Online Bingo Spotlight: Growth, Player Protection and Seasonality, with Mark Cleary, COO of Broadway Gaming
Bingo is one of the most traditional and popular forms of gambling in our market. Today, in the era of digitalisation, the opportunities for growth are boundless.
In regard to aspects of player behaviour, player safety, technology and regulation the bingo industry is going through somewhat of a transformational period.
The future of this sector is still unclear, but from recent market activity, it’s obvious there are still great opportunities for growth. We caught up with Mark Cleary, COO of Broadway Gaming to hear his thoughts on the future of this market and get some clarity on how we as an industry can best move forward with Bingo.
With no access to traditional bingo halls, many players will now be considering the online alternative. Has this shift been reflected in your recent player activity and is this a trend you expect to continue in the future?
“We have seen an increase in first-time players over recent months, as well as our loyal players continuing to stay engaged across our various bingo brands.
The experience is somewhat different between traditional bingo halls and the online world. Through this year with the various lockdowns that we’ve had, there’s still a clear social need for people to stay connected in whatever safe way they can.
This is achieved through our online brands like Butlers Bingo via highly engaging chat rooms, which are managed by our skilled moderators. What we often observe is friends organising to play together online and then communicate via the chat rooms.
It can be quite a social gathering and because it’s moderated, it’s all very safe. It gives people a mechanism to connect with other people, particularly in the challenging year that we’ve had.
Looking forward, whether we will continue to see these current trends into the future remains to be seen – for some players it’s their first experience of online bingo but based on the data and on the feedback that we’ve received, we can see that our players are reacting to it very positively and they really seem to be enjoying it.”
With increased player activity comes increased risk of problem gambling especially during a lockdown when most people are spending more time at home and online. What can bingo operators do to ensure player protection in times of increased risk?
“Responsible operators, like ourselves, should review the level and range of player protections that they have in place. In doing so, they should consider lowering financial and gameplay thresholds at this time.
We’ve seen this year that the UK Gambling Commission have been very active in encouraging this type of behaviour from operators. In that regard, we’ve been well ahead of the curve.
Even before the Covid-19 crisis came about, we already had plans this year to greatly expand the system we use to detect potential markers of harm and players. Through our work with the Betting and Gaming Council, we’ve also been one of the earliest adopters of a fully-fledged affordability rating system for players.”
The recent clampdown on influencer sponsorship ahead of safe gambling week means that many of the familiar celebrity faces we know won’t be able to work with bingo brands. Going forward how will the industry have to adapt in order to still grow their audiences but with limited use of celebrity endorsements?
“This hasn’t been a problem for us at Broadway Gaming in that we’ve never used celebrity influencers on any of our brands. I guess that proves the point that there are lots of other successful ways to grow your audiences, as we haven’t relied on this method to date.
It may seem old fashioned, but we believe that word of mouth is still incredibly important. That’s one of the reasons why we obsess about the standard of customer service we deliver. This is even more important in the age of highly connected social media communities. Thankfully, our work here is born out via customer feedback forums like Trustpilot, where our brands enjoy some of the highest levels of customer satisfaction in the market.
During 2020, we have taken a very responsible and measured approach to the level of growth we feel comfortable in achieving, given the unique set of circumstances with the various lockdowns this year. For example, we felt that the right thing to do was to voluntarily stop all TV advertising early during the first lockdown and we have maintained that stance since with further regional and national lockdowns back in force.”
What effect does seasonality have on player activity? How can operators work towards mitigating increased risk of problem gambling during particular periods of the year?
“We do see peaks and troughs at predictable times in the year, particularly as the weather turns colder and people are outdoors less. However, we believe that operators should set their standards very high right throughout the year. They shouldn’t wait for a particular season to crank things up in terms of responsible gambling so, normal seasonality shouldn’t come into it.
However, I believe that a lockdown situation is quite different, and this does call for even greater vigilance and measures to guard against the potential for problem gambling.”
How much of a positive impact will the UK Gambling Review have on the industry?
“We’re actually quite excited about the potential that this long-anticipated review offers, as long as the eventual outcomes are based on clear evidence. Hopefully, it will see enhanced protections targeted at players who are at the highest risk of problem gambling and not disproportionate measures applied to the general adult population, which could be a slippery slope in my view in terms of civil liberties.
Ultimately, having clearly defined rules around when and how to interact with customers and what types of markers of harm we should all be tracking is very helpful for operators.
Currently, there seems to be some variability from operator to operator. If everybody’s playing by exactly the same set of well-defined rules after this review, then I think it will make things easier for operators to remain compliant and ultimately it will make things better and safer for customers.”
Editor’s Note: The societal need for people to stay connected is a fundamental factor in the success of Bingo style games, especially in recent months. After speaking with Mark it becomes clear that gaming products such as Bingo that safely facilitate social interaction will be an important trend going forward.
It’s also encouraging to see the work being done with key industry stakeholders like the Betting and Gaming Council, allowing Broadway Gaming to be pioneers in the industry with early adoption of new processes such as the fully-fledged affordability rating system for players. A trend we hope to see reflected more throughout the market.
It’s clear Bingo is moving in the right the direction and has all of the necessary resources to responsibly serve and entertain the new ‘Socially Focused’ audience this product will continue to attract in the future.