Taking Bingo To The Next Level, With Mark Cleary, COO, Broadway Gaming

Bingo, one of our industry’s most traditional and popular forms of gaming has been bringing enjoyment to players for many years. Known for its fun, social element, the vertical has mostly been enjoyed via retail channels but in the wake of the Pandemic things are changing. Transitioning this product online seems like the next logical step but is it the right one and how can its notorious in-person charm be replicated online?

We caught up with Broadway Gaming COO, Mark Cleary to hear his thoughts on the exciting future of Bingo related products and what will be the key drivers for their growth going forward.

Broadway Gaming recently acquired 888’s entire B2C and B2B bingo Dragonfish business. This vertical has traditionally been a largely retail based product with relatively low online adoption. What do you think will be the key drivers for the future growth of online Bingo?

“We are very much specialists in online Bingo. That’s the sector that we’ve chosen to focus on more than anything else. We’ve seen steady growth in popularity over several years now and we can see that the trends and the movement to online bingo is increasing all the time. When we’ve had things like lockdowns, in recent years a lot of people who would’ve traditionally played Bingo in a retail setting, have probably tried online Bingo for the first time. What we’re seeing is for those people who are new customers, we see them return to play on our brands, like Butler’s Bingo, on a regular basis.

“We see a lot of potential in terms of product innovation, particularly to emphasize the social dimensions of the bingo game. Our recent acquisition, as mentioned earlier, comes with a leading platform and it comes with a team of very innovative people who are bursting with great ideas that we are really excited to bring to the market over the next few years.”

One of the key features that bingo players enjoy is the social element. How can this aspect of land-based gaming be recreated online? Was this a key reason behind your acquisition of Dragonfish?

“You’re right, there are different products in terms of the retail dimension versus online. What we’ve tried to do, is to mirror the best parts of the retail experience as best we can online. So, we offer a range of bingo rooms, which attract quite a number of players to play at the same time. When they’re in the bingo rooms, then those rooms are moderated by very skilled chat hosts. These hosts interact with the players themselves, and then the players interact between each other. So, you see a lot of chat, fun activities and banter going on during the gameplay. It is very much a social interaction, which is great to see. We’ve noticed a lot of trends as well in terms of things like groups of friends actually making appointments to play together online, which is a very interesting trend. They might have once gone to a bingo hall on a certain day or at a certain time, whereas now, because the sites are open, they can choose a time that suits them. That’s especially handy when you have people in different locations that maybe, physically can’t be together, but can actually still interact together online and play a social game like Bingo. In terms of the reason for the acquisition, as I said, we’re bingo specialists and we saw this as a fantastic opportunity that’s squarely in the space we’re playing in. The reason for the acquisition was really to gain access to a great platform and a really talented team of people who can take that platform and develop it to the next level.”

Mergers and acquisitions give companies like Broadway Gaming a strong foundation. It’s also a trend we’ve seen on the increase of recent and shows no signs of slowing. What sort of impact do you feel this type of industry consolidation will have on the level of competition in the market and level of choice for the player?

“I don’t think there will be any reduction in choice or competition for players. There are still a huge number of sites that people can choose to play with. Competition is just as fierce as it ever was. In fact, it’s probably even more competitive now than it was a few years ago. This in turn drives innovation, because different operators are looking for a way to differentiate their brands, which is great for players. I don’t see this impacting in terms of choice or levels of competition. I see it actually going the other way.”

Do Broadway’s progressive ambitions lie within the UK only, or are there any other regions being identified as potential growth markets?

“The UK is by far our biggest market, and we are absolutely focused on that region, but we would be interested in further geographic expansion into other regulated markets when the time and the conditions are right.”

How has the pandemic affected the way in which operators are now approaching responsible gambling in the bingo sector?

“I think responsible gambling standards were rising long before the pandemic, but certain things happened during this time, like the ban on reverse withdrawals, adding a further layer of protection for players. It’s also clear over the last year or so from Gambling Commission rulings that things like affordability checks and continued investment in detecting markers of harm, that these are essential components of a really good RG strategy.”

Editor’s Note:

After catching up with Mark, it seems clear that the new era of Bingo has arrived. Once a strictly retail only vertical, the Pandemic has helped transform it into a convenient online product. Despite increased M&A activity, Mark believes competition and choice for the player is higher than ever, acting as a driving force for innovation and providing great opportunities for industry growth well into the future. We look forward to seeing how this sector continues to develop.

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