In September last year the Gambling Commission announced “strict new guidance” regarding the running of VIP schemes – including those at online bingo sites. The new rules came into effect on 31st October 2020 and if you’re interested, you can read them in full in the Gambling Commission’s guidance document on high value customers.
In short, before making a player a VIP, operators now have to
Check that the player’s spending is “affordable and sustainable as part of leisure spend”
Check for evidence of gambling related harm or vulnerablity to gambling related harm
Obtain up to date evidence of player identity, occupation and source of funds
They then have to continue to check, verify and monitor for possible harm to the VIP player on an ongoing basis. And that’s not all! In order to increase accountability, each operator has to appoint a senior executive to have oversight of their VIP scheme and these people will be required to hold a Personal Management Licence from the Gambling Commission, making them personally responsible for the conduct of the scheme.
And there’s more! The section in the guidance on “use of incentives” (2.27 onwards) dumps an ocean of cold water on the way tiered loyalty schemes have been run in the past. Promoting them “in a manner which results in individuals gambling excessively to obtain or retain a grade of status….which is unsustainable” is now a complete no-no, as is “encouraging risk behaviours such as chasing losses, excessive time or money spent gambling, or accelerating frequency of gambling”. So say goodbye to schemes where you have to deposit thousands to reach the higher tiers, then spend thousands a month to ensure you stay in the higher tiers!
None of this came as a surprise to industry insiders and indeed much of it had already been put into effect voluntarily over the last year or so – with the result that VIP memberships had already dropped by a hefty 70% even before the new rules were published.
How Bingo VIP Schemes Are Changing
So what has actually happened to VIP and loyalty schemes at online bingo sites as a result of the new guidance?
Well, some loyalty schemes have been completely dropped, notably the ones where you had to spend a lot of money to move up the tiers, and go on spending a lot of money every month in order to avoid being dropped down to a lower level.
Jumpman got rid of their loyalty scheme entirely, extended the cashback promotion that was available at higher levels to everyone and introduced some new monthly promotions for everyone.
888 Ladies and sister sites got rid of the Joy of Bingo VIP scheme (another one where you had to keep spending £££ to retain your level) and replaced it with a daily rewards promotion that’s open to everyone and resets every day.
Foxy Bingo now gives identical loyalty benefits to all players that opt into their ongoing cashback promotion.
Other sites have retained tiered loyalty schemes, but with one or more of the following features:
Loyalty level is based on the previous month’s or week’s play ONLY. You can be busy with other stuff for a while then swiftly return to your previous level. Dragonfish have had a scheme like this for years, of course.
Loyalty level is based on lifetime behaviour but you can never drop down to a lower level – such as at Costa Bingo where level is set by lifetime deposits.
There is not much difference between levels – as at Mecca Bingo where higher levels get to collect play points at a slightly better rate, but that’s the only benefit.
One operator, however, has taken the trouble to build a new player rewards scheme that complies with the new rules. Step forward Gala Rewards at Gala Bingo!
Gala Rewards is a 10 level loyalty programme which resets every month. Your level is determined by points scored during the previous month.
You collect one point for each £40 deposited, one point for each £100 of slots play and one point for each £15 of bingo play.
You also score Lifetime Points each month – 5 points for each complete calendar year since account registration, up to a maximum of 25 points. So the longer you’ve been a Gala player, the easier it is to reach the next level.
At higher levels, you get access to exclusive promotions including deposit offers, prize draws, cashback and invitation only bingo rooms. So no automatic free stuff – just the opportunity to participate in exclusive promotions if you want to.
Levels 6 and up are not available to players under 25 (this is to comply with recently introduced advertising guidelines).
Level 10 is by invitation only and Gala don’t provide any information about eligibility or benefits.
Essentially Gala Rewards is exactly what its name implies – a rewards scheme rather than an incentives scheme. It doesn’t really encourage players to deposit or spend more than they would normally do, particularly not on an ongoing basis – but it rewards them for playing at Gala, and continuing to play at Gala, rather than going somewhere else. An absolutely key part of the scheme is the participatory nature of the rewards and the sense of community in the invitation only bingo rooms; visit Gala Spins (the slots only sister site) and you’ll see that instead of running a similar scheme to Gala Rewards, the operator has opted for something completely different – mission based gamification.
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