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IN-DEPTH 31 October 2019
Putting omni-channel into practice
By Tim Poole
Sean Chaffin assesses the early success stories in omni-channel and how the rest of the market can learn from these

It’s a Sunday afternoon and the kick-off of the afternoon’s slate of games in the NFL is only minutes away. The beer is cold and the pizza has been ordered. A bettor in New Jersey can also hop down to an Atlantic City casino or racetrack and place a few bets on that afternoon’s games; or more likely, he’ll simply sit on the couch, pull out his mobile phone and make those parlay or money-line wagers in seconds.

But that’s not all. In the same app, this gambler can tab over to play some online poker while watching the afternoon’s football action. Maybe blackjack is more of an interest – or slot machines or some other casino game. This gambler may even find lower limits than in a traditional casino, and cycle between games – still all on his phone. He may even book a room at a casino for next weekend or a trip to the spa.

This is a real scenario for more and more gamblers around the world. As casinos attempt to reach their customers, an omni-channel, all-in-one marketing approach is winning out in the industry, connecting with gamblers on multiple gaming and even non-gaming levels. Beyond that, online operators in regulated jurisdictions are catering their products to allow mobile bettors to find seamless transitions from one game to another and one device to another.

Multiple player options

Mobile wagering certainly offers gaming properties numerous chances to market to bettors, but the in-casino technology aspects also offer opportunities for players to seamlessly move between casino products. Keith O’Loughlin, SG Digital's EVP Sportsbook, says: “Our brands are entertaining players across casino, lottery, and digital channels. We constantly take stock of our best content to find ways we can utilise it across gaming channels for our many customers.” SG Digital recently brought parent company Scientific Games' popular Jin Ji Bao Xi slot machine to the online gaming arena.

Along with sports betting and slot machine offerings, Scientific Games also works with states (and countries) that feature games based on lotteries – from scratchcards to the growing trend in instant online games. A player heading to the local petrol station can take a shot at winning a few bucks on tickets based on Scientific Games slot games like Monopoly and Willy Wonka.

Known as a linked lottery game, the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket lottery game includes a chance for a major payday in Las Vegas. Those who win head to Sin City for the Billion Dollar Challenge, with 99 lucky players given a shot at an ultimate jackpot. The challenge offers some big money in a gameshow-style format. A recent winner took home $2m.

Beyond slots and lottery, the company is working on highly-complex gaming systems in Canada and Denmark, integrating the user experience across all verticals, including sports betting and lottery. Scientific Games is now trying to bring that approach to the growing sports betting market in the US.

“As far as technology, our gaming systems and platforms are architected to provide our customers with the ability to meet their players where they want to play, in any gaming channel, with our content or third-party content,” O’Loughlin says.

Reaching a targeted audience

The Dusk Till Dawn poker room and casino in the UK serves as an example of how properties try and reach customers - poker players in this instance. The property is a partner of online operator PartyPoker and does a satisfying job of mixing live and online options, long-time poker author and editor Barry Carter states.

That includes tournament qualifiers, which have become a regular part of doing business for many poker rooms and casinos. However, Dusk Till Dawn integrates the online element event more. “The property regularly runs online Day 1s into their live events where the survivors meet up live for Day 2,” Carter says. “You can also log in to your PartyPoker account at the club to draw cash out, and likewise deposit into your account with real cash at the club.

“A few other UK-based online operators do that for their bigger live tours, but Dusk Till Dawn seems to have perfected it. I suspect the biggest challenge for wider adoption of that approach is regulatory. For example, I know it's not easy to  do that at all in the US.”

It’s not, but even casinos in states without regulated online gaming have used some unique approaches to reach players who might be willing to play online while also making some visits to the property.  WinStar World Casino in Oklahoma, just across the border from Texas, makes use of Facebook and other social media to advertise not just the casino, but also its mobile gaming options. The WinStar app not only allows players to access some of its free casino games, but also purchase show tickets, gift cards, spa treatments, golf outings and more.

WinStar has used this omni-channel approach to reach beyond traditional gaming and offer much more than blackjack and slot machines. This exemplifies how many US properties, including those in Las Vegas, have taken more of a “resort” approach to marketing to players. Gambling may be offered, but it's the shows, great food and other amenities that also bring in customers.

A trip to WinStar’s online gaming site also offers players several opportunities to play online as a social game – even with table games like roulette available. Players can also link their rewards card to the site for a chance to win real rewards for playing online. A player who hits the social slots or online table games regularly may also earn rewards like gift cards to the property, free buffets and more.

This approach offers some free gaming options for players, but also incentives to head to WinStar for a live gaming experience. Omni-channel marketing seems to serve properties like WinStar well in this regard, keeping bettors at the tables, but also less enthusiastic gamblers adding to the bottom line in other ways.

Are there challenges? It certainly takes significant effort and technology investment and also takes some creativity in finding a system that works in linking differing games and products. Some bettors may not ever take advantage or find excessive efforts to keep them at the casino a bit off-putting. But those firms that can thread the needle and are successful have the opportunity for brand identity, loyalty and added profits.

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