Updated: 30th Nov 2020
Almost all online bingo sites currently have some kind of a rewards scheme for their loyal players, but in practice these vary widely from brilliant to quite frankly rubbish. A good VIP scheme can keep players happy through years of play.
For 2021 the future of VIP schemes is in doubt due to fears that they enable and encourage problem gamblers – a real concern as reportedly 8% of VIPs across all UK sites have a problem of this type. The Gambling Commission set up an industry working group led by GVC (the owners of Gala Bingo, who certainly know a thing or two about how to run a VIP scheme) whose remit was to work out how player incentives, especially those associated with VIP schemes, could be offered in a way that makes gambling “fairer, safer and crimefree”. The new rules took effect from the end of October 2020 and we have yet to see how existing schemes will adapt.
For the moment, there are several different forms a loyalty / VIP scheme can take:
When a tiered scheme is in place, players can progress through the levels to receive bigger benefits such as bigger redeposit bonuses, free slots spins, access to VIP only free bingo rooms, and/or a better collection or redemption rate for loyalty points. Different bingo sites lay down different rules as to how players can advance through the tiers and here are some of the criteria that have been used:
Schemes of this type are susceptible to being withdrawn as a result of the new rules as many of these criteria could be seen as encouraging players to spend more than they intended or can afford. Anything dependent on meeting a monthly deposit or spend target is almost certainly due for the chop and rightly so.
In these invitation only schemes, the player is assigned a personal VIP account manager who will decide what benefits to offer them. This is how players get their hands on the really good stuff such as VIP party invitations, gifts of champagne and flowers and VIP days out. We can expect these to be drastically cut back (indeed, they already have been) and operators will have to get proof from players that they can afford the expenditure before admitting them to the scheme which will certainly put many players off. That’s as well as monitoring the behaviour of VIPs for risk of gambling related harm.
In the past it has been very common for bingo sites to have more than one loyalty/VIP scheme in force and there a few reasons for doing this:
At many bingo sites the VIP scheme is integrated with the loyalty scheme – Ladbrokes Bingo, for instance, used to have the On The House Rewards scheme with 6 tiers starting with the Garden for newbies and casual players; the 3 highest were basically VIPs. With this sort of arrangement, there are clear criteria for achieving the VIP tiers; under the Ladbrokes scheme, to reach the lowest of the three VIP levels a player needed to be playing £300 on bingo, £3000 on mini games or some combination thereof each and every month and to reach the top Penthouse VIP level it had to be ten times that. The scheme is no longer available following their move to different software and would certainly not comply with the new rules due to the potential incentive to overspend.
Even without the new rules, whether it was ever a good thing for there to be such clear criteria – or indeed for the schemes to be integrated like this – is debatable. On the plus side, having a single scheme avoids any possibility of confusion as players know exactly what they have to do to qualify and only have one set of points or rewards to keep track of. On the minus side, one very important aspect of being a VIP is the personal relationship between the player and the VIP account manager and with an arrangement like this where the player would automatically drop out of the VIP tier if they spent slightly under the specified amount one month (perhaps because they were ill or on holiday) that relationship is not going to be worth as much as it would be at a site where the VIP can simply tell their account manager that they will be away and know that the manager has the discretion to take care of it. Another minus point is that when players know exactly what they have to do to join the VIP scheme, they also know what existing VIPs had to do to join the scheme – and the existing VIPs may prefer a bit more privacy.
Gala Bingo‘s new Gala Rewards scheme, which replaced the two old Happy Points and Gala VIP schemes and is still available, has tiers which are reset monthly, clear criteria for reaching them and an array of impressive benefits; the top tier (effectively the VIP area) is by invitation only and the benefits are not specified.
So what can players expect from the various bingo platforms and networks?
Virtue Fusion/Playtech have a tiered network loyalty points scheme based on players collecting 10 points for each £1 played on bingo, but most sites on the network customise it to at least some degree so the benefits enjoyed at higher levels, and whether those higher levels are reached by amassing a certain number of points or are by invitation only, vary from site to site. One point to note about this scheme is that loyalty points have to be redeemed within 90 days or they expire.
At Microgaming bingo sites a basic network loyalty points based scheme came as part of the platform, but each site added its own rules regarding VIP tiers and benefits. All remaining Microgaming bingo sites closed shortly before the new rules came in, sidestepping the problem in true nuclear fashion.
At Cozy bingo sites there was a particularly egregious loyalty scheme which disappeared entirely long before the sites themselves actually closed. The software lives on at GVC sites including Ladbrokes who, as we noted earlier, no longer have a loyalty scheme.
The Dragonfish network loyalty plan is based on the previous month’s deposits only and offers modest benefits starting with a deposit of just £5. These are basically a few free spins, a bit of bonus back on any losses and a few free tickets to the £10K game. Higher levels get more of each of these and entry to more free bingo rooms, although all free bingo at Dragonfish requires a deposit to have been made in the last 7 days. The network also rather confusingly has a completely separate loyalty points scheme which awards one point for each 25p purchase of bingo cards and one point for each £2 played on slots; 1000 points can be redeemed for £1 bingo bonus. Some Dragonfish network sites have what looks like their own plan but in most cases it is just a re-skinned version of the network plan.
The Real Bingo Network (a no bonus/no wagering requirement network powered by Dragonfish and sharing some rooms with the main network) has a 15 level loyalty plan based on lifetime spend; benefits include daily free spins, monthly cashback, free cards to the monthly £10K game and access to special bingo rooms.
Gossip Bingo and sister sites (powered by Dragonfish but on their own Netboost network) used to offer a 5 level tiered loyalty/VIP scheme, the top 3 levels of which were classified as VIP; £500 lifetime deposits was the requirement to reach the lowest VIP level. In early 2o17 this was replaced with the 4 level, invitation only Diamond Club (not to be confused with the one at Costa Bingo). They have now all completely dropped any such scheme.
The Ignite Dragonfish sites such as Costa Bingo have the Diamond Club network scheme but to redeem any points from it you need to reach the lowest level by making £50 or more of deposits.
The Joy Of Bingo sites which include 888Ladies and Wink Bingo had the shared 4 level Joy Gem VIP Club. The lowest level required the player to deposit and play £2000+ on bingo or slots over a rolling 3 month period in order to qualify but this was later changed so all levels were invation only. All levels got a personal account manager and access to exclusive bingo rooms and promotions. The Joy Gem Club was closed on 20th October 2020, 10 days before the new rules were due to kick in. These sites do still have loyalty points schemes and Wink has the Wink Rewards scheme which allows players to collect points and redeem them in the Wink Shop.
Jumpman bingo sites used to have a tiered network VIP scheme based on “Kudos” (lifetime deposits) and the higher levels also had a monthly spend requirement (a whopping £20K for the top level). Unsurprisingly in light of that massive spend requirement, the scheme was terminated in advance of the new rules kicking in. The main benefit was cashback on losses – this is actual cash, not a bonus, but can only be claimed on days a deposit is made – and this has now been extended to all players at the same rate instead of increasing with loyalty level.
Gamesys bingo sites got rid of their loyalty and VIP schemes long ago. They have free daily games and run lots of player promotions instead.
The fantastically complicated Bingocams loyalty scheme has 24 levels in all, with points awarded not for ticket purchases but for line, full house and jackpot wins meaning that the highest level VIPs are not necessarily the biggest spenders. The top 5 levels are the VIP levels and only a handful of players have amassed sufficient points (120,000+) to climb right to the top. Before it migrated to Dragonfish, the Bright Bingo scheme boasted a staggering 90 levels (grouped into 10 tiers), with XP points awarded for cash spend on bingo. As the future of this bingo software is looking uncertain it may not be worth trying to progress in the Bingocams scheme.
Relax Gaming sites such as Bingo.com and Unibet feature a bingo loyalty meter which can be filled by playing bingo. When a player goes up a level (each time they play through £20 on bingo and/or minigames) they get a free spin on the Loyalty Wheel; prizes include free spins and bonuses and get bigger and better as the higher levels are reached.
Bede Gaming sites had invitation only VIP schemes. They do not have any kind of loyalty points arrangement.
Tombola do not have a loyalty scheme as such but instead have the Playmates scheme which rewards players for referring their friends; this pays out whenever the friends win. They also have the daily free game 4Free with thousands of pounds of cash prizes each week.
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