The software that runs the games we play, and even the sites we log onto in order to play them, can be a bit of a mystery to many players.
One of the more confusing elements of the online casino world is just how many different companies seem to be involved in the running of a single online casinos.
There’s the brand itself, then all of the different developers that provide games to the site (some games even have more than one developer), the company that provides the platform the site runs on, the licensing bodies, the payment providers, the company that owns the brand… it’s a rabbit hole a lot of people have no interest in going down, and understandably so.
When it comes to the software though, it’s a good idea to develop at least a basic understanding of what is going on, as it will make you a better informed player and build confidence in the games you play and the situations you find yourself in.
Online casinos use some of the most sophisticated software in the world in order to provide the scale of entertainment that they have available, and the make that entertainment available at a moment’s notice and on any device you have at your disposal.
The Running of an Online Casino
To properly understand the role of the software used at online casinos, you first need to understand how an online casino is structured.
- Marketing and Customer Retention
- Customer Safety
- Running the Company
This is the face of the casino; the name, the logo, and to some degree the ‘personality’ of the casino. Some have mascots, some rely on a strong name and punchy advertising, it just depends on the tone they are going for.
Basically though, the brand has the job of getting people to come to the site and play.
One huge company can own lots of different brands (Entain is the company that owns Coral, Ladbrokes, Party Casino, Foxy Bingo, Gala and more), and sometimes brands are out there on their own, although they almost never handle their own software requirements.
Some brands are fully independent and the same company behind the brand will also build the website and maybe even develop some of their own games. This is rare though, and most team up with a platform provider for all of the technical requirements.
The Platform Provider
- Offer website solutions to brands
- Optimise for different devices
- Build relationships with providers
Platform providers are specialist companies that design and build casino software and then ‘rent’ them out to brands. It’s difficult and expensive to build a casino platform, so most brands prefer to pay a fee to a platform provider that already has one ready to go.
The platform provider creates a website that is powerful and robust enough to handle everything the brand needs it to do, such as host games, process payments, give access to customer support, and handle promotions.
Platform providers will also have deals in place with payment providers and game developers, so a casino brand can get everything they need in one place. They often call this a turnkey solution, because the brand simply plugs into the platform, selects the products it wants, turns the key and is ready to start.
You can think of it a bit like a supermarket. It has all of the ingredients you could ever want to make any meal, some are own brands that it manufactures itself and others are made by external companies, but it is up to you which ones you buy.
The Game Providers
- Come up with game ideas
- Ensure regulatory compliance
- Maintain games running on their servers
Some brands like 888 do create their own content, but even those few that have this capability will usually still work with external providers in order to diversify their offering.
Rather confusingly, sometimes these companies work together or have specialist platforms, which is why you might see more than one name in the game’s credits. Microgaming and Quickfire are a good example – Quickfire is a gaming platform owned by Microgaming, and all of Microgaming’s new games are released using this platform.
Sometimes the casino brand will get access to these games via the platform provider they choose, and other times they might make deals with the developers directly.
- Ensure smooth payment process
- Maintain system
- Advanced financial security
In a very similar set up to the game providers, payment providers can be accessed via the platform provider or through a direct arrangement with the brand in question.
The more payment providers a brand has available to their customers, the more customers they are likely to attract and the happier those customers will be.
However, it costs money to process payments, so the brand has to balance the costs with what sort of impact they think each payment provider will have on their balance sheet.
The Gambling License
- Manage license applications
- Ensure license holders follow regulation
- Handle issues arising
Any company that works in the gambling industry will need some kind of license from the UK Gambling Commission. This is an external regulatory body tasked with keeping the industry fair and legal.
They do this by conducting thorough investigations on companies before issuing licenses, and holding those companies to account if their standards slip.
They have nothing to do with the software involved in online casino or even in the casinos themselves on a day to day basis; but you will see each brand, platform provider, and game provider displaying their gambling license.
Online Casino Platform Software
The platform providers that we talked about earlier have essentially created the building blocks required to create an online casino, and have then secured extra elements that can be slotted in to add personalisation.
If you think of the casino platform as a template, the bare bones of a website, you will be thinking along the right lines.
They often come up with a few different designs in terms of the layout so that brands can create something a little more unique, and of course they can ‘decorate’ it with their own branding and colours, but the capabilities of the site and the functions and features it can include will be the same.
However, the brand can choose all sorts of different packages or bolt on products depending on its requirements. For example an independent sportsbook with their own web development team could plug in a casino platform from a platform provider; or an online casino wanting to upscale could choose to increase the number of game developers on their site, or use the provider’s customer support service.
All of this is essentially content – what the player doesn’t see though, is everything that goes on behind the website.
CRM and Analytics
When a brand buys into a casino platform, they get a lot more than just the website, games and payment providers.
The backroom tools supplied allow the brand to track their customers in such a way that they can learn about their spending habits, the games they like to play, the offers they have been attracted to, etc.
They can then automate promotions built specifically for them, and market to them more effectively.
The back end analytics can keep an eye on how each element of the business is going and report on this daily; which games are being played the most, or the longest, or taking the most money, etc.
This is all supplied using a user friendly interface that is not at all technical, so that the people behind the brand can log in and manage things as they see fit, without having to employ coders and web developers etc.
Online Casino Game Software
Now that you understand the pillars that the online casino is built on, we can have a look at how the game software fits into it.
Every game provider that builds slots or RNG based table games, does so based on a mathematical algorithm that decides when and how much the game will pay out. This mathematic model is where the return to player (RTP) percentage comes from, and that gives an indication of how generous the game is or isn’t.
The RTP is what gives the casino their edge over the player. So a game with an RTP of 96.5% will keep 3.5% of all the money it takes and pay 96.5% back out in prizes. This isn’t a per player payout structure though, it is calculated over millions of games which allows each player’s experience to be random and individual.
This RTP can be built in many different ways and takes into account jackpots, bonus rounds, and any base game features too.
On a spin by spin basis the results are determined by a random number generator (RNG) that has been programmed to align with the RTP.
As soon as you hit the spin button the RNG’s algorithms get to work and the result of that spin is decided in milliseconds. The spinning reels on the screen are just for show, for entertainment; the software did its job as soon as the bet was placed.
Casino Game Hosting
Another thing many players aren’t aware of is that the games you play at your favourite casino might be accessed there, but they are actually hosted on servers that are owned and maintained by the game’s developer.
So every time you spin the reels or play a hand of blackjack, a signal is sent to the server (wherever it is) which sends a signal back and shows the result on your screen via your casino. This is why claims of casinos rigging games are so mis-guided – they couldn’t even if they wanted to.
That said, it is possible to find the same game with a different RTP depending on where you play. Developers sometimes give casinos this option so that they can choose their own house edge or try to attract players by being more generous. The RTP will always be stated in the rules though.
Here is the process of each spin in full:
- Player hits the spin button at their online casino.
- Game sends spin message to game provider’s server.
- Game provider’s server asks the online casino’s server to deduct the bet amount from the player’s balance.
- Casino server confirms the bet has been deducted.
- Game provider’s server requests a number from the RNG in order to fulfil the bet.
- RNG sends random number to the game provider’s server.
- Game provider’s server uses the random number to calculate the outcome of the bet.
- Game provider’s server tells the online casino’s server the result and requests any winnings to be added to the player’s balance.
- Online casino’s server sends a confirmation message to the game provider’s server.
- The outcome of the bet is sent to the game running on the player’s computer.
- The game spins the reels and shows the player the outcome.
This is all done in the blink of an eye.
A famous game like Bonanza, by Big Time Gaming, is probably on thousands of online casino sites all over the world, but it is run from BTG’s server. So if 1,000 people are playing the game at the same time, the game’s software is running through this list for 1,000 different sins all at the same time.
That is some powerful computing required and a great example of how incredible online gaming software really is.