New Bingo Sites 2018
Out with the old and in with the new (including exciting new player rewards)! In 2018, that sentiment could well apply to your favourite bingo sites as well as to the New Year itself. Here’s what we think could be in store for the world of online bingo this year:
Goodbye cartoon characters
Bingo site themes and slot games used to be absolutely rife with cute cartoon characters but late in 2017 they were mostly either axed or moved behind an age/pay gate so that no-one under 18 could be enticed by them.
The new restrictions are bound to affect the design of bingo and casino sites launched in the future and for a glimpse of what this could look like visit the new look Costa Bingo, where the smiling sun mascot has faded into the background and lost its smile, and the promotional images are now photographs of real people (who must appear older than 25 in order to comply with the advertising rules) rather than cartoons or drawings. Another example is Kozmo Bingo which launched shortly after the purge, with a photo of a real person on the home page instead of the space / astronaut theme that was in the original design.
Without cartoon mascots to define their unique identity, new bingo sites are going to have to try a bit harder to stand out from other sites in other ways – such as player promotions – and this will mean extra work going into new launches, so fewer, better new bingo sites.
The look of slot games is also likely to change; Eyecon are already rumoured to be working on some slots with a more grown up feel rather than the cuddly toys, unicorns and sweet treats for which they are so well known (you’ll still be able to play the cuddly toy slots for real money at a site where you already have an account, of course).
Bingo bonus under threat
We’ve been predicting the decline of bingo bonus offers (and seeing it gradually happen) for a couple of years now, but two developments that took place during 2017 are likely to speed it up:
- Tax changes that took effect in August 2017 making it much more expensive for operators to offer a welcome bonus.
- A joint initiative announced in November 2017 between the UK Gambling Commission and the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) to tackle unclear or unfair terms and conditions at bingo, casino and sports betting sites (i.e. wagering requirements, withdrawal restrictions, etc).
We have already seen the disappearance of the vast majority of no deposit bonus offers (at slot sites as well as at bingo sites) and now that operators have had a few months to experience the full effect of the new taxation rules, deposit bonuses are being slashed as well. Here are some of the things bingo and slot sites are now offering instead of part or all of a deposit bonus offer:
- A free bingo room for new players, no deposit required – as seen at Cozy bingo sites – where they can win bonus (the newbies get to enjoy trying the site out but the operator only has to pay tax on the wins). The bonus still has a wagering requirement. Obviously this only works at a bingo site.
- Slot spins with the winnings paid as bonus – again the operator only has to pay tax on the wins. This is usually done at slot or casino sites but we have also seen it done at bingo sites including Give Back Bingo.
- Bingo tickets for a specific game or games, winnings paid in cash. This does not work for the purposes of taxation if the tickets are also available to purchase as they would then be taxed at their face value, so you will find that tickets for the bingo games in question have a face value that is purely nominal and you can’t enter the bingo room unless you have free tickets or a voucher that can be redeemed for free tickets – as seen at Dragonfish bingo sites.
- A bonus game of chance – as seen at Jumpman bingo sites (we believe this is tax efficient if a win is not guaranteed).
- An ongoing player reward scheme that doesn’t involve any bonus or any wagering requirements – for example, slot spins with the winnings paid in cash. Again, this is usually done at casinos but sometimes also at bingo sites including bgo Bingo. The Real Bingo Network also has this type of offer, combined with free bingo tickets.
New style player reward schemes
Redeposit bonus offers are also now a lot more expensive for operators. Most bingo sites dropped their automatic redeposit bonuses quite a while ago to be replaced with carefully targeted redeposit offers sent by text or email – but now those offers are also getting a rethink, as operators find different and better ways to encourage player loyalty.
Apart from a few bingo sites (such as Mecca Bingo) where bingo bonus is played before cash, players who receive a redeposit bonus only get to play with it once their account is empty of cash (particularly annoying if the bonus expires if not used within a certain time frame) – so many players prefer a smaller reward that they can use and enjoy right away without having to empty their account of cash first.
An obvious way to combat this problem, which is used by many bingo sites, is to give out slot spins to depositors but if the winnings are paid as a slot bonus this just postpones the issue. Other depositor rewards we have seen on offer are prize draw tickets, bonus games and free bingo tickets for specific games; this is not a new idea (Ignite have been doing it for years, awarding everyone each week who makes a deposit with the opportunity to claim free tickets to their weekly sliding jackpot game) but has certainly become more widespread.
2017 saw the launch of the Real Bingo Network which builds on both these ideas; at sites such as Kozmo Bingo and Real Deal Bingo, the welcome offer consists of bingo tickets to specific games and players can claim one or more slot spins every day (depending on loyalty level) and the winnings are paid as cash.
Another approach is for player rewards to be given out for playing rather than for depositing and this encompasses all manner of level progression schemes such as the one at Bingo.com, where players spin the wheel after completing the required amount of cash play (for the first few levels this is just £20) to win minigame spins, a bingo voucher or cash. At bgo players level up through slot play to be rewarded with what they call fair spins (free spins with all winnings paid in cash) and collect Candy Club points through bingo play which can be redeemed against bingo tickets.
Still another approach is for bingo sites to offer daily bonus games which get players into the habit of coming back to the site day after day. In previous years these have been run as occasional events (e.g. as an Advent Calendar) or have had a deposit or playthrough requirement – such as the daily scratchcards at Sun Bingo which can be played after spending £1 or the Break The Bank game at City Bingo which can be played for 7 days after making a deposit – but we are now seeing more bingo sites offering them as a permanent fixture for all their players.
The most compelling daily game – and the one with the biggest prizes – is the one which runs most weeks at Tombola. Stars is a free to play lotto type game with £30,000 to be won each week. Players receive their numbers at the start of the week via text message and try to match them each day with the ones displayed on site, with the aim of collecting 25 by the end of the week.
Tombola’s game has a huge prize but it is more typical for these games to award the occasional small freebie (a 50p bonus, for example) or for players to have to collect sets of symbols which can be redeemed for small freebies.
Out with the old?
Some of the existing bingo networks have been visibly affected by the above issues. At Tombola and at Playtech and Relax Gaming powered bingo sites everything seems normal – the bingo rooms are just as busy and lively as they ever were and the prize money as good – but elsewhere, not so much.
Back in September 2017 Jumpman got rid of all their bingo bonus offers from their 15 Network bingo sites, replacing their welcome offer with a game of chance with slot spins as prizes and a win not guaranteed. (Their other bingo network, Wheel of Slots, had always had a slots focused welcome offer).
This certainly has something to do with the current state of the bingo at 15 Network (often there is no-one at all in the bingo rooms) but whether it is cause or effect is unclear. With so little action on the bingo side and such similar welcome offers, there is not much difference between the three Jumpman networks now and in fact we have already seen a few cases where a Jumpman bingo site has closed and visitors are automatically redirected to a Jumpman Slots site. An upgrade to the bingo software is reportedly coming in Spring 2018, but in the absence of bingo bonus offers, bingo promotions and chat hosts it could be difficult for them to attract players back to the bingo rooms.
Two of Cozy’s three bingo networks (Live Bingo Network and Best Bingo Network) are already pretty much identical (they have the same welcome offers, the same bingo rooms and the same promotions). The Lucky Duck network, comprising Game Village and a few other sites, used to be completely separate but now they share some promotions and rooms (including the main 90 ball room) with the other two networks. There also seem to be fewer rooms across the board than there used to be – 50 ball bingo, for example, is nowhere to be seen, nor is Elimination Bingo.
Cozy sites were particularly badly affected by the purge of the cartoon characters. The theming on Cozy sites has always been confined to the home page so whereas other sites were able to keep their cartoon characters on pages which can only be visited after a login, the Cozy sites had to get rid of them completely.
Dragonfish have announced a big reorganisation of their network jackpot rooms to take effect at the start of January. Games such as Grab A Grand, Zodiac and Woodstock will stop running and instead there will be a network fixed or sliding jackpot game every night, Sunday – Thursday. This sounds great, but what you may not realise is that these new games are going to be networked more widely than the previous ones were – to other 888 powered networks as well as the original Dragonfish and Real Bingo networks – in the same way that the rooms called 90s Extreme and Big Fat 10 already are (but with fixed jackpots). We aren’t sure where else they will run yet but it could include Joy of Bingo (888 Ladies, Wink, etc), Netboost (Ted, Robin Hood etc), Ignite (Costa etc) and/or Cashcade (Foxy).
When a bingo room with a fixed jackpot does not attract enough players the operator loses money; the solution is either to reduce the prize money (and attract even fewer players) or to network the game more widely and this is probably what lies behind the room reorganisation. There may be further reorganisation to follow as some of the bingo rooms on the Dragonfish network seem to be getting quieter, especially during the daytime, rendering the prizes too small to be of much interest to players.
All three of these bingo platforms currently run on multiple networks but we would not be surprised to see any or all of the following happen during 2018:
- Different networks sharing more bingo rooms or even merging completely
- Consolidation and reorganisation of bingo rooms to remove ones which are too quiet
- Reduction in the number of sites on each network
In with the new!
Whereas Jumpman seem to be moving away from bingo and towards slots, other operators have taken a different approach to the same issue by bringing slots and casino games centre stage without neglecting the bingo.
Arguably the first of this new breed of casinos with bingo rooms was Maria Casino, which was rebranded and redesigned from Maria Bingo at the start of 2016. It is a fully featured casino with slot tournaments, casino promotions and a casino focused welcome offer, but has a number of busy bingo rooms powered by Relax Gaming. Another site that has evolved in a similar way over the last few years is Virgin Games which presents as a casino but until recently still had bingo by Gamesys.
Both these casino sites originally started as bingo sites and were subsequently rebranded to make the casino side more prominent (although in the case of Maria the bingo was on the Virtue Fusion platform up until summer 2015). The welcome offers are also presented as casino bonus offers (although they can be used to play bingo).
There have also been cases of casino sites adding bingo rooms although this did not work out too well for Gaming Realms sites such as Spin Genie; first they tried adding bingo rooms powered by their own Grizzly software and subsequently introduced “boom bingo” rooms – multiplayer Slingo – but neither really attracted enough players to reach critical mass.
The latest casino to add bingo rooms is the very well regarded Mr Green. The bingo rooms there are powered by Cozy but are apparently not connected to any of the Cozy networks; the soft launch happened around about the same time that Cozy was being bought by GVC and this could represent a start of a new era for Cozy supplying the bingo as a plug-in to already established casinos rather than as a skin site. As yet (December 2017) Mr Green have merely offered the bingo as an extra to existing players and not made any effort to attract bingo players from elsewhere, but a bingo welcome offer is rumoured to be on the cards in the new year – and they have also announced a deal to buy Evoke Gaming who already have some (non UK facing) bingo sites.
Also in the pipeline is a brand new bingo platform and network from slots provider Yggdrasil. If Yggdrasil bingo rooms arrive at casinos that already have Yggdrasil slots, UK bingo players who also like slots could be in for a big treat. In terms of design, slots selection, promotions and gamification, these casinos (typically run from Stockholm or Malta with a UK licence) blow UK slot sites right out of the water. As for what the bingo product will be like, Yggdrasil say “players will recognise industry-first features for bingo…reinvigorating the much-loved pastime and raising the bar against other products on the market”. More will be revealed at the huge ICE trade show in February and we can’t wait!