Playtech Bingo Managing Director Angus Nisbet and Rank Group Mecca Digital Director James Boord discuss their new joint product as they look to change the future of online bingo. Read the exclusive interview on Best Odds Bingo (BOB) with Gambling Insider below.
Can you explain to me the concept behind the new “Best Odds Bingo” product and how it came to fruition under your new partnership?
JB: The common theme across digital and retail bingo in the UK is customers choose to leave an operator because of the lack of chances to win. When you look at digital, you can be playing in a room against 1000-2000 players and I could be playing with just one ticket, while Angus has bought 100 tickets. So straight away there is an unfair advantage to the higher-spending players as opposed to those who just want a little bit of fun.
The main reason we built this product was because all of our research was pointing towards “fake people keep winning and I never win” which is the main reason why people leave one operator and join another.
As an industry, we have tried over the past five or six years to bring fairness to the forefront by building games where everyone has the same number of tickets but we’ve not necessarily looked at restricting the amount of people in the room. The general premise of what we built was we actually looked at the poker model, where when a table is full on paper, it automatically forms a new table and places people onto that new table.
We took that concept of same number of tickets per player but also then capping the number of players per room. Once a room has hit its capacity, a new room is formed.
AN: Bingo hadn’t been at the top of Playtech’s agenda for a while when I first came in, so there was a real opportunity to work closely with the guys at Rank, Gala and Buzz.
The way we develop on bingo is slightly different to the other product verticals in that our three licenses have dedicated resources within our development teams. They have the ability to control their own roadmap in conjunction with us and so we can develop a product together.
There’s no one else that has put together a project which has been successful from a collaboration point of view and that is down to James, as he understood how Playtech worked and therefore enabled us to work more closely together; to get the absolute maximum out of the resources available at his disposal.
Can you share your results so far from this new product? How has this impacted on average spend and length of playing sessions?
JB: From the first month of the campaign, our data informs us from the amount of customers we have acquired through BOB, there is almost a 20% uplift during that period vs. our other campaign periods. The average spend of a BOB player was roughly £125 ($165) compared to £100 for a non-BOB player acquired during the same period. When you look at the average player days, we’ve seen a 25% uplift; there’s also an average of four players who play BOB vs. those who don’t.
From a revenue perspective, when you look at the BOB product, we operate at a much lower margin from core bingo. Core bingo operates at roughly 30% hold, whereas BOB is operating around 20%. We knew that was going to be the case because we planned it to be that way to make it fair for the player.
So far, year to date we have made double what we invested in the product, which is safe to say was no mean feat in the complexity around building it. Early indications are incredibly positive and there will most definitely be a television spot for it in the future.
Offering players more chance to win is one thing, but how can the overall playing experience of online bingo improve to replicate the land-based experience?
AN: In many respects, what we are seeing now is the other way round in that we are working closely with Rank to work out how online bingo can simplify the retail experience. If you go to a bingo club, it’s an ever-changing environment, pretty much every property has a £2 max stake and you can’t spend the same amount of money as you used to.
If you go to one of these venues as a new player, someone who comes off the high street, it is unbelievably complicated. When you physically go to play bingo, it can be quite intimidating and the book can often be 15-plus pages. When you go online, it’s the opposite.
The manual element is taken away from it and once you’ve joined Mecca, for example, you have free bingo rooms; you have chat hosts which can talk you through the process if you’re a new player and you can buy bingo tickets for as little as £0.01 a ticket.
What BOB does is guarantee you the same chance of winning as anyone else in the room. You know you are all on the same playing field. The online experience now is much simpler than the retail experience. That is something James and his team is working on. How can we take that learning and how can we take that into retail experience so that not only is it simpler but also that you are getting the same kind of experience.
The answer to your question is that the online experience will be benefiting the retail experience going forward.
JB: We’ve got to use our technology and power to improve player experiences. If you look at it from a customer’s point of view, if you go into retail it is very experiential. You’re there in the moment; you can see people celebrating.
When you come online, it is quite an isolated experience and one of our jobs is to see how we can really engage players and look at some of our core competitors. Bringing chat hosts to the forefront has really helped engage with players and that for us, is our next opportunity.
What does your data tell you about the customer demographic for bingo? How can bingo be used to cross-sell with other products?
AN: If you personify the average bingo player to be between the age of 30-40-years-old and female, on average she may have four or five bingo accounts.
The beauty of BOB we have found is it is keeping customers on Mecca for longer. We need to continue looking at how we keep our audiences engaged with BOB for longer, rather than going elsewhere. From the data we have already shared, we are achieving this.
JB: Our primary focus is providing a bingo and payment service which meets player requirements. We tend to use predictive modelling to identify those who will have the potential to want to play bingo, rather than pushing everyone.
That said, at the same time within the bingo lobby, mini games are available at all points for customers to play. These include card games, instant win games and slots.
What are the chances you could sell this product to other operators? Is this an exclusive deal?
JB: At Rank, we wanted to perfect the idea around the concept so we have trademarked the BOB brand. The technology agreement we have with Playtech is an exclusivity period, but after that they have the rights to sell onto other operators if they wish to do so. This is still an ongoing conversation between Angus and I until we find mutual ground on what we want to do going forward.
AN: Ultimately, where this works is that the partnership is a true one. Both sides must feel equal within a partnership and that is exactly the case here, as we created this product together.
Our product isn’t a one size fits all, as it was developed with the Mecca players very much in mind. I would rather work on improving the partnership we currently have than looking at selling the product to other operators.