UK CEO Phil Horne talks about the impact of April’s implementation of £2 stakes
While April 2019 will usher in a new era with the introduction of the £2 maximum stake on gaming machines, it provides a natural opportunity to contemplate optimistically on what it means for the UK gaming landscape.
The much-publicised move to reduce the stakes will obviously have a significant impact on the LBO sector, but it won’t impede the ongoing development and evolution of games and technology available or the importance of gaming to the overall LBO customer proposition.
While it’s clear that a considerable number of LBOs will close, equally, thousands will continue to flourish with a renewed vigour and vibrancy as greater investment is channelled into venues by owners, suppliers and significantly, customers. Moreover, suppliers will continue to invest-in and develop further, responsible gambling and player protection measures so that they continue to evolve in line with player demands and technological innovation.
Ultimately, gaming machines will still be an essential offering for any operator, whether that’s in the LBO, Arcade, Bingo or Casino sector and players will still seek a breadth of choice and engaging gameplay. If you were to visit any betting shop today, you will encounter more people playing slot games on our machines than anything else and this popularity is only going to increase.
In fact, there has been a growing trend for slot games in LBOs specifically over the past few years, with slots now accounting for over 75% of games played, as roulette content has become less prominent.
Operators will need the newest and most popular content, offer an entertaining experience and provide a truly omni-channel approach and seamless customer journey as multiple touchpoints become even more important.
The onus is on suppliers to provide a constant new product stream of B3 category content that encompasses the above, and which continue to utilise evolving technologies and initiate new gameplay and mechanics.
As is often the case in any industry, enforced restrictions and challenges only serve to drive innovation and new thinking, while also providing renewed focus on other opportunities. For example, venues can consider obtaining a music licence and take advantage of licensed slots themes such as Michael Jackson, Monopoly and Friends, introduce new formats such as the increasingly popular community gaming slots, while a live sport offering drives footfall and leads to a busy and atmospheric shop.
Big brand games and franchises will continue to be a key driver for players, however offering the latest state-of-the-art terminals remains a key element of the overall customer experience in venue. And with the impending changes, its vital that both the content and hardware solutions evolve to reflect the new customer journey, with essential functions such as game navigation and on-screen menus taking a more prominent role.
With a typical gaming terminal offering in excess of 150 games, being able to explore content choice effortlessly and quickly will be more crucial, while the menu should remain an area of constant innovation in order to develop the simplest solution possible. Players expect to be able find content as easily as they would when looking for the latest TV boxsets on Netflix or their favourite music on Spotify.
LBOs will continue to retain and enhance player protection for those who need it most, leading the way for other sectors. Significant updates have already been implemented to our platform to ensure suitable, timely interactions while we continue to work with our customers developing a long-term road map.
With our business insights and analytics providing indispensable learnings, we can develop tools which track player behaviour to ensure they are receiving adequate protection measures whilst ensuring the games remain entertaining and enjoyable. Furthermore, we will continue to work with the relevant industry stakeholders to further our efforts in uniting the industry sectors and deliver effective measures which are best for the player, and in the long-term interests of the industry.
No one underestimates the fact that gambling and gaming as a whole is undergoing a challenging period at the moment. However, this industry has successfully traversed other significant regulatory changes, which when proposed were falsely prophesised as the gradual demise of the industry as we know it.
When the smoking ban was first introduced, the initial impact was felt hardest by bingo venues as session breaks were utilised for smoking and gaming machine engagement waned. However, venues soon adapted by providing specially created open-air areas and installed outdoor gaming tablets, which along with players adapting their behaviour too, saw revenues improve significantly.
Similarly, the implementation of the £50 Journey over three years ago had an initial impact of around 6% to the cashbox of LBOs, but this downturn returned to regular levels after 6 months. During the initial roll-out, improvements were consequently made to on-terminal ‘set limits’ functionality to enhance the player experience whilst also increasing exposure to relevant responsible gambling interactions at the same time.
The revised £2 stake is no doubt the most radical change to date, but our learnings from previous implementations highlight that the industry is a resilient one and that a return to growth is inevitable in the long term. Now is the time for suppliers to step up and ensure that they are supporting the industry on every level from innovation to ongoing collaboration, as we enter this new era.