will be accessible through your phone’s web browser the same way it would on a desktop computer. While this approach used to be difficult several years ago, this is not a problem for modern systems thanks to highly optimised websites and faster internet connections.
Of the many live casinos we have reviewed online and reassessed in 2022, Jackpot City Casino still stands as the best overall choice for live casino enthusiasts. A massive live casino library from Evolution, Ezugi, Pragmatic Play, and several other live game studios make sure that players have a lot of games to choose from. The website itself is also extremely polished and performs about as well as it could possibly do.
And that is before we consider their online casino section, which is itself a top contender among casino sites in Canada.
Like the land-based table games they try to emulate for online play, live casinos are designed with a house edge that ensures the online casino will be the one earning money. Always remember to gamble responsibly and if needed, make use of the live casino’s limits and measures to help you rein in your spending.
Live dealer casinos are the no-brainer option for Canadian casino players who want an online gambling experience as close as possible to that of a land-based casino. In this respect, live dealer casinos are practically unmatched. But just like any casino game, they are not the “perfect” version, and different players will like different games.
Right from the headline, live dealer casinos and their namesake games have clear advantages over the typical online casino. But just as different players like different gambling games, some players may want for other qualities in their ideal Canadian live casino. We’ve listed a few of the key pros and cons below.
It is important to stress that live dealer games are just that – games. As we’ve seen, they can come in all manner of variations with different themes, features and gimmicks from a wide range of software developers.
But just because they are more “realistic” or “authentic” than a video casino game doesn’t mean that they are objectively better. And that’s not to mention the fact that you won’t be able to find any live dealer slot game. At the end of the day, live casino games are another option for you to choose from, and that in and of itself is what makes these games great to see.
A live dealer casino is a casino website that offers live dealer games, that are casino games that are played with a live stream of a human croupier in real time.
Live dealer games are rarely, if ever rigged. There are industry audits and verification bodies that make sure live dealer games are played fairly. That said, the live games (and the land-based table games they are based on) are designed with a casino "house edge" that ensures a statistical advantage favouring the casino.
Live dealers, whether they are hosting a live roulette game or a game show like Sweet Bonanza, are 100% real humans. In fact, they are actually trained to the same standards as land-based casinos so that they can facilitate games with the same speed and smoothness as it would if you were playing at an actual online casino.
Live dealer casinos, just like regular casino sites, are legal in Canada as long as they meet the legal requirements of having a valid and accepted gambling licence.
You can play online casino games like baccarat, blackjack, craps and roulette at live dealer casinos. All of these games should fall under a "live casino" section that can be found on the casino’s game page.