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888 head says online bingo is booming
The economic situation, smoking bans, restrictions on GBP500 slot machines and having to pay both gross profits tax and VAT have hammered UK land bingo halls, closing closures and hurting major gambling companies, but for online bingo operators it's never been better, reports the UK newspaper The Telegraph this week.
In an interesting article, the newspaper reports that the online bingo sector is currently worth GBP600 million and is booming, a view confirmed by 888.com chief Gigi Levy, who told The Telegraph: "Online bingo is booming
everywhere. But it's a mistake to link it to traditional bingo, because that's a completely different proposition.
"Our [online customers] women are young, above average income and typical internet consumers. Land-based bingo is about elderly people, smoking and aggressive slot machines." Levy had earlier reported that 888 revenues from its ladies' bingo operations were up fourfold on the previous reporting quarter following a television advertising campaign.
Levy was an early adapter, who identified the trend toward online bingo when he spotted a gap in the market for an exclusively female-oriented site.
"People are cutting back on leisure, but they are staying home and spending only in the low tens of pounds a month with the chance of winning some extra cash," he said. "The beauty of it is there are very low costs and a huge number of players, so despite low margins, it is very profitable."
Levy's assessment is confirmed by statistics from the UK Gambling Commission, which indictae that the number of online bingo players doubled in the past year from 250 000 to 500 000 across 243 registered websites.
The Telegraph identifies new media operators such as ITV's Emmerdale-themed site, the Sun's offering and BSkyB, which launched its site last month. At the more risqué end of the spectrum, retailer Ann Summers offers a game targeting young female customers with sex toy giveaways and a series of "outrageous new nicknames" transforming the number 66 from "clickety-click" into "kinky tricks".
One of the new generation of female Internet bingo devotees told the newspaper that online diversity was more attractive than the normal bingo experience in a land venue, whilst offering the same attractions of community interaction through chatroom facilities. "...but you can make a noise without being shushed by the old ladies, play in your pyjamas and start a game at any time of day," she said.
"There are so many free bonuses and prizes. I feel sorry for land-based bingo because it's really suffering, but online has so much more to offer."
Another player, this one a male, told The Telegraph that it is less embarrassing to play online than sit in a room full of 400 elderly women.
Will the rise of online bingo further deepen the woes of the land sector? The newspaper quotes Steve Baldwin of the Bingo Association, who argues that there is room in the market for both.
"When online bingo was invented, land-based bingo feared the competition," he said. "Now they have realised there is only a 10 percent crossover of their players." And he does not view the market as being overcrowded: "Within a year, there has to be some consolidation," he said. "People will start to value recognised online brands and recession might not be a bad thing, as the 'me too' brands won't stay the course."
Ed Ware, the CEO of 32Red plc, which has seen dramatic rises in business for its online bingo room launched only in February this year, revealed to the newspaper that growth has been impressive, with more than 12 000 new customers a month signing up.
"Spending on a game is very low compared with other internet gambling, but our customers feed into other areas of our business. In a land-based club, people flock to the slot machines when there's a break. We also have those slot-machine games online, " he said.
The last word goes to a young woman Internet player: "Online is so easy and anonymous," she said. "I wouldn't ever go back to club bingo. If it was a number, you'd have to call it 28 [in a state], but online bingo is like a number 20 [getting plenty]."
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