A recent report on the health of the online gambling sector by mintel has suggested that certain sections of the online gambling market are in decline. The report points to poker as being the main sector where organic growth appears to have stalled and operators are having to fight over a smaller pie. The effect of this has been that smaller sites have begun to be choked out of the market as bigger and bigger sites take over. Also apparent is that the homogenization of the poker experience across many different networks, means that for many players the only choice to make is one based upon liquidity. The question for the world of online bingo and free bingo is whether the consolidation and difficulties that are being seen in other sectors of online gambling will be experienced in bingo too. And if so is there any way for bingo sites to avoid the inevitable?
Since 2005 online bingo in UK has grown exponentially and bingo sites like Sun Bingo and Paddy Power bingo were at the forefront of the developments. There are now hundreds of different bingo sites in the UK operating online. Also at the heart of this growth have been the software suppliers like Dragonfish and Virtue Fusion who have been able to provide even the smallest operation the opportunity to offer their players bingo. Many of the sites operate on a network basis and are sharing their liquidity with other sites and this is facilitated through the software suppliers. This means that a player playing on one site under one brand is actually playing with a player on a competing brand. For example, a player playing a bingo game in Moon Bingo can easily find themselves playing exactly the same game as a player at Glorious
Now this situation is not necessarily a bad thing. The sharing of liquidty amongst different sites means that bingo players at different brands are always guaranteed to find a bingo game which has some reasonable prize money. But what it also means is that there have been competing forces at work in the UK bingo market. On the one hand the suppliers of the products, operating at lower margins, are keen to spread and grow their networks as far as possible. On the other hand individual operators of bingo brands (the clients) want to preserve their share of the market and be able to respond competitively to the “me too” operations which push margins down. The overriding issue for UK bingo is the major lack of innovation taking place in the market. Tombola Bingo and Virtue Fusion are pretty much the only bingo producers who are launching high quality new game. The problem for network operators is that many of the new games can be found on different bingo sites, so any competitive gained from its launch is almost immediately lost as dozens of bingo brands rush to promote the new product in the same way. For online bingo to avoid the same fate as other markets it needs to make sure that there are lots more unique sites and games launching in the next year.