Gambling has been around since before official records were written. It is one of the most evolving industries, from baccarat – thought to be the first card gambling game – through to betting on horseracing and even digital scratchcards. Now, although one of the oldest industries, gambling’s ahead of the curve on digital. The nature of the industry means it’s working hard to improve player protection measures and companies are constantly looking to see how they can beat their competition. Gambling companies have shown how agile they can be over the past year, switching entire sports revenues to provide players with that je ne sais quoi and to allow them to continue serving businesses. On the whole, the industry should be patting itself on the back for having weathered the pandemic storm.
Despite this, there is one major challenge that is facing the gambling industry today and this is the issue of sameness. People don’t like to talk about ‘sameness’ in gambling. Some might argue that sameness doesn’t exist, but in terms of the user experience, it’s a problem. If it weren’t, why is so much marketing spend focused on producing ‘the best offer’ – 100,000 won every minute, 100 free spins, top 10 placements and so on? The best offer does not necessarily equate to the best experience. It’s a clear sign that the digital product only differentiates itself by expanding the potential winnings for the player.
Alternatively, while others may understand that sameness exists, they may not see it as a problem. Where’s the need to differentiate? The industry is genuinely doing well; the digital side of gambling is booming like never before and the UK is leading the way globally.
If there’s one thing that history should teach us, it’s that complacency is dangerous and inevitably leads to stagnation. Someone else always comes up with something better in the end. The past 30 years of technology is littered with known examples: Blackberry; Sony’s minidisc; MySpace; petrol-powered cars. The list goes on. It’s also worth noting that US companies have a history of making many of these technologies obsolete.
The sharpest minds and companies in the US have listened to consumers, and reacted to what they wanted, even before consumers knew they wanted it. And now the US is starting to move into online gambling, there could well be problems ahead for those elsewhere. To maintain long-term success, a business needs to be prepared to disrupt itself; the gambling industry is no different and if you don’t, someone else will come along and disrupt it for you.
If that wasn’t risky enough, gambling companies need look no further than tightening regulation. Future government regulation in the UK is likely to be used as the basis of regulation worldwide. Its very nature is likely to be antithetical to ‘best offer’ type marketing. Or perhaps, it’s clearer to say that ‘best offer’ marketing is directly at odds with player protection and the golden chalice of player personalisation. At best, new regulations will water down best offer approaches. At worst, it will ban them altogether, and then where will the marketing spend go?
So, gambling industry – here’s your chance. Sameness is a problem, and while it’s not too late to do something about it yet, it will be at some point soon. It’s not an easy thing either, but as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.” This move away from sameness will involve wholesale, cultural technical change, and it’s difficult to know where to start on such a big process.