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BINGOLife Autumn 2016 - Issue 23


VARIETY Building on 2015 success









Six months on... PAGE 19







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BINGOLife Published by ACE Publishing Ltd

Editorial Editor in Chief - Glyn Thomas Mob: +380 952 705 596 glyn@ace123.com Editor - Miles Baron miles@ace123.com Associate Editor - Janice Chaka Guadalajara - janice@ace123.com

Correspondents Asia - Bill Healey bill@ace123.com Europe - Andrew Behan abehan@ace123.com International - Damien Connelly dconnelly@ace123.com UK - Naomi Green naomi@ace123.com USA - Jack Bulavsky Las Vegas - jack@ace123.com

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Welcome to the Autumn 2016 Issue of BINGO Life. As the Summer starts to fade and the Holiday season looms, 2017 is firmly in our sights. The Referendum on membership of the EU is over, the impact rumbles on, with the consequences and routemap unclear. Since our last issue consultations have been responded to and more issued, results of RGT and industry research have been published; firmly demonstrating that club bingo is a sector aside, a social activity rooted in community. Industry investment progresses: Gala Southampton continues to be a great success, and a number of other operators progress with updates. A potential black spot on the horizon for many clubs is the introduction of the new one pound coin in 2017 together with the implications for changing equipment and associated costs: the process of implementation remains under review, so sectors heavily reliant upon coin mechanisms remain anxious. BINGO Life remains focused on all things Bingo We hope you enjoy this issue




Contents 1

Welcome to Bingo Life Autumn 2016 Miles Baron


Editor Foreword Miles Baron

5 Welcome to the World of ICE Guest Comment; Kate Chambers, Managing Director at Clarion Events 7

13 Cowells Arrow Meet Tony Lister the Company’s new Managing Director 14 Back to the business of gambling reform By Dan Waugh, Principal Consultant Regulus Partners 16 Bingo Loves Variety 17 The WhichBingo Awards 2016 19 National Self-Exclusion 25 The National Bingo Game at 30 – Happy Birthday



News Round Up

25 24 It’s All About Balance: Angela Brient 29 Hospitality beyond borders: Carlton Clubs 32 Connected Entertainment: Tony Eyre 34 Bingo: a valuable public service Iain Corby, Director of Operations and Development, Responsible Gambling Trust chats to Peter White

The Editorial policy: The views and opinions expressed in Bingo Life remain principally the views of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of the editor or publishers. The publishers wish to avoid inaccuracies and whilst every precaution has been taken to ensure that information contained in this publication is accurate, no liability is accepted by the editor or publishers for errors or ommissions however caused. Unless otherwise stated, articles appearing in this publication remain the copyright of the publishers and may not be reproduced in any form without the publishers written consent. Printed in the UK by MPC Ltd

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EDITOR’S Foreword


uly saw the publication of the independent Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) sponsored ipsosMORI research into problem gambling levels in retail Bingo clubs. The Bingo Association and its members were happy to facilitate and co-operate with this study. As it turns out, levels of problem gambling were found to be relatively low and in line with expectation which is good news, but even more significant is that the Industry now has a fixed reference point and is no longer vulnerable to assumptions made from work undertaken in other sectors: in other words, we are transparent and we trust the data as it comes directly from the sector. It is now time for The Bingo Association (BA) to digest the ipsosMORI research and decide what actions can be taken to mitigate harm. It is not enough to say that levels of harm are relatively low compared to other sectors; there are still up to 14,000 people a week who need us to help them, and we know that the level of customers at ‘moderate’ risk is higher than first thought. Media coverage was initially largely negative with the BBC using words like “addiction” and headline facts out of context. As press releases kicked in and with the support, I am pleased to say of several academics, a more balanced and even a positive picture started to emerge. The research made very positive comments about the social good Bingo brings, providing statistics such as 92% of Bingo players attend a club with friends or family. Meanwhile the industry national self-exclusion scheme continues to ‘bed’ in. We believe that the system is working well and that by the end of the year over a hundred customers will have been prevented from breaching their self-exclusion through the national scheme. The BA has committed to an independent review of the self-exclusion scheme in early 2017. The recent joint DCMS and Gambling Commission consultation on fees was extremely frustrating for some members of the BA. Change the method of fee calculation if you need to, but against a backdrop of overall fee reductions to the gambling industry, in general, please don’t hand out fee increases of 200% or more to a few unfortunate retail Bingo operators. We ask DCMS/GC to look again at these anomalies of surely what must be unintended consequences. www.bingolifemagazine.com

The Gambling Commission’s (GC) recent response to the consultation on Where Gaming machines may be played takes into account some of the issues raised by the BA. It doesn’t adopt them all and I can understand Miles Baron, Chief Executive, why some members, The Bingo Association particularly from the Bingo Extra sector, might be concerned. However I think we have to put some faith in the GC’s assertion that their aim is not to penalise or question existing structures or business models, but rather to prevent the possibility of the more cynical and disingenuous operators attempting to get around current regulations. Watch out everyone for IGRG (Industry Group for Responsible Gambling) work streams, as the RGT/GC backed projects start to tackle the issues of training and messaging best practice across the sector. This will affect us all. In almost every foreword I find myself talking about harm minimisation and social responsibility. I am pleased to note that from a business perspective that for the year to date we have seen only four clubs closed; far fewer than in previous years, and business was doing very well almost right up until the Referendum. Since Brexit and the advent of a warm summer, the rest of the year has been more challenging. Talking of politics, more changes to government personnel means once again the BA has to go out on the offensive, meeting a number of new political appointments and re-stating its position as a social and low risk activity. Fortunately Tracey Crouch stays in place as DCMS Minister with responsibility for gambling. Finally - a brand new National Bingo Game is set to launch in January 2017. It will be a live game and the great news is that Gala is in. Unfortunately Mecca is out, however there is a long way to go with some finer details still to be refined, but it’s looking good. Enjoy the latest issue of what I think is a vastly improved Industry magazine. 3

ExCeL, London 7-9 February 2017

the world theatre of gaming

To join the world at ICE visit icetotallygaming.com



Welcome to the World of ICE Kate Chambers Managing Director at Clarion Events


he loyalty that’s talked about in inter-personal relationships is actually no different from the ‘customer loyalty’ that every serious brand seeks. Essentially it’s about being honest, trustworthy, empathetic and supportive – qualities which, in a commercial world, increase the likelihood of customers continuing to be customers.

Kate Chambers Managing Director at Clarion Events

Trying to engender customer loyalty is even more important in a sector such as bingo where the competition is in effect just a click away. Customer loyalty should not be confused with the rather prosaic and one dimensional loyalty programmes. It’s far more soulful. It’s about creating memorable experiences that are worth talking about and passing on to friends, associates and colleagues. As arguably the commercial world’s chief alchemist of positive customer experiences it’s worth referencing Richard Branson who said that business is really all about exceeding expectations preferably in ‘unexpected and helpful ways’. The bingo clubs that I am aware of are experts in this field. They know their customers by name, they look after them throughout the commercial journey, they provide a safe, comfortable fun environment in which patrons can meet and socialise. There’s a happy, energetic, show biz type feel to bingo clubs and the customers absolutely love it – even more so when they win! Each year my team is responsible for delivering a positive customer experience to the thousands of gaming professionals who make their journey to ICE Totally Gaming from 100+ nations (in 2016 we recorded 28,487 visitors from 150 nations). In a lot of business organisations the focus is firmly on customer acquisition. Clearly, in ambitious and growing businesses attracting new customers is extremely important, however, acquisition should not be at the expense of retention, particularly if, as the marketing gurus inform us, it costs six times more money to recruit than it does to retain. There’s another aspect of the debate that we should www.bingolifemagazine.com

not overlook. Contented, loyal customers can be amongst the most powerful advocates that a brand can deploy. How many buying decisions have been influenced by the opinion and recommendation of a respected colleague? Certainly, the decision to come to London in February is driven by the fact that many thousands of people in the industry do likewise and have been doing so for many years. And how does a brand experience customer loyalty – it has to earn it. This means developing a relationship which is based on trust and respect. It means never attempting to swim against the tide of customer opinion, it means always attempting to exceed expectations by going the extra distance and it means ensuring that when things do go wrong – as they inevitably will on occasion, you move heaven and earth to put it right and, in the process, respect the relationship. After all, good customer service costs a lot less than bad customer service! ICE Totally Gaming, 7 – 9 February, ExCeL Centre, London. Tickets: icetotallygaming.com 5

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Mecca Bingo winner nets biggest digital jackpot for five years Mystery player hits the jackpot with over half a million win A Yorkshire bingo fan scooped Mecca Bingo’s biggest digital jackpot for over five years winning £648,527.13 with just a £6 stake, whilst playing at Meccabingo. com. The lucky York player placed a £6 stake on Meccabingo.com’s Mega Jackpots Isle O Plenty game, and didn’t realise straight away the full extent of their win. The whopping cash amount was won after matching the Mega Jackpot symbols followed by some lucky leprechaun magic in the Isle O Plenty free spins bonus. The lucky winner has been playing bingo with Mecca for ten years and is thrilled to have won Mecca’s biggest digital jackpot prize for over five years. Commenting on their plans for the money, the winner said: “I’m still in shock at winning such a huge sum of money and can’t believe it’s Mecca’s biggest digital prize

for over five years! “. “Meccabingo.com is my favourite site for playing bingo, it offers loads of fun, themed games and it allows you to play along with others.” Caroline Webb of Meccabingo.com, said: “We’re thrilled to be giving out our biggest ever digital jackpot for over five years, and so happy for our winning player that the cash prize will allow them to do so much.

Gala Bingo Worthing – Remade and Re-modeled opens its doors to members Gala Bingo Worthing held a re-launch party on Saturday 2nd July to celebrate the recent investment of nearly £200,000 in the club. The new look club which includes new furniture, new order diner and reception was officially opened by Mayor Cllr Sean McDonald on the afternoon of 2nd July. The Relaunch party was the same day as the local street party, where the whole community came together, with the road closed for two hours in the afternoon for the party to take place. On the day Gala gave away some fantastic special prizes, which customers old and new loved, including 32” flat screen televisions, kindles, tablets, giant teddies www.bingolifemagazine.com

and also that all important prize of a full year of free bingo! Mark Watts General Manger said “We were thrilled to be able to spend money reinvesting in our club and excited to share these new features with all our customers. We’re very much looking forward to many more party nights and promotions with customers in our new club, it demonstrates that Gala Bingo lead by example, through investing in clubs, making bingo a modern day leisure activty. 7


Gala Bingo Darlington: Opens Refurbished Club Gala Bingo Darlington held a re-launch party on Saturday 2nd July to celebrate the recent significant investment made in the club. The club has been fully re-decorated with new plush seating and carpets throughout. A new look Diner, which has introduced freshly prepared and cooked to order meals, with full table service throughout the club, for both hot and cold food, alcoholic and soft drinks is also in place. In addition to these changes the club has fully re-decorated toilet facilities and a new look smoking courtyard. The theme of the re-launch evening was Hollywood, with free gifts given to all customers on arrival and a fantastic array of prizes available to be won, including a wide screen television, cuddly toys, Kindles, Gala Gift Vouchers, VIP nights out and jewellery sets. Two customers also won a years’ worth of free bingo worth around £3000. The management and staff at the club were all dressed for the occasion in evening wear. The highlight of the day was when Margaret Turner cut the ribbon to officially launch the new look club. Bryan Maughan General Manger said “We are delighted the Company have made this significant investment in our club in Darlington, it demonstrates the ambitious and exciting growth plans in place with our new

investors Caledonia Investments, and shows their commitment to Gala Bingo. To be able to spend money on our club is fabulous and we are excited to share these new features with all of our customers.

Rank appoints new MDs for Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Leading leisure and gaming company, The Rank Group Plc, has appointed new MDs for Mecca and Grosvenor Casinos. Martin Pugh, previously MD for Mecca has moved to the position of MD for Grosvenor Casinos whilst Alan Morgan joins the company as MD for Mecca. Martin Pugh joined Rank in January 2015 having previously held a number of senior positions with leading brands in the UK including MD roles at Virgin Active Ltd and Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd. Alan Morgan joins Rank having held senior positions at Whitbread, David Lloyd Leisure and most recently as Chief Operating & Commercial Officer at the Spirit Pub Company. 8

Commenting on the appointments, Henry Birch, CEO, said, “Following the successful turnaround of the Mecca retail business, I am delighted that Martin will now be spearheading a drive within Grosvenor Casinos to grow the retail performance of our casinos business and to continue the exceptional growth that has been achieved in the digital channel. With his extensive experience in multi-site management, I am confident that Alan will be a valuable addition to the Rank Executive team and will lead the Mecca team to deliver the ambitious plans that we have for the business in the future.” Both appointments are with immediate effect.

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New Director of IT helps to shape future of Gala Bingo (Retail)

Friends Reunited! Mecca Brings Friends Together After 50 Years Two old friends have been reunited after fifty years apart, following a chance encounter at Mecca Southport. Childhood friends Annie Coffey and Marge Freeman first met each other whilst attending the same secondary school and became very good friends. They even got similar jobs together in local factories, with Marge working in a glove factory and Annie in a blouse factory. Marge and Annie were inseparable and loved spending their weekends together, particularly showing off their skills at the jive!

Gala Leisure, the UK’s largest operator of bingo clubs, have appointed Nick Mayes as their new IT Director, he will also join the Executive team. Nick has recently been working with the team and key stakeholders as a consultant and now takes this new position up starting with immediate effect. Nick brings with him a wealth of experience in IT Leadership and Business Transformation roles across the Leisure, Hospitality and Travel Sectors. Gala’s management team successfully concluded a management buyout backed by Caledonia investments earlier this year, and have developed exciting plans for the future. Simon Wykes, CEO of Gala Leisure said: “We are delighted to announce the appointment of Nick Mayes as IT Director at Gala . Nick joined us earlier this year as a consultant to work with the Board on their three year plan and we are pleased he has decided to join our Executive team in a permanent role. We see Nick’s appointment as key to the delivery of our Business Transformation which will be a step change in the UK Bingo market.”

The friends both started dating and eventually got married, and Annie moved away from Southport for a few years, whilst Marge stayed local and they unfortunately lost contact. That was until Marge came to play bingo at Mecca in Southport, and couldn’t believe it when she bumped into her old friend Annie for the first time in 50 years. The ladies were overjoyed to be reunited and have come to play bingo together regularly ever since. Annie said: “I was shocked to see Marge because I didn’t even realise she played bingo! Once we found each other again it was like we’d never been apart. We go to play bingo together every night now.” Brian Hennigan, manager at Mecca Southport, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have played a part in Marge and Annie’s reunion. “At Mecca Southport we have seen many new friendships flourish through playing bingo, but this is the first time we have seen two friends come together after such a long time apart. It’s great to see Marge and Annie spending time together again playing bingo.”

Nick Mayes, IT Director Gala Leisure , commented: “I’m very proud to join the business at this exciting stage and to be part of this dynamic management team.”

To attend a Mecca Club you do need to be aged 18 years or over and be a customer of Mecca Bingo. Joining is free of charge and you can sign-up at www. meccabingo.com or at the club.

www.bingolifemagazine.com 9













Everything you need for the beautiful game! To find out more visit bingo-association.co.uk or call +44 (0)1582 860921 or email info@bingo-association.co.uk


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Half page.pdf 1 22/9/2016 9:38:51

Venetian Macao 15-17 November 2016

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Gaming’s Giant Leap Forward C









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On Yer Bike for Variety Ritz Bingo first past the post

Castleford based Ritz bingo club are celebrating success after clinching the gold title in their cycling challenge to raise money for Variety, the Children’s Charity. A cycling trio took to the stage on two bikes donated by customers on Thursday evening (4th August) to see who could cycle the most miles in 105 minutes, after challenging its sister clubs to get on their bike. The live battle commenced during the main bingo session with clubs in Durham, Skegness, Mansfield and Tonypandy linking up to provide regular updates on the distance covered by each team.

Peter Sandford and Steve Evans

The event hosts won the challenge by half a mile, pedalling 77.8miles in 105minutes, narrowly beating the Majestic HR team who collectively cycled 77.3 miles. The team comprised of: • Steve the SNAIL Evans (team member) • Peter Pedro Sandford (General Manager) • Ben the destroyer Pitts, Operations Director (Majestic Bingo Limited) The club raised on the night £752.60 with another £70 outstanding to come in. Added onto last week’s figures the overall total for Ritz Castleford now stands at £4403.32 Peter Sandford, General Manager said “You cannot do too much for a great charity. It was such a good night and we’re delighted we won, even if it was by a whisker! A huge thank you to all who supported the evening and donated.” Ritz Bingo is one of 16 clubs owned by Majestic Bingo Limited. The company has collectively raised 81% against its £20,352 target to achieve by the end of September. Last night’s donations which are yet to be added to the total will be a welcome boost. Last year Majestic Bingo Limited proudly presented a cheque for £32,000 to the Bingo Association’s nominated charity, amounting to 15% of the total £250,000 raised across the industry. Mark Jepp Managing Director of Majestic Bingo, said: “Majestic Bingo were incredibly proud to have smashed our target last year which is testament to our fantastic team 12

Lynne Thomas, James Taylor and Sue Stevenson

and generous customers, an impressive result given the size of our organisation. We are hopeful we can do the same for 2016 year and have got off to a promising start. It’s great to see our clubs coming up with creative ideas to get staff and customer on board.” The Bingo Association which represents 98% of all retail bingo clubs has partnered with Variety, the Children’s Charity, with the aim of raising £500,000 over two years. Yolanda Lynes, Corporate Account Executive at Variety, said “Variety are thrilled with the continued support from Majestic Bingo, member clubs of The Bingo Association. Their fundraising efforts are outstanding and we can’t thank them enough. It is thanks to wonderful organisations such as Majestic Bingo, that Variety are able to continue to support sick, disabled, and disadvantaged children across the UK each day.” For more information and details of all Majestic Bingo clubs, please visit www.majesticbingo.com issue 023


Cowells Arrow appoints new Managing Director


owells Arrow, perhaps one of the most well known names in UK club bingo, appointed a new Managing Director in July this year, who is almost as well known in UK club bingo circles

Cowells, a subsidiary of the US based Arrow International Incorporated who are the world’s largest manufacturer of charitable and social gaming solutions, had been lead by Ennio Vettese for the past thirteen years: following Vettese’s decision to retire, Cowells needed to find and appoint a new Managing Director and selected Tony Lister, a name many will know and greatly associated with Mecca. Tony made the decision to move to Cowells after 29 years with Mecca Bingo, during which time he fulfilled many roles since joining in 1987 as a trainee manager in Hull; including club General Manager, Area Manager, New Product Development and ultimately Head of Gaming. In his 29 years at Mecca he has been responsible for the delivery of many innovative products and solutions, both in game play and technology. His understanding of the sector and passion for technology and innovation was a key motivator for him in deciding to join Cowells. Tony commented, “This is a great opportunity for me and a decision that was easy to make, despite leaving Mecca after 29 years during which time I have enjoyed every day. When combining my own innovative track record with a parent company that has the appetite and resources to support new initiatives the move became obvious.” Tony continues “Cowells already has many strengths; products, service, reliability and of course a fantastic and supportive customer base. My challenge is to build on these firm foundations whilst bringing new and innovative games and products to commercial bingo clubs for the benefit of operators and customers.” Arrow International has a huge range of products and resources already in place and as such Cowells UK has access to all that they provide. Tony joined Cowells on 4th July as Managing Director and is responsible for driving forward Cowells in the UK; creating and implementing the strategy for the UK operation through new markets, products and

services. Since joining Tony and has spent most of his time visiting clubs to introduce himself and to gather an understanding of the needs and wants from existing and prospective customers. Commenting on the appointment John Gallagher Jnr, President of Arrow International said, “We are very pleased and excited that Tony, with his wealth of experience and ideas, is joining Cowells Arrow. We are already a leading player in the UK bingo market and we see the addition of Tony to the team as an opportunity to move on even further.” A great many people in the industry know Tony after his 29 years with Mecca, during which time he served on the boards of both the National Bingo Game Association and The Bingo Association: it will be a new experience for many to meet Tony is his new role and capacity as MD of Cowells. His passionate belief in the future of retail bingo clubs is something that until July this year only Mecca had been able harness. Tony firmly believes that through suppliers and operators working together for mutual benefit, that together they can and will deliver what customers want, ensuring that club bingo remains part of the leisure landscape for a long time to come. www.cowellsarrow.co.uk

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Back to the business of gambling reform By Dan Waugh, Principal Consultant Regulus Partners


fter a tumultuous summer in British politics, the return of Parliament presages a return to business for HM Government – and perhaps the resolution of a number of issues in

gambling. The year 2016 has (so far) represented something of a hiatus in Government interest in the sector, with the absence of sports minister Tracey Crouch (on maternity leave between February and July) and Number 10’s focus on the EU referendum. With Crouch back (with a Rio bounce in her step) and Britain on its way out, the thorny issue of machine regulation seems likely to return to the table. 14

The review (when it starts) promises to be the most complex and involved yet - with the future of B2 machines set to dominate proceedings. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has been building up to this point for almost four years now – a period in which Derek Webb claims to have spent £2m of his personal wealth on research and lobbying. We can expect a thorough evidence-based submission from the Campaign as well as other more extreme pressure groups. The interval between reviews has also seen an expansion of insight into B2 machines and problem gambling – notably the two tranches of Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) funded research based upon player cards. The extent to which the RGT research issue 023

UPDATE: POLITICS has satisfied the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board’s (RGSB) 2013 call for more evidence may be critical. Last time around, the RGSB seemed to be leaning towards some form of intervention and it will be interesting to see how subsequent studies have swayed its view.

Machine maximum stakes and prizes growth rates 2001 - 2006 (CAGR) 50% 45% 40% 35% 30% Maximum Stake


Maximum Price


15% Then there is the likelihood that the official Government review 10% will be paralleled by a series of 5% hearings held by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed 0% Casino Odds Betting Terminals (B2 machines). These hearings kicked off just before recess and will presumably start up again once conference season is through. The broader political context of opposition to B2s includes one of the more popular Early Day Motions, the Bishop of St Albans’s Private Members Bill, DCMS negotiations with the Local Government Association and the start of limited regulatory devolution in Scotland.

Bingo Club

Meanwhile, the replacement of the sympathetic John Whittingdale as Secretary of State with Karen Bradley (lately of the Home Department) raises the risk level for gambling, particularly given recent allegations that violence against betting shop staff may be linked to disordered B2 play. Of course, the review will consider all sectors and machine categories. Casinos, which benefited handsomely in 2013 will presumably be looking to keep what they have (unless they can persuade DCMS to incorporate the question of machine numbers within the scope of review). The arcades trade body, BACTA appears to be aiming for some form of harmonization with betting shops based upon stake reduction in LBOs and stake increase in arcades. The bingo industry has so far kept its powder dry. It may be that operators are happy with the series of improvements to machine regulations over the last seven years. Certainly, it is the case that machine regulations are no longer the existential threat that they were in 2007 (when Section 21 machines were removed). It is also possible that bingo operators believe that any gains made by the arcade sector are likely to be shared with bingo (a logical but possibly dangerous assumption).

Betting Shop



It is worth noting that, of all the sectors, bingo clubs may have the best claim to a triennial windfall. The maximum prize on a machine in a bingo club (£500) is exactly where it was at the time of the Budd Report in 2001; while the maximum stake has increased from 50p to £2 (a compound growth rate of 10%). By contrast, betting shops and arcades have seen jackpot CAGR of 26% (to parity with bingo clubs) while casinos have benefited from a CAGR of 22% (to £20,000 linked progressive). On stake maximums, betting shops are up 47% CAGR (to £100); and casinos and arcades have increased 17% and 13% respectively. The Bingo Association has worked hard in recent years to focus its political-regulatory efforts on addressing those areas of Government oversight of greatest strategic importance to its members, modulating the intensity of engagement to meet the sector’s needs. The Triennial Review represents a conundrum for the Association: on the one hand, it will not wish to imperil its good standing with Government through frivolous requests for stake and prize enhancements (at a time when the tide of political opinion is moving against machine gambling); on the other, it is likely that operators will have to live with the review’s outcome until 2021 at the earliest. The 2016/17 Triennial Review is set to be the most hotly contested yet. Industry’s ability to articulate the consumer benefits (rather than profit imperatives) of any change while also addressing social concerns will be critical to success.

www.bingolifemagazine.com 15


Bingo Loves Variety The Bingo Association and its members have been hugely successful raising funds for Variety: the impact of 2015 fund raising is already being felt and 2016 is on course to be a record breaking year


embers of The Bingo Association have been showing fantastic support for their Charity Partner Variety, The Children’s Charity and are now in their second year. Having raised over £260,000 in their first year, since the start of 2016 members and their customers have been working hard to raise further funds and beat that figure. Many bingo clubs across the UK, including Gala, Mecca, Majestic and Carlton undertook key fundraising activity on the weekend of 2nd, 3rd and 4th September, with some activities having taken place earlier in the year, including the Gala Vs. Carlton Charity football match in June and Majestic Clubs’ cycling challenge in August. We will be reporting in full in the next issue of Bingo Life on all the great activities that took place across the country this year. Funds raised in 2015 are already being put to good use and are making a real difference to people’s lives. As well as helping Variety meet requests from individuals, the hard work of Association members has also allowed Variety to assist organisations. One of the first organisations to benefit was Gibside School in Wickham, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Pupils at the school range in age from 3 to 11 and have a wide range of learning difficulties, in addition to which some of the children have Autism Spectrum Condition and fifteen pupils are wheelchair users. Thanks to the funds raised by the Association and members, Variety was able to donate to the school a 13 seat coach, with tail16

lift. There are presently one hundred and ten children at the school, all of whom will benefit from the ‘Sunshine Coach’, which will be used daily during term time to move some classes between sites and for trips out into the local community. Variety supporter and TV personality Denise Welch joined The Bingo Association’s Chief Executive, Miles Baron, at the school in July, to deliver the new Variety Sunshine Coach to Gibside School. Denise said “I am very honoured to have been asked to present a Variety Sunshine coach. I have been a huge supporter of Variety for years and the amazing work they do for sick, disabled and disadvantaged children. I am a proud recipient of a Variety Silver Heart award and my dad Vin is also on the committee of the North East branch of Variety. I know that this Sunshine coach will make a massive difference to the lives of these children.” Throughout 2015 The Bingo Association’s £260,000 donation to Variety has also funded a number of individual grants including a sensory room at Highfurlong Special School, a wheelchair hoist, 100 Easter Eggs for deprived children and a new specialist wheelchair for 14 year old Andrew in Glasgow who has spinal muscular atrophy type 2, osteopenia and bone pain. You can get involved and follow activities with Variety on facebook/Instagram/Twitter @VarietyGB. We look forward to reporting on the all the great fundraising in the next issue. issue 023


The WhichBingo Awards 2016 Gala Bingo the big winners at this year’s online bingo Oscars


n Thursday 19th May 2016, the great and the good of the online bingo industry gathered at the world famous Madame Tussauds in London for the WhichBingo Awards 2016. Over 200 operators and software suppliers were in attendance making it the biggest and most extravagant awards yet. WhichBingo founder Phil Fraser and Commercial Director Simon Jones were on hand to present the awards, and a variety of industry guests came on stage to help announce the winners throughout. A total of 14 awards given out on the night, including six new categories for the best site on each of the major software platforms; Cozy Games, Dragonfish, Gamesys, Microgaming, Jumpman Gaming and Playtech. Representatives from each software supplier came on stage to hand out their awards. The first award of the evening went to the former Atomic Kitten star Kerry Katona, who accepted the Best New Online Bingo Site award for her ‘Bingo With Kerry’ brand which launched earlier in the year. There were gasps from the audience when she appeared on stage, much to the delight of the surprised guests who had no idea she would be attending. All of the awards were decided by over 13,500 player votes, with the exception of the new ‘Fair Play’ category, which was decided by an independent panel of judges which included representatives from GamCare, Senet Group, Gambling Integrity and the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling. This award aimed to recognise bingo operators who demonstrated the greatest commitment to responsible gambling and fair play across several key areas including player protection systems, ticket pricing, wagering requirements and withdrawal procedures. John Hagan, the Deputy Chairman of GamCare,

Angus Nisbet (Bingo Director), Adelle Kehoe and Craig Perry (Head of Operations)

All of the awards were decided by over 13,500 player votes, with the exception of the new ‘Fair Play’ category, which was decided by an independent panel of judges which included representatives from GamCare, Senet Group, Gambling Integrity and the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling.

www.bingolifemagazine.com 17


Industry leading data and insights from the UK’s #1 online bingo site.

Kerry Katona

• TV Ad Spend • SEO Visibility of Bingo Brands • Social Media & Online Bingo • Online Bingo Player Survey • Bingo Sites and Software • WhichBingo Award Winners • Industry Predictions

A total of 14 awards given out on the night, including six new categories for the best site on each of the major software platforms; Cozy Games, Dragonfish, Gamesys, Microgaming, Jumpman Gaming and Playtech. Representatives from each software supplier came on stage to hand out their awards presented the Award to the Unibet-owned Bingo.com.

Get your free copy of the WhichBingo Online Bingo Annual Report. Visit whichbingo.co.uk/reports

The judges felt that player protection was a big strength for Bingo.com, with the site being easy to navigate and responsible gambling information readily available. They also commented that the site demonstrated a good range of low stake games, the ability to set deposit limits by day, week or month, and the ability to selfexclude by product were particularly good. Gala Bingo was the biggest winner on the night. Not only did they win the award for Best Playtech Bingo Site, but they also scooped the most coveted awards of Best Online Bingo Site and Best Mobile Bingo Experience. A full list of winners, photos and video from the event can be found at http://www.whichbingo. co.uk/awards/winners/


issue 023


Self-Exclusion: sector wide Self-exclusion and social responsibility are hot topics in all sectors of the gambling industry. Despite the low occurrence of problem gambling behaviours in club bingo, the sector was determined to be one of the first to develop a system that helped operators to help players that may need assistance


arlier this year, a month in advance of it being a legal requirement, The Bingo Association flicked the switch on the Bingo Industry Selfexclusion Scheme: a sector-wide tool to help players voluntarily exclude themselves from licensed bingo premises and to help operators ensure those requests are managed and supported. But how and where does an organisation start the process? Bingo Life caught up with The Bingo Association and its sector-wide scheme. In 2014, various documents from, and discussions with, the Gambling Commission kept throwing up the phrases ‘self-exclusion’, ‘multiple site self-exclusion’ and ‘industry-wide’. It was quite clear in which direction things would start moving: the need for operators to assist players, who requested, self-exclusion from premises, either as a single venue, chain, or perhaps nationwide and equally, that technology was going to hold the key. As so much that the club bingo sector undertakes and manages makes use of IT, and with the majority of clubs using some kind of electronic membership system, the starting point needed to be an understanding of what was presently in place: in the hope that there would be a base level of IT throughout the industry on which to build and work. The Bingo Association was the logical party to undertake this assessment and it set about collecting information from members. While the results were not as poor as perhaps might have been anticipated, it was clear that whatever system was finally to be created, it would need to offer a range of options for access. The survey found that 14% of clubs did not have an electronic membership system and that within this group, systems used ranged from database packages, to spread sheets, to word files and paper based. Of the 86% that did have electronic membership systems, 83% were using a system that allowed them to bar a

Ashley Luwee - Door Supervisor, BJs Bingo in Kitts Green

customer and trigger an alert when that customer came into the club. The most popular system in place, by far, was MAXIM, by ISD. While levels of buy-in to MAXIM varied, it was clear that this was the most widely used. Hurdles such as club IT capability, PC access and good internet connections needed to be considered and as the system was to be used nationwide, it would also be essential that the criteria by which an individual was identified be consistent and accurate, to ensure that

www.bingolifemagazine.com 19


“It was quite clear in which direction things would start moving: the need for operators to assist players, upon request, to self-exclude from premises, either as a single venue, chain, or perhaps nationwide and equally, that technology was going to hold the key” the individual requesting self-exclusion was who they claimed to be, and that the correct individual record was tagged. Equally any system would need to place minimum demands on busy club staff, if implementation was to be effective. While the majority of premises had suitable PCs and internet access, a further challenge was those premises such a AGCs, that hold bingo licence but do not use a membership system. This particular issue, coupled with a requirement from the Gambling Commission, meant that images of excluded individuals also become obligatory for any system to be used. Rather than re-invent half a wheel, it made sense economically and technically to work with MAXIM’s developer ISD. MAXIM was already in place across more than fifty per cent of licensed premises and it had the key abilities required, namely to manage data securely, remotely and permit enquiries anonymously. In exploring development of MAXIM with ISD, it was also a key requirement that not only would any resulting system connect to MAXIM, but that it would, through API interfaces, connect to other key membership systems that were in place, provide a web-based interface and that ISD would make MAXIM available at a beneficial rate, to Association members who might wish to upgrade their own systems. With agreements in place and development work completed, system testing commenced in June 2015, with the system Live in March 2016. As a result of challenges in AGCs and non-membership based premises, a separate tablet based solution called smartEXCLUSION was developed by Howard Gant. This system is still part of the Bingo Industry SelfExclusion Scheme and allows customers to exclude in a defined geographical area. Putting the system live a full month before the required date set by the Gambling 20

Commission under revised LCCP requirements was a key target, as the Association wanted to ensure that the system worked to its standards, as well as those set by compliance requirements. Being able to provide members with such a key resource has been important to The Bingo Association, which represents both large and small operators. It is now six months since the Scheme launched, an appropriate length of time for reflections: we put some key questions to ISD’s Nick Winslade and Mecca Bingo’s Steve Smyth, Compliance Manager at The Rank Group: Nick, how did the system trials go? Very well to be honest, we began testing and integrating with operators from June 2015: a test server was setup to enable The Bingo Association and operators to have early sight of the development and give feedback. We are very grateful to operators for working with us at this important stage, particularly Gala, Mecca, BJ’s, Castle Leisure and Crown Bingo. How was the roll out of the system and what was the moment like when it all went live? The live server was online from January 2016 and the Association launched the Self-Exclusion Scheme in March to its members. From January to March the server was stress tested and continually monitored whilst we and a number of selected operators carried out further user testing. All in all the actual go-live was very straight forward, with no issues apart from support calls from operators who needed admin assistance. Also the roll out to our customers running our Maxim. NET membership and CRM application was completed weeks in advance of the launch date, so in essence all we needed to do was set the API (application programming interface) connection. Is the Scheme system separate to Maxim, or is this Scheme a hybrid of the Maxim Membership and development unique to the Scheme? Maxim is fully integrated with the Self-Exclusion Scheme via an API, this is an interface or tool if you like, that enables two or more separate applications, in this case Maxim and the Self-Exclusion Scheme system, to share data between them using a secure and robust method without the need for any user knowledge or intervention. So on that respect they are separate, with some common components and both share (have secure access to) data. When making a check in the SelfExclusion Scheme database, each operator is assigned a unique key to enable this checking process. New members’ details (club customers) entered at a club/site issue 023

FEATURE: NATIONAL SELF-EXCLUSION are checked against the entire Self-Exclusion Scheme database and Maxim or the club system will then inform the site/club if the new member details are clear to save and registered, or if there has been an exact match on the Scheme database, or a partial match found. We also developed an off-line option for the two largest operators to use. This was developed due to these operators having around 100 sites each and for all their devices to connect at the same time would have caused bandwidth issues internally for them. This option too has been taken up by a couple of smaller operators to use with an existing membership system. How easy is the Scheme to install and operate? Very easy, we take a lot of care and pride in our applications being as intuitive as possible. For Maxim venues or operators who have integrated their own Membership systems via the API the need to actually log into the Self-Exclusion Scheme system is not really a regular requirement, as the membership system can handle everything needed. In association with The Bingo Association we created a number of reference guides and training videos for venue staff to use. For those not familiar with the process could you explain how it works from a players’ standpoint? Where an operator has their membership system connected to the Bingo Industry Self-Exclusion Scheme there is no waiting as the check to The Bingo Association server takes less than a second to complete. The check uses key search information from the member entry form details or when a door entry kiosk carries out a check. To summarise the player’s journey as a new member, the details are entered to the new customer capture form within the membership system, the details are checked and a status returned. Equally where entry checks are made with existing members the membership system performs the same checks. When a match or partial match is detected, the system records this and the operator can then record an attempted breach after further checking with the patron is completed. For operators without a modern membership system the Self-Exclusion Scheme can be accessed using a web-based application, performing the same checks to ensure a potential new member is not already excluded at another operator. We also have a photo gallery within the Self-Exclusion Scheme system, where photos can be filtered by a number of different criteria to enable a visual check to be carried out.

What if a customer does not wish to visit the bingo premises to complete the self-exclusion form and be interviewed, can this be done either by telephone or online? The Bingo Association provide full details on their website for players, which explains the process in detail, but in order to complete player verification an individual will have to contact their club, either in person or over the telephone. Is there a set number of months or years for the selfexclusion and in that time can it be reviewed? The current minimum period for a self-exclusion is six months, this cannot be reduced and this is explained during the exclusion interview. A player can then return after six months, at which point there is another interview to attend before the re-instatement record is then marked as completed. Players wishing to extend an exclusion can do so. Keeping track of the Self-Exclusion database must involve a certain amount of joint responsibility by all the establishments who are signed up to the scheme. We continually monitor the database and any data issues reported to us or The Bingo Association are agreed quickly and dealt with. Being a national system everyone involved is jointly making this a very successful scheme: all operators know that data integrity and security is a key factor and have all bought into this.

“We also developed an offline option for the two largest operators to use. This was developed due to these operators having around 100 sites each and for all their devices to connect at the same time would have caused bandwidth issues internally for them” High Street venues self-exclude on a proximity basis using the SmartEXCLUSION tablet and API which will link to the database, is that system also implemented in Holiday Leisure Resort Parks? For the Scheme to be truly national there has to be a centralised system database, this of course is the one we developed for The Bingo Association. So for SmartEXCLUSION users they connect via the API we developed for the system, to enable sites using

www.bingolifemagazine.com 21


“The Bingo Industry SelfExclusion Scheme has seen a new Self-Exclusion Form introduced and the requirement for the problem gambler to have their picture taken. The agreement to have their photograph taken has been the biggest challenge as it is obviously a sensitive subject and customers can find the whole process embarrassing”

spoke to The Rank Group’s Compliance Manager, Steve Smyth and put some key questions about self exclusion and the Industry Scheme to him:

SmartEXCLUSION to access the Scheme System and be fully compliant. As holiday parks face the similar challenges as many high street venues the tablet based system is also an option for them.

Do you feel that it might not have been better for operators to create their own system add-on and then share rather than create a new centralized system? This is difficult to assess, but probably not: The Bingo Association represents almost ALL retail bingo operators and its neutrality in this matter made it the ideal driver for the scheme and has enabled all operators to work together without any data sharing issues arising. To my knowledge, all operators, regardless of the membership system that they use, have embraced the system.

The system must be extremely robust and secure in order that it can be able be accessed by hundreds of venues at the same time? Absolutely, the servers do get a bit of a hammering especially in the peak periods when door entry kiosks are running checks on all patrons swiping in on entry. We monitor the application server performance along with carrying out database tuning. To give you an idea of throughput, the system completes checks for all those operators on Maxim or using the API directly and since March, 394,981 customer checks have been made and door entry kiosks have checked 4 million visits to venues. Of the 4 million visits checked, 15 Self-Excluded customers were denied entry. Does the system have facial recognition? A Self-Exclusion cannot be added to the system without a photo, this is a mandatory requirement, but currently facial recognition is not a requirement: this would have a significant impact on site implementation and club entrance management. With such large customer volumes, you might expect that the larger operators, despite perhaps greater IT resource, would have issues with developing and implementing a self-exclusion scheme. As Nick Winslade acknowledges, the industry’s two largest operators were very much part of the process, bringing and sharing expertise, that through the Association allowed the industry to develop the Scheme. Bingo Life 22

How important has the development of an Industry wide scheme been for Mecca? Mecca welcomes the scheme as it provides customers that are experiencing gambling issues with a one-stop solution across the bingo industry. It also provides operators with reassurance that they are providing greater controls to protect the customer. Mecca has already seen examples where customers self-excluding from other bingo operators have subsequently tried to gain access to a Mecca club and entry has been denied. This is clearly a step in the right direction and an indication of how collaboration across bingo operators has a positive benefit for customers.

In linking into the scheme, across all Mecca sites – how have staff taken to the process? Employees have noticed very little difference, apart from the need to take a photograph of the customer, which has sometimes led to refusal. What staff training has been given on the system – how complicated did staff find it? For various IT related reasons, a decision was taken by Mecca not to automate the link between our membership system, the Bingo Industry Self-Exclusion database, and the Scheme. So, from a club perspective there has been minimal change. The Bingo Industry SelfExclusion Scheme has seen a new Self-Exclusion Form introduced and the requirement for the problem gambler to have their picture taken. The agreement to have their photograph taken has been the biggest challenge as it is obviously a sensitive subject and customers can find the whole process embarrassing. We have had several customers refusing to have their photograph taken which has resulted in the customer not being able to be processed on the Industry self-exclusion scheme, which may be interpreted as the customer not having fully bought into the self-exclusion process at that time. issue 023

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FEATURE: NATIONAL SELF-EXCLUSION What training have Mecca offered key staff in clubs on handling the sensitive issue of problem gambling? Mecca has provided an e-learning responsible gambling package to all customer-facing employees since before the implementation of the Gambling Act 2005 and provides key managerial employees with skills on how to approach customers. Employees reperform training on a regular basis. Mecca operates a bespoke membership system across its estate – how easy was the technical process to linking up? Very simple. As part of Rank, Mecca benefits from sharing a 24/7 control room with Grosvenor casinos. As a result, whenever a self-exclusion is generated (either by a Mecca club or a club run by a different operator), the notification is picked up centrally and processed. Whilst this is currently a manual process, it works well. The system has been live for over 6 months: how beneficial have Mecca clubs found it? All Mecca management recognise the value of the national industry wide scheme and know that it makes sense in trying to help protect customers. I believe all operators like the feeling that they now know that if

“In the first five months, approximately 40 customers active in Mecca clubs have opted to join the scheme by filling out the form at their local Mecca club. In addition to this, we have received notification via the industry scheme of a further 160 self-excluding people who are registered as Mecca customers (but not necessarily active) and more than 200 who have never registered as Mecca customers. The system is still bedding in, so it is difficult at this stage to determine whether the stats will remain consistent over a full year” 24

a customer excludes from them, the customer is not simply visiting a competitor down the road. What feedback have you had from players? At this time feedback has been anecdotal: some players claim they did not realise what they were signing up to and also some customers view the national scheme as a deterrent to self-exclude, as they worry about data sharing (particularly their photograph) and if they only ever visit one club, then they sometimes query why they should join the Scheme, as the see it as of no benefit to them. How many customers have opted into the scheme since it started and is this figure more or less the same as you might expect? In the first five months, approximately 40 customers active in Mecca clubs have opted to join the scheme by filling out the form at their local Mecca club. In addition to this, we have received notification via the industry scheme of a further 160 self-excluding people who are registered as Mecca customers (but not necessarily active) and more than 200 who have never registered as Mecca customers. The system is still bedding in, so it is difficult at this stage to determine whether the stats will remain consistent over a full year. Once a full year’s data is available, it will be necessary to analyse this and establish the level of duplicate self-exclusions that used to get reported to the Gambling Commission. Support of the Scheme by the Association’s members has been key to getting it live and remains key to the integrity of the system’s data. At the half-year mark, results are very positive, both in respect of operators’ buy-in to the Scheme and the relatively low level of player registrations. To date there have been 441 selfexclusion registrations: 268 from retail (club) premises and 173 from bingo extra (high street) premises, and 15 attempted customer breaches. These levels are broadly inline with the RGT and Industry Research. What is clear is that the industry wide Scheme is fully supported and will for the first time accurately record self-exclusions at a national level: giving a very clear picture that will be invaluable in informing and helping to shape future policy in this area.

issue 023


The National Bingo Game at 30 – Happy Birthday As the National Bingo Game prepares to celebrate its 30th Birthday – we look back to the start and at celebratory promotions and plans

www.bingolifemagazine.com 25



he National Bingo Game Association (NBGA) was formed in February 1986 and the first National Bingo Game played in June that year – a little over 30 years ago!

Currently the game is played twice a day, 364 days a year, with a well-known logo and supporting product range of linked MCB games. But it was not always the case. Since its initial launch back in 1986 the game and its branding have been through a number of evolutions, but as they say, things were much simpler then… In 1986, when the game was launched, the Gaming Act 1968 was still in force, there was no internet, no online anything and the Budd Report, that gave rise to the Gambling Act 2005 was not even on the horizon. In fact the National Bingo Game was on the frontier of bingo, requiring new legislation to make the game possible, with the enactment of The Bingo Act – allowing a ‘multiple game’ of bingo to be played across different licensed premises. The Game launched with a very simple logo and at first was only played once a week. The game quickly became popular and for many players has remained a popular game and always the #1 to win. Now in its thirtieth year, the National Bingo Game is running a range of celebratory games and promotions in participating venues throughout the remainder of 2016: • The month of September sees ALL Winners, of all main stage bingo games, receive a FREE voucher to play special free in-club games on Saturday 8th October – with £1,000 prize offered in each club • The First Sunday of the month in September, October, November and December sees the National Prize on the evening National Bingo Game guaranteed at £30,000 • National Bingo Week - Monday 14th Nov – Sunday 20th Nov, 3 is a magic number: Lucky STAR........................................................£300 Call on 47 numbers or less, extra.....................£3,000 National Prize: Every Evening and Saturday afternoon...........£30,000 Every afternoon – as advertised (except Sat) House Prize and Jackpot Prize, as advertised

Logos: The 80’s The 90’s

The 00’s

30 Years of Winners • Over 2.5 million winners of Club Prizes • Over £1.1 billion in National Prizes • Over £700 million in Club Prizes • Over 125,000 winners of National Prizes

Since 2014 and the introduction of Jackpots and experiences: • 50 Jackpot Winners • Sharing over £9 million in Jackpot Prizes • 389 VIP Cruise Winners • 110 Grand National Winners • 150 VIP London Calling Winners • 1,100 LUCKY Star Winners

• The First Sunday of the month in September, October, November and December sees the Game Prize on the evening National LIVE Game guaranteed at £30,000


issue 023


It’s All About Balance Bingo Life meets Angela Brient, the National Bingo Games mistress of the ledger


ngela is perhaps one of the more well known names working at the National Bingo Game Assocaiton offices: casting her eyes over the ledgers for the National Bingo Game, Meeron and The Bingo Association, she may have chased you for payment or, if you where lucky, sent you a payment. Angela was born not too far from where she currently lives nor the office: a few junctions south on the M1 in Hemel Hempstead, with the good fortune to grow up in Pimlico. Not the Pimlico in London, of Ealing Comedy fame, but a small hamlet in the local Parish of Abbot’s Langley. Schooling was also local, a short journey away in Garston, Watford, at the Francis Combe School, which these days has evolved into the Francis Combe Academy. www.bingolifemagazine.com 27

FEATURE: ANGELA BRIENT to Dunstable – not a huge move geographically, but important, as shortly after that I applied to work in the HR department for Barclay’s Regional Office, which was in Luton.” “It was while working at Barclay’s Regional Office in 1993 that I became pregnant with my eldest son: maternity leave was quickly followed by a transfer to Barclay’s Dunstable Branch and luckily with a move to a part-time role. This made things much easier and enabled me to have my second child in 1997. While I was pregnant with my youngest, the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy arose, so I accepted.” “After 21 years I felt I needed a change and was fortunate to be able to take a little time out. With both sons at school I had more free time and worked in a number of part-time roles before I started working, on a part-time basis for National Bingo Game Association in January 1997. As the boys grew up my role was gradually expanded to full-time post and I will have been here 20 years this January. I am not sure where the time went!”

“It was while working at Barclay’s Regional Office in 1993 that I became pregnant with my eldest son: maternity leave was quickly followed by a transfer to Barclay’s Dunstable Branch and luckily with a move to a part-time role. This made things much easier and enabled me to have my second child in 1997. “When I was at school I actually wanted to work with animals: accounting was not in my plans. I wanted to get into the world of work and had a part-time job while at school, working in the local department store, Cawddells in Watford.” Determined to get out to work, but encouraged to find a secure and sensible job, Angela applied to Barclay’s Bank, to work in their Watford Branch, the start of what was to be 21 years in retail banking. Angela continued, “I was accepted and started working for them in Watford, but was transferred not long after I joined to the Berkhamsted Branch. It was while working in Berkhamsted in1982 that I decide to relocate 28

Job longevity with a single company is far less common than it was in the past and there are not many people who can claim 20 years’ service in most industries. That said, it is not uncommon in bingo circles and Angela joins a select group who can claim exceptional length of service. “I have always enjoyed my work, as the job is more varied than many might at first think, and it also flexes across National Bingo Game, Meeron and The Bingo Association. During my time at the NBGA there have been quite a large number of changes: technology, legislation, club facilities have all changed substantially since 1997. But, I think I am lucky to work in a small friendly team, that while it has changed as members of staff have left or retired and new ones joined, it has always remained friendly and fun.” “Outside of work I have two grown up sons, the eldest of which left home a couple of years ago, but my youngest is still at home with me in Dunstable. While I never made it to have a career with animals I do have pets: a cat, and this summer got a puppy, who is keeping me busy. I am a firm fan of DIY and gardening, which with the new puppy is probably just as well! It may surprise some, but I do also occasionally go to bingo and my bingo buddy is Jill, who used to work here at the National Bingo Game: rather than being a bus-man’s holiday, it is good fun and a great chance for Jill and me to catch up.” issue 023


Mike Watret, Operations Director, Carlton Clubs Ltd

Hospitality beyond borders Mike Watret, Operations Director, Carlton Clubs catches up with Peter White What is the history of Carlton Club’s Mike? Like many other bingo operators, Carlton Clubs Plc evolved from the decreasing popularity of cinema in the 1960’s. Previously operated as CAC (Caledonian Associated Cinemas) the company was the largest Scottish independent cinema operator, based in Inverness and with theatres across all of Scotland including many islands. A management buy in by the current owners in 1998 led to the company rebranding to Carlton Bingo which remains the largest independent operator of bingo clubs in Scotland whilst also operating two clubs in North East England. The company employs 300 individuals and operates from a registered office in the traditional home city of Inverness and an operations office in Stirling, Central Scotland. What has been the approach employed by the head

office to the 18 clubs across Scotland and England? Centralisation, often characterised as the one size fits all or local, with each operation incorporating their own individuality that’s often founded on the club’s locality and the community it serves? We operate with a blend of both. Club Managers are responsible for all local club decision making whilst getting behind centrally driven company promotions and marketing. We believe each club knows its own customers best, particularly given the geographical distance between clubs from Fraserburgh in the north to Hartlepool in the south. What was the course of your career progression that lead you into the Leisure Entertainment industry? Like many others I worked part time at a bingo club

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FEATURE: CARLTON BINGO establishments. For anyone considering a career in the Leisure and entertainment industry what would you say are amongst the key qualities for success in this employment sector? Like people, love customers. Flexible working approach, desire to get results and ability to innovate. Carlton Clubs Plc has gained a reputation, as having a friendly working environment, which must be very satisfying for the company? With all clubs concentrated in the north, the company remains at a size where there is a family feel about the place and we operate on an informal basis. We have some fantastic staff and some great length of service in the company which is celebrated at 10, 20 and 30 year intervals.

whilst at university and loved it instantly! I started with Carlton in 1991 before enjoying 19 years with Gala Bingo in various job roles and returned to Carlton in 2012. All of my time in the industry has been weighted to operations. What do you consider are amongst the most satisfying and rewarding aspects of your role as Operations Director? We are privileged to work in a fantastic industry. It has been beset with numerous, significant challenges over the last 25 years and, in particular, the last decade. When things go according to plan there is a great sense of achievement and I think the most rewarding aspect over the last few years has been the ability for the industry to steer a route through a challenging economic and legislative environment. When not at work have you’re a favourite pastime or hobby? Football. I am a season ticket holder and shareholder at Queen of the South football club. Bingo Life is a freely available publication online and App which has a readership that extends beyond its target market that involves patrons of Bingo 30

How has this year been going so far with Carlton Clubs Variety fund raising? Over the last 18 months all clubs have engaged in lots of different activities supported by some very generous Carlton customers. Our highlight each year is an arranged 11 aside football game between Carlton and Gala which has raised over £20,000 for charity over the three fixtures that have taken place. I am pleased to say Carlton currently lead this series by 2 to 1!!! In 2015, Carlton also ran an invitational golf challenge which was well represented by industry operators and suppliers. Proceeds from the Golf Challenge contributed to our company’s total donation to Variety and we will be running the event again this year. Can you explain a little more about how Carlton Bingo has evolved over recent years? The contracting bingo industry has become more settled in the last 18 months and particularly since the government reduced levels of Bingo duty following a great campaign led by the Bingo Association. Carlton continues to invest in building infrastructure and in the last two years has invested significant amounts of capital expenditure in modernising the machine estate, building external gaming / smoking areas for customers and minor club internal upgrades. In the year ahead we plan to spend £500,000 upgrading one of our central Scotland sites. We are always on the lookout for new development opportunities Do you think the style and format of land-based Bingo venues are likely to change in the future due to the rise of online gaming through the internet and smart phone app’s? Absolutely. You could argue that the format of venues is always changing to keep pace with change. It is issue 023


clear that the bingo club of the future needs a smaller footprint and is geared to adapting to developing technology. Customer accounts/wallets, food and drink, the potential advent of direct debit payment, TITO technology – all of these drive changes to the venue layout and the way in which bingo is delivered to its customers. Technology plays such an important part in our lives and it has certainly affected our leisure time. How has it affected the offering within your Bingo establishments? The key change in the last 10 years remains advances in electronic bingo terminals. In equal measures these have helped the industry develop during difficult times by maintaining prize boards and income levels and by helping to keep entry level pricing low. It is clear too, however, that EBTs have also alienated some traditional players and, at Carlton, we are mindful of this in how we present our electronic offering to players. What is the split overall would you say across all eighteen Bingo establishments between traditional play paper, and play on electronic tablets? Carlton continue to restrict the numbers of tickets available electronically together with the numbers of packages available on sale. We take a conservative approach here, mindful that our customers levels of disposable income have come under increased pressure in recent years coupled with our social responsibility obligations. We continue to have two businesses who trade successfully without electronic terminals, one of which has grown its admissions consecutively for the last 4 years. In the remaining clubs, 1 in 3 customers plays using electronic terminals and generate 50% of club ticket sales. It’s all about finding the right balance for each individual club.

Promotions and incentives are an important mix for patron loyalty. What are the provisions like at Carlton Bingo for as far as prizes and rewards for patrons and are they linked into the Online Bingo Website www. carltonbingo.com? Carlton’s land based and online business are managed separately with offers designated for respective players. Promotions and incentives remain a central plank of our marketing efforts. There is a combined company approach (one off special bingo deals, added value sessions, bigger linked prizes) together with individual club manager monthly plans which include datal promotions, regular monthly promotions and discounted sessions. Promotional autonomy remains key for the Carlton local club manager in ensuring we match the right incentive with the right customer. 31


Connected Entertainment Bingo Life catches up with Tony Eyre, Commercial Director at Connected Entertainment the past year and year ahead So Tony, tell us about the last twelve months at Connected Entertainment? It’s been a hectic period that’s for sure. We’ve further increased our penetration into the holiday park sector, signing up some major new customers. We’ve also made some major inroads into commercial bingo, AGC’s and the pub sectors. On top of this, we’ve had the ongoing product development roadmap which we are pursuing. We take the view that the product may be the ‘best of breed’, but it’s only going to stay that way if we continually improve and develop it. This may be through our own innovations, or by listening to customer feedback. Either way, it’s keeping us and the team at Connected and NRM very busy. Jigsaw is one of your main products, what does it do? The Jigsaw entertainment system is already best of breed in terms of supplying a range of entertainment products on one fully connected platform. It has become the de-facto standard in entertainment systems for retail leisure venues, Pete Stedman of Parkdean Resorts, a key client summed it up nicely when we were recently with him: “Jigsaw is a ‘one stop shop’ entertainment system ideally suited to the entertainment and hospitality industry. Jigsaw is used extensively across our parks as ‘the’ source of Music, Karaoke, venue advertising and entertainment content such as staged games, quizzes and gaming events including Linked bingo, video horse racing and bingo beats. The system is particularly valuable for us on smaller holiday parks, where you have fewer entertainment staff: as a tool it ticks all the boxes of what an Entertainment Manager needs to support their entertainment programme.” So, who is Jigsaw aimed at, is it exclusively a holiday park solution? Jigsaw is aimed at anyone really who needs background music, karaoke, multi participatory games, and of course bingo – or any mix of these products. We supply to holiday parks, commercial bingo clubs, AGC’s, LBOs, and retail pub venues. Although holiday parks have been a major success for us, Jigsaw is now gaining some good traction with commercial bingo clubs, as it provides more fun and greater diversity within the bingo 32

Tony Eyre Commercial Director, Connected Entertainment Ltd

environment. It was this diversity that attracted Shipley’s to the product, who see it as offering better engagement with their customers: providing additional reasons to visit venues or just improving the visitor experience. With the support of Michael Shipley it has been installed into some of their commercial Bingo Clubs and AGC’s, both of which have found it delivers, offering an all important positive point of difference for their venues and customers.” What do you mean by ‘connected’? All of the Jigsaw terminals at customer locations are connected (over a secure broadband connection) back to our central servers. This means we can download the latest music including pre-releases, and karaoke tracks as they become available, keeping the Customer’s music offering relevant and right up to date. We pride ourselves in keeping our clients’ Jigsaw units loaded with the latest tracks, and we also produce our own playlists and DJ mixes tailored to specific customer needs and venues. We also use that connectivity to offer linked bingo games: this offers commercial bingo venues (including holiday parks) the ability to link together and pool prize money, in order to play for larger prizes. This has been particularly important for our holiday park customers, issue 023

FEATURE: JIGSAW such as Park Holidays, who use this to full effect, enabling their sites to offer a wide range of first class entertainment products through Jigsaw. The downloadable music content has been really important to Park Holidays, as it allows their Music and Karaoke content to be kept right up to date; the Bingo and Linked Bingo feature is easy to use, and links sites together, to play Wide Area Bingo Games. The result: a compelling and successful product that entertains customers benefits the business. Just how much music can Jigsaw store? “By partnering with one of the UK’s largest music content providers, Jigsaw is able to offer media from a digital library of over one million tracks: when you think about it, that’s huge. Each Jigsaw terminal typically stores 15,000 music audio tracks, almost 5,000 music videos and 8,000 karaoke tracks, with the relevant song sheets. Our customers regularly comment on our range and choice of tracks. In addition to the music media, Jigsaw also offers multi-participatory games, with an ever growing range of games to choose from. And what about customer views? We are constantly seeking product feedback from

clients, as not only does this help improve relationships, but also product evolution and development. Mark Jepp of Majestic Bingo, Martin Lagar of ParkDean, Simon Coombes of Praesepe and Michael Shipley of Shipley’s Leisure, to name but a few, have all been impressed by the product and given very supportive and complimentary comment. Finally, what about the future. Where is Jigsaw going? There are some really exciting developments planned for Jigsaw in the coming months. For example, we are field trialing a new digital quiz product, which is showing some great results and we have an ambitious roadmap of further enhancements and new features, which will be revealed in the coming months. Jigsaw has revolutionized the retail entertainment space since it was launched just over two years ago, so anyone looking for new ideas for their commercial venues should get in touch to explore what changes Jigsaw could deliver for them. Jigsaw is available from Connected Entertainment: Connected Entertainment: T:01482 467038 www.connectedentertainment.co.uk

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Bingo: a valuable public service Iain Corby, Director of Operations and Development, Responsible Gambling Trust chats to Peter White Could we start with a brief description of RGT, from its original formation to present day? RGT is a relatively small charity, focused on commissioning research, education and treatment services (RET) to tackle gambling-related harm. The idea of a voluntary system to provide for RET was first proposed in the Budd Report, a wide-ranging review of gambling laws and the regulatory structure surrounding it, undertaken in 2001. Since then, the gambling industry has demonstrated its commitment to look after the minority of people who suffer negatively from its products through various mechanisms. The current system has been in place since 2012, when RGT was established, to work in close partnership with the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board and the Gambling Commission. How is RGT funded? RGT asks all operators licensed by the Gambling Commission to contribute 0.1% of their Gross Gambling 34

Yield (GGY - the difference between the amount staked, and the amount returned as winnings, before the costs of operating the business in question). The industry reported GGY of £12.6bn in the year to last September, which means RGT could potentially raise £12.6m a year. Last year, we actually raised £7.7m, which is a solid total, but our goal is to move closer to the full amount in line with the industry’s rapidly growing turnover. Can you briefly summarise your career to this point? I have a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, which left me thoroughly ill-equipped for my first job on the Barclays graduate training programme, but rather better prepared for the twelve years I then spent as a management consultant running projects in the public sector for Deloitte. My degree was arguably more useful during the six years I led a team of parliamentary researchers, and I am waiting to see if it helps with my work at RGT! issue 023

FEATURE: RGT’S IAN CORBY Your title is Director of Operations and Development, Define the role. RGT is a very small charity in terms of its staff – before I joined there was a Chief Executive (Marc Etches), two directors attending to fundraising and commissioning treatment services and two other staff. With the increasing demands placed on RGT by its stakeholders, there was a need to provide some more capacity so two additional posts were created last year – my role and that of an Operations Manager. This has given us additional capacity to manage our burgeoning research programme, as well as investing more time in our education programmes, particularly promoting GambleAware, and more active commissioning and support to our treatment services. What are the main challenges for RGT at this time? I’m hoping that one key challenge is behind us. RGT had suffered repeated criticism that because its funding came from the industry, its research could not be trusted. This culminated in complaints to the Charity Commission, which then reviewed our set-up in great detail to determine if these concerns were valid. We carefully exclude the minority of our trustees who have links to the industry from any decisions about our research programme. Those and other safeguards led to the Charity Commission judging that the complaints were “unsubstantiated” and RGT “managed conflicts of interests effectively”. So now we can get on with our primary role – helping individuals and their families, deepening our understanding and minimising the impact of gamblingrelated harm. We also want to demonstrate the effectiveness and value of the work that we do, to the Gambling Commission, RGSB and gambling industry, to secure the future donations required to meet our challenging funding targets. What is the opinion of the RGT to the proactive approach of the Bingo Association and its members with their Self Exclusion scheme? Bingo has been one of the leading sectors in developing a national self-exclusion scheme. We’re delighted to have been invited to commission an independent review of the effectiveness of that scheme. This is the sort of thing we love to do as it is by far the best way to identify existing best practice, opportunities for improvement, and give players, regulators and other stakeholders confidence that the Bingo sector is committed to and delivering a safe, enjoyable environment for its customers. We’re pleased that the Bingo Association has gone further than this, inviting us to commission a wider review

of the risks associated with the sector. We published a rigorous report by Ipsos MORI on 28th of July, which we believe will provide a firm foundation for the development of further player protection measures for all those who go along to the Bingo. Does RGT research on methods of treating gambling addition from other countries? There is a relatively small number of researchers who specialise in gambling issues, so we make full use of those based overseas as well as our domestic experts. All our research is reviewed by our Independent Research Oversight Panel – a team of the world’s leading experts in this field. How many charities do you support in the Gambling industry and does the role of RGT with each organisation stop once contributions are made? We have three primary recipients of our funding: GamCare which runs the National Gambling Helpline; the National Problem Gambling Clinic which is run in partnership with the NHS; and the Gordon Moody Association which offers residential services. In addition to providing counselling itself, GamCare also passes on our funding to 15 regional partners who provide face-to-face counselling right across Great Britain. We are an active commissioning body so our grants are made on the condition we can supervise the quality and efficiency of the services we support. A recent innovation is a standardised reporting framework, allowing us to track progress of every person who asks our treatment providers for help. We will be publishing this data to demonstrate our effectiveness, and to keep ourselves focused on improving it. Do you see social media providing an increasing level of assistance? The biggest concern we have is not the availability of treatment – we’re committed to meeting whatever the demand is – but rather the visibility of it. Too many people do not know where to turn for help if they or someone they know may have a gambling problem. We did some research suggesting about a third of the population had heard of the GambleAware website, but we want to improve that dramatically. Social media channels can play an important part in raising awareness, but we also need to adapt to changing social trends, catering to those who feel more comfortable accessing our services online. GamCare has developed an online chat advice service to ensure people can access web-based counselling. We also want those to whom people turn in a crisis, such as GPs, debt counsellors and housing officers to know that help is available, and be able to spot those who need it.

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FEATURE: RGT’S IAN CORBY The Gambling industry is tuned in to the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility, however do you think there is more that the industry can do? I’ve never worked in the gambling industry but I have picked up from many people I’ve met over the past year that there is a real sense that the industry now “gets it”. Certainly at senior levels, right up to the Board, the leaders across all sectors appreciate that it is not just about complying with regulations and avoiding fines, but rather that social responsibility is at the core of a sustainable business model. Frankly, someone who regularly enjoys an affordable “leisure spend” on gambling for their entire adult life is far more valuable to a business than the people we end up trying to help. Where there is more to do is in training frontline staff to not only know how to spot and help someone who might be getting themselves into difficulties, but also ensuring they feel confident and supported in doing so. All forms of gambling carry a risk that they will harm some individuals – but vigilance and proactive interventions should be able to come close to eradicating that altogether. What is RGT stance on current situation where there is no support for problem gamblers with gaining any treatment from the NHS? We are working extremely hard to persuade government as a whole – not just the NHS but also local authorities – that gambling-related harm is a public health issue. We believe the industry is fully committed to treating people with only a gambling problem. But we find many of those who ask us for help have other conditions, both mental and physical, and these so-called co-morbidities need more complex care than we can effectively provide. We know Ministers – in particular Tracey Crouch, the Minister responsible for gambling in DCMS, are committed to dealing with this, and we are doing what we can to help them. In particular, we’ve asked a think-tank to do some analysis of the cost to the government of gambling-related harm, so it can see the business case for doing more to help those in need. Media particularly commercial television has and continues to be a major benefactor of advertising and sponsorship from the betting industry do you foresee contributions from that sector in the future? Absolutely. Revenues from gambling advertising are considerable and we believe all those who profit from the industry, directly or indirectly, should play their part in looking after those it harms. I know there has been some debate about whether advertising should continue to be permitted prior to the 9pm watershed for certain forms of gambling or around the live sporting events it supports. Making a contribution to the work we do to prevent 36

gambling-related harm may well be perceived positively as a commitment by commercial television to acting responsibly when this issue is considered. What are amongst RGT’s main goals over the next 12 to 18 months? We’re about to publish a new five-year strategy which will give a detailed answer to this question. But personally, I want to raise the profile of GambleAware so anyone who knows someone with a problem is ready to point them towards that website. We want to deliver better treatment to more people and do so more cost efficiently – we won’t ask the industry for more funding unless we are confident we are spending what they give us already just as efficiently as those companies spend their own money. With regards to raising awareness of GambleAware would for example that include websites such our sister magazines www.casinolifemagazine.com that has allot of traffic from the general public in the UK as well as World Wide, but from a UK perspective should we have a GambleAware linked banner, which if so does that means that there are probably allot of websites that probably also should have the linked as diverse as healthcare and Sports? Our first priority is to persuade all licensed operators to give prominence to the GambleAware logo on their websites and in other communications. At the moment, on too many sites, this logo is lost amongst a collection of others, not clearly standing out. But we would certainly like more websites to carry the logo and details of how to request our permission to do so are available on the Responsible Gambling Trust. This is open to any organisations which would like to help promote it, not just those holding gambling licences or which donate to RGT. Have you anything else you would like to add? As I’ve said, I’m new to this industry. I admire the genuine commitment the industry makes to dealing with any negative impacts it creates, allowing it to provide a lot of enjoyment safely to a huge number of people. When I think of Bingo, I am most struck by the companionship, care and happiness it provides, in particular to its more mature customers. In the thick of winter when we know some pensioners are worried about their gas bills, simply providing a warm place to spend the day is a huge community service. When you add the mental health benefits of regular interaction with someone other than the home-help, and the fact you’ll be missed if you don’t show up when expected, I think it’s clear Bingo provides a really valuable public service. And of course, for the younger generation, it can be a great night out too! issue 023

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Bingo Life Autumn 2016  

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Bingo Life Autumn 2016  

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