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Bingo UK - still room for improvement

The Online Bingo market is said to be saturated in the UK. However, there is still room for growth as only 1% of land-based Bingo players play online. A recent study undertaken by Parlay Entertainment on behalf of Chit Chat Bingo, recently showed that only 1% of the UK's land based Bingo players actually play Bingo online. So while the UK Bingo market is said to be saturated with online Bingo games companies, there seems to be a lot of work ahead in converting those offline players to online players.

However, this can only spell good news for the online industry. With some 3 million active Bingo members playing Bingo in the UK's 700 or so Bingo clubs, there is a lot of room for conversion to the Online Bingo market. Of the global market (some $150 million with 6 million players) the UK market itself makes up only 15% of those revenues. However, this statistic is likely to change dramatically come the end of 2007, when the realisation of the US gaming bill comes into force and the effects are fully seen.

Of 2007, there are genuine concerns for the future of the land based industry. Many operators are waiting with baited breath to see the outcome of already heavy tax burdens (higher than any other sector of the gambling market) tougher economic conditions, and a soon to be imposed smoking ban on public places (July 2007) all coupled with changes to gambling laws and potential further gaming costs. The impact this year is likely to be felt even more so than years previous, particularly by smaller, independent Bingo halls. The closure of these types of Bingo clubs will hit communities in many areas, particularly where the social element of Bingo provides a welcome respite to the daily rigours and, particularly where there is a need to provide women with an outlet for their social requirements, something a pub nor football ground can fulfil.

Again, this is only good news for the online industry who are set to pick up the baton and provide those who want to play Bingo, with a comfortable, easy and as sociable a solution. Online Bingo will provide women with the outlet to continue their social routines, when the clubs around them are likely to be closing down. It is women who Play Bingo more often, around 85%. They are spending some 50% more time online than men. With some 41% playing every day and 28% playing between the hours of midnight and 5am. It is easy from these statistics to see where online Bingo operators will be targeting their marketing strategies. However, as more and more men are taking up the opportunity to play Bingo online, it will be interesting to see how the Bingo operators target their future promotions and technology.

Online Bingo may not be able to fulfil the community role that land-based Bingo halls provide. The home does not provide the same sizeable room, the smoke filled atmosphere, buzzing Slot Machines, or people jostling for conversation. However, it does provide those who are unable to regularly attend Bingo clubs with a place to meet people, have conversation and fulfil the need to play their favourite game.

Also, if you speak to St Minver, operators of Chit Chat Bingo, you will understand that Bingo does put back into the community. Recently, one lucky winner scooped £91,000, the biggest single jackpot payout on its network since it began operating in 2003. The winner, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a 63 year old wheelchair and housebound mother. The win will not only help her family but will help her purchase some well needed equipment to improve the quality of her life as she is on oxygen 15 hours each day. This will be providing the winner's family with a well needed Christmas present and does well to improve the community spirit at this time of year.

Converting people to Online Bingo Websites is a difficult task. There is much that Bingo clubs provide in terms of social interaction and the offer of an environment where people can mix and have fun, perhaps as a family or group of friends. Clubs are also targeting a much younger audience in the attempt to give clubs a more modern and youthful appeal. However, it is the younger audience (18-34) that are more internet savvy and indeed are currently making up 30% of online players.

It looks like it will be a long time before mums and dads will be prised away from their weekly social routine of going down the Bingo club, but it wont be a long time before that 1% of land-based Bingo players soon grows and those 600 Bingo clubs soon decreases, with only the strongest being able to survive the cost burdens being imposed by UK government, something the online operators are likely to escape.

Morgan Collins

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