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In a recent press release CEO of BodogUK, Patrik Selin, said that casino has seen “the least innovation and investment across the industry.” New BodogUK Head of Casino, Adam Joseph, looks to overhaul the online casino business.
From a marketing perspective it is obviously much easier to attract players via sports betting and poker. With sports betting there are ever-changing angles as stories develop and the seemingly endless amount of media space given to sport makes it the obvious driver for a multi-platform online gaming company to go after and then look at cross-sell from there. Poker, equally, lends itself to easier marketing as the players are very vocal in forums and live play so you can very quickly discover what they want and like in a poker platform and react to that.
Online casino is a much more private customer and much more diverse in terms of personal needs so there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution and therefore doesn’t have quick gets and simple answers and is as a result the unloved platform of the industry.
Online casinos have, understandably, concentrated their efforts on quick wins like bonusing and constant new products, all of which have undoubted merit but especially in the instance of new products are often so patently just re-skins of existing slots. Casino has also lacked innovation as well as marketing spend and PR muscle. Sportsbetting has seen in-play wagering and mobile apps give the genre a new lease of life, and poker has seen so many changes in recent years including a total overhaul of the rakeback system and the rise of anonymous tables to protect, and therefore attract, the casual players back to the felt.
So what are we going to do about it? The first thing is to customise the casino to the country it serves – it is not OK just to think blackjack is blackjack. By way of example, in Asia an online Random Number Generator (RNG) Casino would be unthinkable; they simply don’t trust anything that isn’t live. This is why Bodog88, the Asian facing company of the Bodog brand, has invested heavily in its own live dealer studio giving them the freedom to offer a whole range of different products quickly. They are the only online operator that offers Super 6 Baccarat despite it being the fastest growing game in Asia in offline casinos. Because it’s their own studio they don’t need to request Super 6 from their operator they can just start a table, it gives them control over their own product.
That doesn’t mean that a company should look to do everything in-house. For new slot games - especially branded ones - ‘off the shelf’ solutions are often the quickest and best way forward.
I actually believe live dealer will slowly become part of the online casino culture over in the UK too – not to the exclusion of RNGs but certainly as an alternative. The live dealer gives so much more atmosphere and flexibility as well as making the experience feel ‘softer’ which I think will encourage the more casual casino player online. It also gives the operator the option to have more fun with the product which can then be used by the marketing and PR teams to leverage. A celebrity dealer for a session on Saturday night could create a real buzz as well as appealing to different social niches; a footballer player for sports fans, an actor for the female audience, a model for the boys etc.
Firms should also look to incorporate existing properties they have into their casino product. Bodog Europe sponsors Premiership side West Brom so that should be leveraged for their fan base not just in the sportsbook but in the casino as well.
Slots are a trickier beast to tackle but are the real engine room of any casino – on or offline. Here SEO is hugely important and the Bodog brand recently bought the domain ‘Slots.com’ so it will be interesting to follow the development of that brand as a standalone operator when it is launched later this year. With slot games content is king and a constantly changing landscape is very important but needs attention. I also think there is room for more player interaction within the games themselves – too many are fairly featureless from a genuine ‘play’ experience. Those that want the quick fire auto-play can still be well-catered for but additional games with a longer play experience will emerge.
The only other ‘big gun’ of the casino world that I’ve not touched on is roulette and again we have a number of ideas on how we can give this casino staple a lease of life. One being the ability to add in live features such as ‘for the next 30 minutes - 20% extra winnings on correct number bets’. These can be random but regular to keep the player more engaged with each spin as well as encouraging them to indulge in different types of bet as many players have a set strategy they employ.
For more generic changes to the casino as a whole we will look to introduce a tailored offering for the VIP segment, including service, games and rewards, and there is no question that there’s a current need for unique and targeted promotional activity – again tailored to each player. This is vital as I have mentioned earlier; casino players, unlike poker players, have very different, individual, demands.
Some of these will take time to develop and some are already in play, but I am very confident that the online casino can be re-invented in the same way the Bodog Network have done with poker and I hope Bodog UK will be at the helm of that innovation.