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BINGOLife Autumn 2017 - Issue 25


VARIETY On target and counting






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

Production Design - Stewart Hyde stewart@totaldesignworks.com www.totaldesignworks.com Webmaster and IT - Sudip Banjaree sb@ace123.com

Welcome to the Summer 2017 issue of Bingo Life and our apologies for the longer than usual time between issues: we have revised our publication schedule and will now be seasonal. We hope that you enjoy the issue and look forward to sharing news and stories with you in our next issue. If there is an idea or topic that you wish to share then be sure to let us know. Enjoy the remainder of Summer 2017!

ExCeL, London 6-8 February 2018

Sales and Marketing Subscriptions - Helen Holmes subs@ace123.com Publisher - Peter White Tel: +44 (0) 1892 740869 Mob: +44 (0) 7973 273714 pwhite@ace123.com

A passport to

For more information on gaming’s utopia visit: icetotallygaming.com




Contents 1

Welcome to Bingo Life Autumn 2017 Miles Baron


Editor Foreword Miles Baron


News Round Up


13 Echoes of Black September remind us to put the customer first By Dan Waugh, Regulus Partners


14 Leading the way Bingo Life chats to Simon Shaw, Chief Retail Officer, Gala Bingo 17 Getting Creative at Shipley Creative 20 Let’s talk about Responsible Gambling 22 Bingo Loves Variety: on target and counting 25 Paradice Found! Bingo Life chats to Kate Chambers, Managing Director, Clarion Gaming 28 Majestic Integration Mark Jepp of Majestic discusses the challenges of integration


34 Club 3000 and their new marketing campaign Bingo Life spoke to Seda Supurgeci and Joss Bibby from Crab Creative

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 Premier Print Group Ltd

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Chief Executive’s Foreword


he Bingo Association has just concluded its Annual Industry report for retail bingo clubs which shows that 2016 really was a year of two halves: the first six months showed a small growth in volumes for many operators, but coincidentally around the Brexit vote, volumes went into gentle decline in the second half of the year. In early 2017 this trend continued only to start to recover again in July of this year.

Miles Baron, Chief Executive, The Bingo Association

The number of licensed bingo clubs fell by nine to 355 in 2016, however despite this, 2016 revenues increased year on year and the licensed bingo industry still contributed £206m to public revenues, level with the previous year. Significantly, capital expenditure increased by 68% on the previous year, as the industry looked to invest and diversify in the face of trading challenges. Mecca Bingo launched their new ‘Luda’ concept in Walsall in August, with two other locations to follow quickly in Leeds and Weston Super Mare. You can read more about this new high street Bingo concept, a great example of investment and diversification, later in this issue. Meanwhile, the core estate has seen major modernisation schemes at Gala Bingo in Kingsbury, Carlton Bingo in Stirling and Castle Bingo in Neath to name but three. Like most gambling Trade Associations, The Bingo Association awaits the DCMS’ response to the Call for Evidence on gaming machines which took place at the end of 2016, if only so that the industry can move on from this fractious debate. Equally important to The Bingo Association as stakes and prize levels on gaming machines, is the consumer-led charge towards alternative payment methods, such as contactless. Currently this is not permitted on gaming machines and the bingo industry is keen to see this capability enabled. Anyone bearing witness to the change to the new £1 coin will doubtless agree with the benefits of moving toward a cashless environment! The gambling industry is united in its support of social responsibility and responsible gambling and through the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) this October will see the first national Responsible Gambling Week take place. The Bingo Association is www.bingolifemagazine.com

fully committed to this important initiative and you can discover more detail about the week on page ** of this issue of Bingo Life. The Bingo Association’s support for Variety The Children’s Charity, now in its third year, goes from strength to strength: Majestic Bingo have recently announced raising over £100k over three years and Gala Bingo are looking to smash their contribution target with a special charity game in 2017. The Bingo Association is currently planning attendance once again at next year’s ICE: The Bingo Pavilion at this year’s show was a great success and we will be looking to expand the profile of The Pavilion and attending supporters at the 2018 show. I look forward to seeing all our members and suppliers at this annual event particularly at the popular complimentary bar held on the Wednesday Eve!! Many thanks. Miles 3

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All aboard – Rocky has the balls to provide a free mini bus for the community Rocky Richmond, Beacon Bingo’s general manager, launched a free bus service in Redcar to help customers travel to and from the Esplanade venue, due to the lack of public transport services in the town after 6pm. The free bus service is now available every evening, and the route begins on Liverton Mines, at Pierson Garage and includes nine stops before the Beacon Bingo hall. The return journey leaves after the evening bingo session has finished at 9:20pm. Rocky, said: “Some of our customers found it quite difficult to get to and from the evening games, and we really wanted to do something to help. So when the idea of this free mini bus service came up, we knew we had to go with it!” Jillian Smith, Beacon Bingo Redcar regular, said: “As I don’t drive, and public transport is so scarce in the evenings, I always struggled to get to some of the

evening games. Having this service is an unbelievable help for me as it means I am able to get to the bingo and back home with no problem!” And there can be little doubt that Beacon Bingo’s mini bus service will make a local star of Rocky – his smiling face is plastered across the side of the mini bus, with the legend, “Rocky Richmond has the biggest balls in Redcar” emblazoned beneath. “I wasn’t too sure about the idea at first,” said Rocky. “But once I saw it, I loved it, and thankfully my wife sees the funny side of being married to the man with the biggest balls in town!”

Leisure Electronics and Wexel Announce New Board Appointment Sean Young, Managing Director of Leisure Electronics and Wexel Gaming, has announced the appointment of Simon Wykes, the former MD of both Gala and Mecca Bingo, to the Board of Directors of both companies in a non-executive capacity. Sean commented: “The business is undergoing a period of rapid change since we added the fast growing Wexel Gaming digital business to our long established Leisure Electronics business. “On top of the base business, we are beginning to see rapid growth in our digital business, Wexel Gaming. Wexel is growing rapidly by listening closely to customers and understanding their needs. “As the business is growing, we needed more support to assist in the setting of the strategic direction of the business. Simon’s knowledge of the sector and people, experience in digitalising gaming businesses and understanding of the challenges facing the retail sector make him the perfect appointment.” www.bingolifemagazine.com

Commenting on his appointment, Simon Wykes stated: “Whilst I was aware of the Leisure Electronics and Wexel businesses, I have been surprised by the breadth of their offer, the quality of their thinking and the talents of their people.” 5


RESULT! Celebrating Success

Studying a new subject at university and fitting it in alongside the day job is never easy. Fitting it in alongside your day job and excelling at it is even harder: yet that is exactly what Gala Bingo HR Business Partners, Helen Longton and Gary Fielden, managed to achieve. Two years ago Gala Bingo created a new management development programme: Buzz Conducting the Gala Way, designed to boost the leadership skills of over 270 of their managers. The programme also gave managers the opportunity to achieve a Certificate in Leisure Leadership, a work based qualification recognised by universities. In order to provide managers looking to achieve the qualification with the very best tutoring they could, they packed up their pencil cases and headed to the University of Derby to start their own studies around Supporting Work Based Learning (SWBL), a qualification which supports work-based tutors to develop their own skills. This is where the hard graft of studying came in for Helen, Gary and other colleagues within the HR team. The programme promotes learning and development in others and equips people with the skills to best support their colleagues as they progress through training.

Learning in Higher Education. Their achievement is very well deserved.”

Not only did Helen and Gary achieve their Level 6 SWBL qualification, they were each awarded the Derby Management School Prize for Academic Achievement.

Helen said: “It’s a wonderful surprise! I’m incredibly proud but also incredibly humbled because we all went through SWBL together as a team, shared the highs and lows and supported each other throughout to make sure we were set up to support and help our managers achieve their own work-based learning in Higher Education qualification. I’m indebted to the team for that support and I’m very proud of everyone who gained their qualification. In that respect, I’m just completely humbled and truly thankful to have received an individual award.”

Pam Hadfield, Senior Lecturer in Work Based Learning said: “The University of Derby is tremendously proud of Gary and Helen’s achievement. A Derby Management School Award is not given lightly and clearly demonstrates a high level of commitment and dedication which has enabled them both to successfully complete the Certificate in Supporting Work Based 6

A very surprised Gary told us: “A number of us all went on the same journey and, at times, went through similar pain so it’s very rewarding to come out the other end. I was just looking for a Pass so to have achieved an award is very humbling but I’m also very proud of myself. In my role, I’m often encouraging people to jump in and challenge themselves so it’s great to have challenged myself now too and to have received such great recognition.”

issue 025


Bingo Pavilion to return at ICE 2018

The Bingo Association corporate stand 2017 – entrance to South Hall

The Bingo Association members have been regular attendees of ICE at The Excel Centre in London’s Docklands for many years. Following the success of the first Bingo Pavilion this year at ICE 2017, where the BA with the support of Clarion trialled its own ‘networking space’ for members and the industry, The Bingo Pavilion will return to ICE 2018. Building on the success of 2017 and by popular demand, the Bingo Association has continued to work with Clarion Events to create a similar formal space at the 2018 show for Members. In addition to the main Bingo Pavilion, the Bingo Association will also have a small corporate stand at one of the entrances to the main Hall. Next year ICE takes place 6th-8th February and further details of the event and activities across the three days of the show will be sent to members nearer the time.

please contact Tom Bloor T: +44 (0) 7384 8165 E: tom.bloor@clarionevents.com

Special rates for space in the Pavilion are on offer to Bingo Association Members. For further details

For all other enquiries please contact The Bingo Association.


The Bingo Association – ICE 2017



Cowells Arrow Enters Electronic Bingo Market with Bubble Bingo a natural step to leverage their bingo game knowledge added to their technical capabilities in order to move into the EBT content market. This initial game will be deployed live into clubs during July and they are already in discussions with several operators for additional clubs to be added. This initial game will be followed by an additional game “Blink Bingo” in what is intending to be an innovative roadmap of games. Cowells Arrow has announced that they will be entering into the electronic bingo market through the deployment of their new “Bubble Bingo” game. Bubble Bingo is a multi-player bingo game designed to feel like a personal-play bingo game. The game is intended to be played on club Electronic Bingo Terminals (EBTs), falling within the game category of Video Bingo Terminal (VBT). This new game gives players the opportunity to play the game their way with choices of: • The denomination they would like to use as a stake for playing the game: e.g. 1p, 5p or 10p. • The stake for each play of the game: e.g. x3 or x6. • How many bingo cards they would like to play: e.g. 1, 4 or 9. But it is not just the player who can determine the above choices. Cowells will work with all bingo operators to configure the game into the format that best suits their customers. This is a new venture for Cowells Arrow and they are bringing a fresh attitude to how they approach bingo operators. Many games developed for EBTs have a ‘one size fits all’ design; however, Cowells Arrow have developed Bubble Bingo with the ability for operators to be involved in the determination of the game characteristics thus ensuring the game matches their specific requirements.

Tony Lister, Managing Director of Cowells Arrow, commented: “We are all excited about this game and the opportunities that it presents to both bingo hall operators and bingo customers. We are obviously well known for producing and delivering the best bingo tickets in the UK, but with Bubble Bingo we are also bringing the same quality to electronic tablet games. “Bubble Bingo has been a learning experience for us, but now that we have delivered the game and are familiar with the development process we will be bringing a greater variety of games to the UK bingo market in the very near future.” For anyone that is interested in deploying this game onto their EBT estate they should contact Tony direct at Cowells Arrow (tlister@cowellsarrow.co.uk) for an initial chat.

Cowells Arrow is always looking to offer the best gaming products for their customers and as EBTs form an integral element of a bingo clubs product portfolio it is 8

issue 025


LUDA hits the street: the new location to eat, play and win


n Monday 7th August Luda, Mecca’s new high street venue, opened its doors in Walsall. To celebrate the grand opening, the team at the Park Street venue were offering special discounts on food and coffee to customers who popped in. Luda offers something slightly different and is a unique venue where customers can experience the thrill of winning along with great food, drink and even free wi-fi, all in a convenient high street setting. Customers can enjoy coffee, wine, beer, panini and cake, with the option of playing bingo and the most innovative games available. Luda is open 7am -11pm Monday to Saturday and 9am-11pm Sundays. The new venue created 25 full and part-time positions, which received an unprecedented level of interest from applicants and have now all been filled by local residents.

Commenting on the launch of the new brand, Alan Morgan, Managing Director of Mecca and Luda said: “We’re thrilled to be opening our first ever Luda in Walsall. The new venue offers a convenient place to pop in and play, and is perfect for groups of friends on a night out looking for a fun time or those seeking to take time out to recharge their batteries. The new venue will offer those living locally a sociable place to meet, play, try new games, have a bite to eat and relax.” The new high street venue in Walsall is the first of a number of Luda sites that will open in the coming months as the new concept is trialled. We asked Clint Walker, Head of Concept Development at Mecca, what had been the driving force behind bringing the new concept to fruition? Walker said: “The idea of a high street lounge has been around for a while but hasn’t been fully realised until Luda. A number of factors have contributed to

www.bingolifemagazine.com 9


Bingo variant games, that can be ‘always on’ plus the opportunity to link easily with the rest of the industry for key feature games with large prizes. Slots, that are a fully digital offering from a range of manufacturers with single customer TITO journey and easy food and beverage payments via contactless payment.”

us driving the idea through to realisation. Customers increasingly demand a convenience based offer, allowing them to engage and play bingo as and when they want rather than being dictated to, or being restricted by the traditional bingo timings and sessional structure. The high street location also supports the convenience aspect. “The growth of the high street coffee culture in the UK in the last 10 years is something everyone is familiar with and engages with. Creating a similar, warm environment that is transparent to customers from the outside breaks down many of the barriers to customers’ experience with traditional gaming venues, and we hope it will give them a reason to cross the threshold. “New technology has enabled us to package up the overall offer in a smaller footprint venue, creating an attractive customer experience: Bingo, predominantly electronic via tablets plus paper tickets on demand. 10

Walker continued: “Early in the development process we held a number of workshops with target customer groups to help identify what appealed and, as importantly, what didn’t. We presented a number of variations on the same overall theme to fine tune individual elements and products. Following this we then further researched the appeal of the favoured option with a wider group of target customers and have since used focus groups on a number of occasions to test different elements as the concept developed. “We are aiming for a broad audience, and have consciously developed the brand, design, look and feel to be warm, welcoming and inviting. We have developed the offer and environment to provide customers with multiple reasons and occasions to visit, either alone or with friends.” Luda Walsall also have their own presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the name LudaWalsall. issue 025




2 great shows combined

16 - 18 JANUARY 2018 ExCeL London Exhibition Centre

EAG produced by


Mecca and Gala Take It To The Pitch For Charity

Team Gala

Teams from Mecca and Gala took to the football pitch at Gallagher Stadium, Maidstone, on the evening of Friday 28th July to battle it out and raise funds for charity. Each company drew team members from Team Mecca across the South East, to create their respective super squads. Mecca took to the pitch to raise funds for the Carers Trust, which supports seven million carers across the UK, and Gala took up the challenge to raise funds for the bingo industry’s national charity, Variety, the Children’s Charity, which provides practical, tangible help that makes an immediate difference to children and families who have to cope with sickness, disability or disadvantage. Football fans were encouraged to support their teams, by attending the free match and helping to fill collection buckets. Mark Brenton, area manager for the South East at Mecca Bingo, was hoping for a 12

competitive yet friendly game as the teams competed to raise more than £10,000 for their chosen charities. Bradley Wise, general manager at Gala’s Chatham club and one of the event organisers, said: “Gala Bingo are proud to be associated with Variety, the Children’s Charity - the national charity of The Bingo Association.” On the day there was a clear winner as Gala romped home with a 9-0 victory. But the real winners of the match were the Carers Trust and Variety, who benefitted by £12,982 and £11,065 raised respectively. An amazing result for both charities and those taking part in, and attending, the event. In true sportsman-like spirit there were two appointed Players Of The Match: Lee Holland of Gala Lordshill, chosen by Mark Brenton, Area Manager for Mecca and Alex Cook, of Mecca Eltham Hill, chosen by Kevin Clegg, Operations Director, Gala. issue 025


Echoes of Black September remind us to put the customer first


ext month marks the ten year anniversary of perhaps the most traumatic period in the history of Britain’s bingo clubs. In September 2007, with clubs still trying to cope with the effects of smoking bans in Scotland, England and Wales, they were forced to remove their most lucrative gaming machines under the full implementation of The Gambling Act 2005. With consumer confidence waning as the credit crunch hit, bingo went into a tail-spin. While the tenth anniversary of ‘Black September’ is unlikely to evoke too much in the way of nostalgia, it is something worth remembering nonetheless. It ought to remind us of the vulnerability of gambling to political intervention and the fact that bad news has little respect for the principle of mutual exclusivity – not least because in 2017 many of the same factors apply - gambling regulations are in flux, the economy is looking fragile and HM Treasury is in revenue-raising mode. This is already turning into a summer of discontent for the gambling industry. The Government is conducting a review of machine regulations, TV advertising and the effectiveness of social responsibility controls; the Competition and Markets Authority is investigating five remote gambling operators for breaches of consumer legislation and looking into broader allegations of sharp practice in online gambling; the Information Commissioner’s Office is examining data protection issues – specifically spam email marketing by online gambling affiliates; a large online gambling firm is having its licence reviewed by the Gambling Commission, the Football Association recently red-carded Ladbrokes as its official betting partner; and completed self-exclusion forms have been found abandoned outside a betting shop in Glasgow. The industry has made efforts to demonstrate that it means business about problem gambling but in matters of regulation is almost always to be found on the back foot. In-fighting between different sectors of the industry serves only to diminish trust and heighten collective and individual vulnerability to intervention.

attempts to make ends meet (and to keep the DUP sweet) suggests an elevated risk of tax increases for gambling; and all of this is taking place as the country appears to be slipping towards economic recession. Meanwhile, the Gambling Commission’s enforcement strategy (published in June) has highlighted the risks to companies and senior executives of failure to achieve the licensing objectives. It’s a bleak picture that indicates poor management of political-regulatory risk within the gambling industry at large. Of course, bingo is different. Bingo has remained largely free from the daily controversy that stalks betting shops and online gambling. There are no early day motions or private members bills in Parliament calling for action against bingo clubs; the sector is not under attack from pressure groups; it is not the subject of media campaigns. To the credit of its trade association, it has doggedly refused to join in the intra-industry squabbling. Examination of Hansard reveals that bingo has been barely mentioned (except figuratively) in Parliament in the past three years – staying out of the spotlight – but does this mean that clubs are insulated from the heightened public policy concerns? By Dan Waugh, Regulus Partners

A weekly diet of negative headlines in the press, disapproving commentary in Parliament and the minority Conservative Government’s increasingly fraught

www.bingolifemagazine.com 13


Leading the way Gala Bingo has been a leading part of the licensed land based bingo sector for more than twenty five years and has become the largest operator in the sector.


stablished in 1991, Gala Bingo is the UK’s largest bingo operator, with 129 clubs. Its progress and development is always of interest to the industry and broader business community. Headquartered in Nottingham, it has over 1.1 million active members. The bingo clubs trade under the Gala brand through a licence agreement entered into with Gala Group Investments. Gala Bingo employs over 4,500 people and holds the Investor in People Gold Standard. Caledonia Investments Plc, an investment trust company that is listed on the London Stock Exchange, backed a management buyout from the Gala Coral Group in December 2015 for £241m. Bingo Life was able to catch up with the newly appointed Chief Retail Officer, Simon Shaw, who kindly agreed to answer some of our questions about his career, the sector and Gala Bingo. Thank you for finding time to answer our questions: we thought that for the few in the sector who have not worked with you and/or don’t know you that we would start at the very beginning. 14

Where were you brought up in your formative years? “I was brought up and went to school in Scarborough. Between school and college, I worked five summer seasons in a hotel there.” So an early start in the leisure and hospitality sector for you. What was your first full time job? “My first full-time job was actually as a bingo caller, for Mecca believe it or not. I started just before my 18th birthday, at Scarborough Capitol. My employment issue 025

FEATURE: SIMON SHAW there was legal, as in those days there were no age restrictions regarding employees working in gambling venues.” Good to know that it was all above board and that you are clearly up on compliance and employment issues. Having mastered calling and getting bingo in your blood, where next? “Then I went into Management with Mecca and was a General Manager for three different clubs: Middlesbrough, Leeds and Birmingham, following which I became an Area Manager for the North West region and also had a spell in Canada. My last role with Mecca was Club Development Executive, which saw me responsible for opening about twenty of their new build projects in the mid to late 1990s, including Forge, Drumchapel, Aberdeen, Blackpool, Stockton and Oldbury. From Mecca I went to First Leisure and then completed a Management Buyout of the Riva Bingo business before selling it to Gala in 2000. Then I worked in the adult gaming centre (AGC) sector, during which time I set up Winners Amusements and operated a chain of fifteen AGCs, before then selling to Talarius/Quicksilver in 2008. During this time I also got back into Bingo and I bought my own club in St Helens, which I owned for 8 years before selling it to Opera Bingo in 2015. Then in 2016 I operated a consultancy business in the Bingo and Gaming sectors.” When did you join Gala in your current role? “Through my work as a consultant I started working with Gala in January 2017, taking up the role of Chief Retail Officer in April this year. It was simply too much of a great opportunity to turn down. I am responsible for the operation and management of the 129 strong retail estate, which includes operations, machine operations, property, bingo product and retail projects.”

perception that bingo primarily attracts older ladies using a dabber. Although we do have a loyal following of established customers with an older age profile, bingo now has a far broader appeal, which has been helped with the introduction of digital bingo, enhanced environments, a wider range of gaming machines and products and significantly improved food and beverage (F&B) offerings.” What do you feel are the biggest challenges currently facing club bingo? “Making the transition between the traditional bingo market and the new bingo customer who wants different things: our new customers want a wider and improved F&B range, more flexibility and choices to play and greater access to the bingo product.” “As bingo operators we cannot lose sight of our existing customers but neither can we ignore the opportunity of what our new customer looks like. For example, new members that join bingo today do not automatically play 3 times a week as tended to happen a decade ago. Many of our new style ‘regular’ members may only play once a month; on that simple analogy our frequency will continue to reduce as our player base evolves over time.” You mention the evolution of your player base and enhanced environments with better F&B, but what about the product? “The product must continue to become more flexible and this is one of our key priorities as we seek to develop the strategy that meets the needs of an emerging and expanding bingo market.”

The experience gained in the Sector has certainly made you well placed to operate as a consultant. How long have you worked in Gambling/Bingo? “That’s 33 years and counting. I am fortunate to have worked in corporate, owner operated and investor led (buyouts) entities so it gives me a full 360 degree perspective of bingo operation.”

Moving forward, evolving the environment and F&B offering to attract new players, but to what extent is the current economy impacting this drive? “The economy can always be challenging, and will continue to be so; however, having been in the industry many years I have seen several recessions, a smoking ban, a national lottery launch, the advent of online launch etc. All that can affect the bingo pound, but the industry is very resilient and innovative at coming up with alternative products and solutions. We just need to appeal to a wider audience of customers rather than continuing to squeeze our traditional player base.”

What do you think is the biggest misconception about bingo as a leisure business/activity? “Probably the lack of understanding of the overall investment and technology that has entered the sector over the last 10 years and the different player profiles that the product now appeals to. There is a

You started your first job in bingo just before your 18th birthday, in a time when the regulatory and compliance landscapes were very different to the ones that prevail today. What are your thoughts on regulation? “Bingo is, and will remain, more social than other

www.bingolifemagazine.com 15

FEATURE: SIMON SHAW forms of gaming given the liquidity of customers playing in groups for pooled prizes. There is a risk that bingo gets inadvertently linked to harder forms of gaming. The majority of bingo clubs still retain membership so on that basis we are the only form of retail gaming that can claim to know who we have playing in our premises at any time, bingo also has very good controls to protect the vulnerable and to make sure our clubs operate transparently and fairly. There are not many forms of gaming where you can enjoy several hours of fun and entertainment and a dining experience for a modest sum, but still have the excitement of waiting for one number!” True, and the fact that gambling activities differ so greatly, both in respect of product and environment will never make a one size fits all approach appropriate. What are current key priorities for the Gala business? “Gala already have some of the best people in the business and we are continuing to enhance our team who operate the GB’s largest land-based bingo organisation. Our people are engaged in delivering on our KPIs and I am always impressed by the sheer level of intensity and focus within the company: I am proud of the level of skills they have and that they work so assiduously to serve our customers and deliver value to our shareholders.” “Over the next couple of years Gala will be going through significant changes which are both exciting and challenging and I am confident that we have the right people for the job. We are working to improve our bingo product – to make it more fun with better prizes and more winners. We want to make it more engaging and offer greater flexibility. In order to improve our retention we are determined to make the product more ‘sticky’ and the early evidence suggests that we are well on the way to achieving this objective.” “Our recently enhanced new members’ journey has improved conversion, which over time will compound up into increasing longer term footfall. Gala will continue to focus on new member recruitment, and along with an improved product, will retain and attract more customers, with an improved conversion rate. Together with continued investment into the business this will ensure continued growth.” Gala has rationalised its estates, selling some venues, opening new ones and refurbing others: are there any future plans for further venue upgrades? 16

“With 129 bingo clubs there will always be evolution in our clubs. Inevitably our estate will continue to change both in numbers but also in terms of style. Gala continues to invest in the business and we have modernised many clubs, spending towards £1m in any single project in 2017. In addition to this we have a capital expenditure programme that will continue over the coming years. We are not only investing in the fabric and updating our estate but also developing new concepts like we have in Kingsbury Road Birmingham, where we can offer a different style of experience to our changing customer base with enhanced gaming, F&B and entertainment all under the one roof. We are constantly reassessing where our priorities should be.” In evolving the product offering how does Gala view traditional bingo (books, silent) versus EBTs and talking – is there scope for both? “Yes without doubt; in Kingsbury Road, for example, we have created this. We had 20 people just walk in the other night at 8.30pm who were exhibiting at the NEC and fancied a works night out – we were able to accommodate them as a group in their own area, offer plenty of bingo, great F&B and they stayed until 11pm and had a great time. As the customer base changes we need to be able to appeal to this wider audience.” It is clear that the leisure landscape has changed in the last thirty years, with an ever increasing choice of how to spend leisure time. In an increasingly competitive leisure market where do you think new customers will come from over the next 3 years? “The average bingo-player has been gradually getting younger in recent years and, as an industry, it is essential that we meet their expectations by offering a far more flexible and social experience. Rather than being a niche entertainment product, we are increasingly making bingo something that appeals to a far broader cross-section of society. Our success ultimately depends on our ability to continue to meet these requirements. I am confident that Gala has the right people, the right strategy and the right ideas to achieve this objective. Add to this, focus, management intensity and determination and Gala is in a good place.” Exploding the myths about bingo and diversifying venues and style of consumption is certainly set to increase appeal: no one wants to stay home every night. Simon, thank you for answering our questions. We are looking forward to our next night out at Gala. issue 025


Getting Creative For over 40 years the name Shipley’s has been synonymous with all things bingo; but not until recently did they get ‘creative’, putting Shipley Creative firmly on the map


rothers Harry and Jon followed in the family business, their father was involved in fairs and fair grounds, so they were already familiar with arcades and the entertainment industry. Building on what they knew, they opened their first bingo halls in the Midlands and Yorkshire areas. Towards the mid-1990s on noticing a trend to flat floor, out of town operations, they sold all their cinema style Bingo halls and started to open purpose built flat floor halls in Leigh under a new brand name, BJ’s (Big Jim’s) Bingo, followed by further clubs in Reading and Kitts Green, Birmingham. Keeping it very much a family affair, Harry and Jon involved the next generation: Jonathan, William and Harry Jnr. all of whom are involved in the business and have been key in its management and continued expansion. Running and managing three large leisure venues, each with large membership bases, there was a constant need for support staff to manage membership, mailings, in-club signage, menu cards and promotional material. In addition to the clubs, there were other outlets in the Shipley group that had similar requirements. Recognising that many of these tasks could be shared across venues and brought in-house, the business invested in printers and mailing and packing machines, delivering both efficiency and cost savings. The small in-house team at Shipley’s ran like a well-oiled machine and was fortunate to be able to involve key staff from the clubs, that in addition to experience of bingo also had relevant skills. Anthony Halliwell, the current General Manager at Shipley Creative, trained as a graphic artist at college and upon graduation needed a job. He joined the club in Leigh as a receptionist in 2000 and was drawn to the design and management side of membership activities. It was an ideal, if unexpected fit, as Anthony was able to utilise his graphic design skills and his ever increasing experience and knowledge of bingo.

By 2009 news of what Shipley’s were doing in-house had come to the attention of a number of independent bingo operators, who asked if they could make use of the creative and production services that Shipley’s had. Steadily the number of operators approaching Shipley’s grew, with Laura Hazard and Laura Wright joining Anthony on the creative side of the business. Like Anthony, both Lauras joined the business in support roles in 2012 as Assistant Managers, but increasingly became involved in creative. By late 2012 there was a clear business case for setting up Shipley Creative. In December 2013 Shipley Creative moved into its own premises, in Leigh. A fully fledged business that while still supporting Shipley, venues also had a broader remit to expand its business. Reporting into Operations Director Dave Robson, who is also responsible for the bingo clubs, Anthony has grown Shipley Creative into a team of over a dozen staff, that between them address: • Direct mail • Large format print • Design • Production • Social media and membership • Business development.

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The team’s familiarity with the leisure sector is a distinct bonus for a great many clients and is also one of the reasons why the business runs seven days a week and is open daily until 19.00. We asked Anthony what were the key aspects of the business that had helped drive growth. “The fact that unlike many creative businesses we are open 7 days a week is I think quite a big draw: for the leisure sector the weekend is a key trading period. If on Saturday you decide you want to send a mailing out on Monday morning, you need to start the process that day, not on Monday morning. This, coupled with our quick turnaround times and competitive rates were, and continue to be, important to clients. We send out on average 100,000 pieces of mail a week and over 5 million a year, so scale and volume is not an issue, nor are integrated campaigns which look to make use of email and SMS.” While opening times, turnaround and familiarity with direct mail are all important aspects of working with a creative and productive team, technology must also be an important issue for many potential clients, in respect of managing production, personalised fulfilment and automated processes? “Absolutely. For clients who want a more self-service based ongoing solution to meeting marketing and promotional material needs, we work with them to create a bespoke web-to-print solution that allows them to order materials online, at any time of the day or night and be sure of the items that will be supplied. Where a client has multiple sites, this can decrease wastage by allowing the site manager to only order what they need for their site, rather than send a one-size fits all pack.” 18

“Technology has also greatly changed the way that many clubs handle and manage their club membership systems: now the majority of systems are electronic and many web based. As the membership or marketing database is the life blood of many of the venues we support, particularly bingo clubs, we have built a close working relationship with ISD, the creators of Maxim, the membership system most widely used in bingo clubs. Working with ISD we have developed an add-on module for the Maxim System that allows managers to draft mailings and submit direct for print and fulfilment, making it seamless and quick. This module is increasing in popularity all the time and currently in full operation with Majestic Bingo as well as a number of other well known bingo operators.” Shipley Creative started out of a business need for Shipley’s and has grown as a result of many venues with similar needs. Their readiness to embrace technology has enabled them to offer production services to small operators and single venues that previously had only been available to large scale businesses: something that enables smaller businesses to potentially be more dynamic than their larger counterparts. With in-house design, print, finishing and fulfilment all available at the click of a mouse and formatting for digital display and social media all available with equal ease, this could be the perfect one-stop shop for all leisure and entertainment businesses big or small: a bolt-on marketing and production department, without ever having to leave the office. issue 025

12th - 18th October 2017 Responsible Gambling Week is a national, cross-industry initiative to promote responsible gambling, taking place from the 12th-18th October. Join the conversation and get involved. For more information on the week and how you can get involved visit www.ResponsibleGamblingWeek.co.uk To support the week and join the conversation visit, follow, like and share at:

@RGWeek2017 Responsible Gambling Week is an Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) initiative


Let’s talk about Responsible Gambling Despite being recognised as having relatively low levels of harm from problem gambling the bingo industry should never be complacent or look to compromise its reputation for high standards of customer welfare


he licensed bingo industry takes the matter of responsible gambling very seriously and ensures that venues always provide information and assistance for the few who may need help in managing their activity. The bingo industry has always prided itself on its key focus of providing a social and safe environment for its customers to gamble and social responsibility is a key part of that focus. The Bingo Association was one of the first sector trade bodies to implement an industry wide self-exclusion scheme and along with other leading gambling sector trade bodies is a member of the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG). The IGRG is dedicated to developing social responsibility best practice initiatives and has created Responsible Gambling Week, a national, cross-industry campaign promoting responsible gambling. A key aim of the week is to raise awareness of the subject of responsible gambling and to get people talking openly about any issues they may have.

Let’s talk about Responsible Gambling

The Bingo Association is a key supporter of the initiative and is encouraging all its members to get involved.

Let’s talk about Responsible Gambling Responsible Gambling week will take place 12 – 18 October 2017 and is led and coordinated by the IGRG. The strapline for the week is Let’s Talk About Responsible Gambling. The week aims to create a conversation about Responsible Gambling – with customers, staff, the wider public and key stakeholders: making the subject more open and given a higher profile. The key objectives of the campaign are to raise awareness of: • how to gamble responsibly • the tools that are available to help customers gamble responsibly 20

12th - 18th October 2017 Responsible Gambling Week is a national, cross-industry awareness campaign promoting responsible gambling.

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“The Bingo Association is managing the licensed bingo industry’s participation in national Responsible Gambling Week. Working with key operators to finalise details for all bingo operators, Miles Baron, Chief Executive of the Bingo Association anticipates that a full brief on the week will be available for BA members by early September.” • where to find more help and support for those who need it All sectors of the gambling industry (arcades, bingo clubs, bookmakers, casinos and online) are committed to participating in the week’s activities, with operators in the various sectors taking a slightly different approach to the week depending on their individual requirements and subsequent levels of commitment. A range of marketing materials is being produced to support the week, with a bold and impactful design, that will be made available through the supporting trade associations and includes full-shop window take-overs, leaflets, digital media collateral, entrance banners and posters. In addition to this a coordinated media campaign is also planned to encourage open

discussion about responsible gambling in the media and to engage with the broader general public. As part of the initiative and in parallel with the media and marketing activity there will be dedicated information about national Responsible Gambling Week on GambleAware and GamCare websites, Drop in centres (with information and staff available at key times) at 20 locations around Great Britain, a virtual Information Point with chatrooms at set times throughout the week and active engagement on Responsible Gambling Week social media channels. Final details of the material and media engagement campaign are being put in place at the time of going to press, but Bingo Life was afforded a preview of the marketing material design which we are able to share with you. The Bingo Association is managing the licensed bingo industry’s participation in national Responsible Gambling Week. Working with key operators to finalise details for all bingo operators, Miles Baron, Chief Executive of the Bingo Association anticipates that a full brief on the Week will be available for BA members by early September. The brief will provide details of the aims of the week, the broader communication and PR activity taking place nationally, the range of materials that will be available for use in club (both digital and print) and assistance with briefing staff and colleagues. This will be the first time that such a cross sector initiative has been organised in Great Britain and experience gained and results from this year will do much to shape and inform future activity.

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Bingo Loves Variety: on target and counting


s the bingo industry moves into its third year working with Variety, the Children’s Charity, it is clear that bingo players and clubs all love Variety.

Following the fantastic fundraising results in 2015 and 2016, that saw the industry raise over £500,000, this year looks set to be another record breaking year, as licensed bingo clubs across Great Britain aim to beat their target of £1 million by 2018. While the main fundraising week this year was set for 28th August, many clubs and operators got a head start on the year and some have just kept on going. Gala Bingo got away early this year, determined to smash the amount they raised last year (out of the ballpark) and are hoping to raise £250,000! Kicking off in May, Gala launched a new in-house game, where customers call a special number to win; they will then be given the chance to double their prize money. The game, launched in Gala Bingo Feltham, will be played in all 129 Gala clubs, with a proportion of the ticket 22

price being donated to Variety. To help launch the game Variety supporter, comedian and actor Bobby Davro agreed to get things started and play the very first game. At the time to going to press Gala Clubs were already half way towards their target! Majestic Clubs also got firmly into the swing of things, again starting fundraising early. Their abseil activity down the ArcelorMittal Orbit observation tower, in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is covered on page 30. While supporters keep raising funds for Variety, Variety can keep on helping children and improving their lives. Funds specifically raised by The Bingo Association’s members have already helped make a difference, funding: • • • • •

33 Grants for specialist equipment 11 Variety Great Days Out events 10 Youth club grants 8 Sunshine coaches 2 Powered wheelchairs issue 025

FEATURE: BINGO LOVES VARIETY • 2 Sports wheel chairs • 1 Sensory room

Variety Sunshine Coaches make a big difference to the learning and personal development of children with additional needs. 8 Sunshine Coaches have been funded by Bingo Association

With more to come.

Glasgow Drunmore School

In May this year, at The Bingo Association’s Annual Charity Golf Day and Dinner, another sunshine coach presentation was made. The Golf Day was held at The Celtic Manor in South Wales, so leading Wales-based national operator, Castle Bingo were asked to lend it’s support in making this latest presentation to Llanishen Fach Primary School. Llanishen Fach Primary School is a mainstream school with a Special Needs Resource Base for up to 20 pupils aged 5-11 years, who primarily need to develop their speech and language skills. The school is fully committed to integrating the children with special needs with mainstream classes. The new specially adapted minibus, with wheelchair access, will be instrumental in enriching their learning experience. It will allow them to travel and attend activities with their peers. The opportunities afforded to the children will develop their social skills, independence and build their confidence for future challenges. The Sunshine Coach provided by Variety through funds raised by Bingo Association Members and bingo players was presented by Bingo Association Chief Executive Miles Baron, alongside Castle Bingo Chief Operating Officer Lisa Morgan and CEO Jeff Harris. This is the sixth Sunshine Coach to be provided by The Bingo Association in the past two years, with the seventh and eighth already scheduled for September and going to Newton’s Walk Pupil Referral Unit in Derby and Drummore School in Glasgow.

Woodlands School Woodlands School caters for children aged 4 to 11 years with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties, providing education within a creative environment for children with complex and sometimes lifelimiting conditions. The Bingo Association funded a Soundbeam system that gives musical feedback to even the smallest of movements allowing children to make sounds using different parts of their body; even the blinking of an eye can produce sound effects. Children who tend otherwise to be less responsive have responded very positively, wanting to make sounds themselves and smiling when they hear what they have produced. These seemingly small responses are extremely significant for these children as it is helping them to interact with their external world and more importantly, to have some independence in doing so.

Coach to be presented September 2017

Northumberland Gibside School

Derby Newton’s Walk Pupil Referral Unit

Coach presented June 2016

Tyne and Wear

Coach to be presented September 2017

St Aloysius School

South Glamorgan

Coach presented September 2016

Llanishen Fach Primary School

Nottinghamshire Tuxford School

Coach presented April 2017

Coach presented May 2016

Leicestershire Children’s Hospital School

Middlesex Grangewood School

Coach presented March 2017

Coach presented December 2016

The more able children have enjoyed interacting with the kit, creating sounds and hearing their own individual voices within stories and has encouraged them to sit and listen to others, to observe and evaluate what is happening on the screen.

High Furlong School Highfurlong School caters for children aged 2 to 19 with a range of complex and profound physical and learning disabilities. Thanks to funds from the Bingo Association the Highfurlong School Sensory Room is now open. Funds have been used to provide specialist equipment for the school’s newly-constructed state of the art Sensory Room.

A Job Well Done Variety, the Children’s Charity in the UK is part of an international charity with each country and state (as in the case of the US and Australia) being given a ‘tent’ number and in the UK that is Variety Tent 36. Each year 37 Variety ‘tents’ around the globe are invited to nominate supporters to be the recipient of a Variety International Award. Tent 36 (Variety in the UK) was delighted to nominate The Bingo Association to receive a Variety International Corporate Award in 2017, which the Association gratefully accepted on behalf

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of its members and bingo players who had made the campaign such a great success. Sarah Nancollas, Chief Executive, Variety, the Children’s Charity sent the following message to all those who had helped make the Bingo Loves Variety partnership so successful: “On behalf of everyone at Variety, and especially those children that we have been able to help with funds you have donated, THANK YOU. We would like to wish you every success in your forthcoming Charity Week which runs from 28th August until 3rd September. I know this week brings in huge amounts of funds which will help reach your amazing target of £750,000 by the end of 2017 and £1 million by the end of 2018! A successful Charity Week will help to change the lives of many children and their families for years and in some cases a lifetime. If we can be of help with your fundraising please contact our fundraising team on 020 7428 8118.

Hearts of Gold – 2017 Once again participating Bingo Association member venues were sent two boxes of the 2017 Hearts of Gold in March. Five paying in slips were also dispatched with the delivery as well as a collection pot. This year’s Hearts of Gold are limited edition Smurf pins, coinciding with the new Smurf movie that launched in Spring. This year Bingo Loves Variety MCB Link ups took place form Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd September. Costing £1 per board to play, these games raised £73,894.50. Each game took around 2.5 minutes from start to finish and in total raised enough money to buy nearly 4 Sunshine coaches. If you would like more information please contact Alastair Stewart, email alastair@nationalbingo.co.uk

To each and every one of you, THANK YOU, we couldn’t do what we do without you. Good luck for Charity Week 2017” Bingo Life also wishes everyone well with their fundraising activities, events and games: its not too late to get involved or do some more. 24

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Paradice Found! Bingo Life chats to Kate Chambers, Managing Director, Clarion Gaming ahead of ICE Totally Gaming 2018 How is the pre-show planning progressing for what is the biggest international gaming industry event? Planning for an event the sheer size of ICE, which in 2017 comprised 527 exhibitors occupying over 40,000 square meteres of net stand space, is a continuous process, and the team never really stops planning. When people say that ‘rretail is detail’ from my experience gained working across a multitude of industries, that phrase applies equally to the world of events, where our task is to attract the most serious buyers in gaming and put them in front of the world’s most creative and influential innovators in a commercial environment. Getting the detail absolutely spot on takes time and you need the human touch to get it right. There are now so many elements to ICE from the ICE VOX learning programme through to the ICE Seminars, the events – both on the show floor and out of hours – plus the growing number of features, including, of course the Bingo Pavilion. This means that we are always planning not just for the next ICE but in some cases the one after that. I think the adage ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ rings true. The Bingo Pavilion has proven very popular. How pleased are you with this increase in profile at show and what further ambitions do you see for bingo at ICE in the years ahead? As your readers know, the ICE strap line is ‘Totally Gaming’ and if you asked any of the 30,000 attendees to ICE this year their reasons for travelling to London, the opportunity to see the entire world of gaming in a single venue would be near the top for the majority. Land based bingo is an important part of the gaming community and I’m delighted to be able to work with The Bingo Association, with Miles, with yourselves at Bingo Life and with the market at large. The Bingo Pavilion is something that I want to enhance, to build and develop in partnership with the sector. Our role is to help facilitate growth and help our stakeholders achieve their corporate objectives. We always work in partnership with the market and I would be delighted to get feedback, gather views and move forward. I have an open door and am really receptive to any ideas the market may have – that’s what ICE is all about, listening to the market and implementing their ideas into the show experience.

Land based bingo is an important part of the gaming community and I’m delighted to be able to work with The Bingo Association, with Miles, with yourselves at Bingo Life and with the market at large.

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As your readers know, the ICE strap line is ‘Totally Gaming’ and if you asked any of the 30,000 attendees to ICE this year their reasons for travelling to London, the opportunity to see the entire world of gaming in a single venue would be near the top for the majority. invested in a meeting planner tool, which will give attendees more visibility and control over their time at the event, with the ability to arrange meetings with suppliers and peers. Congratulations on the Award! Thank you. The event you reference, the AEO Awards, are the Oscars for the Events Industry and Clarion was named ‘Most Respected Company of the Year’. It was a great accolade and one which reflects positively on all of the events the company organises. Whilst we don’t put on events simply to win awards they do serve as confirmation that the high standards we set across the board are being recognised. However, you are only as good as your last award or event! What key messages would you give to people who are yet to attend ICE Totally Gaming? I would like to keep it simple and echo the message contained within our 2018 creative which is ‘Close your eyes and think of Paradice’. How easy is pre-registering for the event and does it mean that all you are required to do when you arrive at the show is to collect your pass? We’ve invested into the registration process from the ground up, so that it’s as easy as possible for both new and returning visitors. Registrants will receive digital badges to make entry effortless and of course you can also print your badge off onsite – and register from scratch – should you need to. Will there be a show guide again and maps of the show floor and will the new phone app assist with navigating oneself around the show floor? Following fantastic feedback from the last event, we will once again have our show guide supplemented by additional collateral to help visitors explore ICE according to their needs, including pocket maps. As part of the newly launched website, we have also 26

What is your main wish for the 2018 ICE Totally Gaming? A bit like a star striker at the beginning of the football season we set ourselves some key goals to meet both as individuals and as a team. We adhere to a philosophy of continuous improvement whereby everyone within the team is working towards ensuring that everything they do is that bit better than in the previous year. By achieving that and by working in partnership with all sectors of the industry we believe that we have the best opportunity of ensuring that ICE continues to set new standards and continues to provide the best possible business forum for the international gaming community. That’s our remit and that’s what we are always working towards. For more information on gaming’s utopia visit: www.icetotallygaming.com issue 025









Majestic Integration Mark Jepp of Majestic discusses the challenges of integration

How do you define your role at Majestic Bingo? If you had to describe your mission what would it be? “Leading the best team in bingo to deliver the best customer experience in bingo. It’s obvious and been said many times before but this business is all about great people and I couldn’t do it without a strong team. My belief in quality, experienced bingo general managers remains undiminished and is a key factor in our success to date. Finding the right GM for the right club (square pegs for square holes you might say), that journey has not been easy or without its challenges. However, three years down the line we have made great strides and have an extremely strong and experienced management population. The central support we deliver to the club teams is also crucial to our success of local autonomy coupled with good central controls. The 28

central team including HR, Compliance, Audit, Machines Management, H&S is the best it’s ever been and has taken us three years to get to where we need to be.” Tell us about your career to date? “Although I started out as an operator, I am a gaming machine guy at heart but bingo is a very close second. Thankfully I can have my cake and eat it with Majestic due to how important machines are to our business. Having started my career in gaming giving out change in a Derby Amusement Centre (nowadays called AGCs) I can look back at my various junior and senior roles in AGCs, LBOs, casino and bingo with a large amount of pride and satisfaction. I think being a true blood (having started out at the bottom which is rare in today’s companies) if it was to all end tomorrow I could look issue 025


“I think being a true blood (having started out at the bottom which is rare in today’s companies) if it was to all end tomorrow I could look back and be proud with what I achieved, however, I hope there are a few years left in me yet!! My motivation to go on comes from my family.” back and be proud with what I achieved. However, I hope there are a few years left in me yet! My motivation to go on comes from my family.” What are the main innovations and areas of most expenditure in this refurbishment programme? “There is always, unfortunately, a leaky roof to contend with and seats, carpets and tables cost a fortune but we always aim to get the best bang for our buck as we can. I use an external consultant called Ian Round (structuredimages.com) and Ian is a rare breed that can help me design, create and deliver the best customer facing proposition we can with the capex we have, whilst addressing the necessary non-customer facing issues at the same time. Ian also watches the pennies (we have a saying in Majestic that every pound is a prisoner), and is an excellent photographer and supplies us with fantastic images pre and post refurbishment. The main areas we always try to cover – budget allowing – are externals (improving the club’s kerbside appeal and customer communications), front of house, best in class gaming machine arcade and toilets. In our Apollo club Rhyl for example, we also addressed the carpets, seats, décor and upgrading the F&B facilities really bringing an old cinema building back to its glory days. Final bill: £500,000 and over £3,000,000 spent across the Majestic estate in the last three years.” Three years on from the acquisitions of the seven former Seldis-Cooper and eight Apollo clubs from Top Ten Bingo in 2014 and then last year the purchase of Nuneaton bingo club, Grand Bingo, bringing the total to 16 clubs. So the expansion continues? “It does but over the second half of last year and the first part of 2017 we really wanted to stick to the knitting and focus on what we had which included making Rhyl work post the refurb and integrating Chapel End (more on that later) and that’s been keeping the team busy.

However, I would hate to think that 16 is where the Majestic journey stops and I do have a vision that takes Majestic to the next level.” How has the integration of the Grand Bingo Club into the existing portfolio been and how happy are you with this new acquisition? “Grand Bingo Chapel End has been our biggest challenge to date and I could write a book on what we have learned along the way. Unlike the two previous acquisitions (Seldis-Cooper and Top Ten) that required investment, a strategy, better management as well as some love, care and attention; Chapel End needed none of these things because it was such a great club run by a fantastic owner for many years (Tim Deeming). Tim was adored by his customers so whoever we were (a big corporate or small independent) and whatever we

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“Unlike the two previous acquisitions (Seldis and Top Ten) that required investment, a strategy, better management as well as some love, care and attention; Chapel End needed none of these things because it was such a great club run by a fantastic owner for many years (Tim Deeming).” did in the short term was never going to live up to what Tim did. However, over time – and it has taken almost a year – we are turning the corner and winning over the customers. It has been a long journey with a lot of hard won wisdom along the way but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger as they say and the lessons learnt will prove invaluable in terms of future acquisitions both big and small.” Can we expect a greater use of social media in the marketing mix of Majestic Bingo in the future? 30

“Absolutely, and that ship has well and truly set sail. We recruited Kirstie Gee, as our Head of Marketing, in early 2016 and she has transformed how Majestic Clubs use social media including Facebook and Twitter beyond recognition as well a working with a company called Ignite to deliver us a retail-centric best in class website – majesticbingo.com. Kirstie’s previous role of working with Nottingham City Council has proved invaluable in challenging and changing the way we in bingo have always done things. We also continue to have good success with our Maxim system, a £100k investment we made in December 2015 and we continue to work at understanding our customers’ visit patterns and behaviours – installing Maxim was only the starting point and we have learned so much over the last year and a half.” Majestic Bingo has been very successful raising money for Charity. What are the plans and expectations for this year? Can readers expect to see you in the stocks being pelted with wet sponges again? “For sure and much more! Earlier this year we scaled the heights of the iconic ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park, amongst other stuff. Ben Pitts my Operations Director and Kristina Williamson are the stars here (along with the clubs of course). Kristina comes issue 025


up with the crazy ideas which usually end up with me getting injured and Ben makes sure the clubs are kept on their toes by making it competitive, giving each club their own target and ensuring the cash is banked. We will also be doing or have already done Family Fun Days in some of our car parks such as Canvey Island and Spalding, charity stalls, staff washing customers’ cars (badly and I paid them £15 not to wash mine), cake bake offs, and our Machines Manager Paul Dearlove will have ridden over 600 miles all in the name of Variety, The Children’s Charity. I’m proud to announce we’ve made Majestic history by raising an incredible £100k for Variety, ahead of schedule, thanks to these efforts and the generosity of customers, colleagues and partners.” Seven contestants battled it out on stage in November, in a bid to be crowned Majestic Bingo’s first ever Bingo Caller of the Year. How was the event and will this be a regular event? “Yes, we are looking to follow this up although the logistics of our clubs always make these type of events a challenge. From a customer point of view these events always go down well and they love the inter-club rivalry, something which, of course, we always encourage! I know one of my senior team was going to ask Miles Baron (CEO of the BA) if we could look at bringing back the national version of Bingo Caller of The Year.”

“I’m proud to announce we’ve made Majestic history by raising an incredible 100k for Variety, ahead of schedule, thanks to these efforts and the generosity of customers, colleagues and partners.” What are you finding are the main challenges facing Majestic Bingo? “Last year Brexit appeared to unsettle our customer demographic and a hot summer really did us no favours at all (Luke Johnson my investor didn’t mind too much though, as Brighton Palace Pier had a great year due to the extended good weather.) However, for reasons not fully explained it was a year of two halves and as always halting the trend of declining admissions for Majestic and the sector remained the biggest challenge of all. Majestic will continue to improve its customer offer via better product, service, environment and investment where we can, and I am genuinely excited by the innovation that Mecca are bringing to the sector. Their new MD and BA Chairman Alan Morgan has some really fantastic ideas and I get the sense he really believes

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FEATURE: MAJESTIC BINGO Building on our successes around improved machines; we are trialling extended opening hours at three sites where we believe there is potential to further develop the customer offer, the F&B offer and the overall bingo product as well as continuing to work at Fun In Bingo. We have made a lot of progress in the area of Fun In Bingo by using systems such as Jigsaw as well as the entertainment skills of the great people we employ. There is a lot of competition for the leisure pound including the home and we work hard at keeping our bingo offer current, relevant and trying to ensure our customers have a fun night out. Customer advocacy (wanting to tell and bring their friends what a great night they had) has to be a continued and ongoing focus from all of our club and central teams.” What do you see as the future growth drivers for Majestic Bingo? “Ensuring we have the best machine offer we can, continuing to improve the F&B offer by closely working with our partners such as Andy Irving at Carlsberg and always improving core bingo via new games and innovation.”

“We have made a lot of progress in the area of Fun In Bingo by using systems such as Jigsaw as well as the entertainment skills of the great people we employ. There is a lot of competition for the leisure pound including the home and we work hard at keeping our bingo offer current, relevant and trying to ensure our customers have a fun night out.” he can grow the bingo customer base and keep bingo relevant as a legitimate and exciting leisure activity. Good luck to Mecca, but I want to reiterate, growing profitable admissions and stopping the decline is the biggest challenge to the whole bingo sector.” What would you say are the main opportunities for Majestic Bingo? “Continuing our investment programme ensuring we improve our clubs in the right areas for our customers. 32

How are the club refurbishments going and has the Grand Bingo Club been added to that programme? “It is going well although as previously mentioned we did slow it down a little at the back of last year’s H2 trading. However, we have the spring back in our step now and have recently undertaken works to improve the club’s external appeal and bring it in line with the company brand.” In our interview back in 2015 I asked you if you thought the profile of bingo at exhibitions and conferences should be raised by the host organisations? We now have the Bingo Pavilion at ICE Totally Gaming which is planned to be even bigger at the 2018 event? “I thought the Bingo Pavillion worked really well and was great to see. Hopefully going forward, it will be even bigger, better and more high profile. It was good to have a meeting point for the sector and I really enjoyed meeting key people and it looked to be well supported.” What impact will the UK leaving the European Union have on recruitment in the future? “This is something we need to be extremely mindful of and ensure there are no unintended consequences. In negotiations, it should be highlighted that we do need workers from mainland Europe so don’t shut the door completely.” Bingo clubs in Great Britain have built up a issue 025


“George Harrison by a country mile. George was talented, good looking and humble with none of the ego issues that came with Paul and John – My Sweet Lord and Here Comes the Sun are amongst the greatest songs ever written.” reputation over the years of being sociable welcoming people from all ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. Do you see the reductions in immigration quotas affecting this industry in the years ahead? “Of course, if numbers are reduced there will be an impact one way or the other. Let’s hope common sense prevails and we continue to open our doors (and borders) to all people that are prepared to contribute positively to our businesses and society as a whole.” What are your favourite top three movies? “Heat with Val Kilmer (also loved him in Tombstone), the new version of Magnificent 7 with Denzel Washington and the latest Sherlock Holmes films with Guy Richie as Director.”

If you were not in the bingo industry what would you like to do if you could do anything? “I am not really good at anything else so it is a good job I am in the industry but I would love to have been a pro footballer for Derby County – I would love all the adulation, attention and being cheered on by thousands of passionate supporters (come to think of it this is like when I get on the stage at Apollo Mansfield).” Favourite Beatle, Paul or John? “George Harrison by a country mile. George was talented, good looking and humble with none of the ego issues that came with Paul and John – My Sweet Lord and Here Comes the Sun are amongst the greatest songs ever written.” Would you do I am Celebrity Get Me Out of here? “No, my gag reflex when eating dodgy food would let me down too much and as I have grown older I absolutely hate insects even more and even if one fly comes in the house I won’t rest until its gone, much to the amusement and exasperation of my wife Jan.” Thank you Mark, for sharing your time with Bingo Life.

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Club 3000 and their new marketing campaign Bingo Life spoke to Seda Supurgeci and Joss Bibby from Crab Creative


nline bingo has come a long way in recent years, and many would say that offline bingo has gone the opposite direction. For operators that have a foot in both camps, like Club 3000, there’s an opportunity to try to get the best out of both elements, and take advantage of synergies between the two. We spoke with Seda Supurgeci and Joss Bibby from Crab Creative, who have been involved in the relaunch of Club 3000’s website and digital profile, with a view


to updating the online presence of the client and trying to get the best out of the crossover between offline and online players. Joss, Senior Designer, told us: “Club 3000 really wanted to update it’s online gaming offer and their entire digital presence – the physical bingo clubs are a really important part of their offer and they wanted to relaunch the online part, but not at the expense of the clubs.”

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It’s clear from looking at some operators that from a digital point of view, everything is aiming to funnel web visitors into the online gaming part of the business. Club 3000, however, has taken the view that the website should be equal parts about gaming online but also maintaining the community feel that they have worked hard to generate in the real world sites. A lot of that is about getting the social media pitch right – with bingo players generally being fairly regular users – and any new campaign has to be consistent across all channels. The new campaign takes a radically different approach to telling the world about the Club 3000 offer, using a new character called Ognib (the word Bingo backwards, as you might have gathered), an alien

landing on earth to spread the good word. It’s an innovative attempt to get some genuine cut-through into the mindsets of bingo players and potential players. Through telling Ognib’s story Club 3000 plans to weave a narrative over physical collateral in-club, website, social media and other channels. The idea is that using a brand new character – there’s nothing like him in the market at the moment – will add a bit of fun to proceedings. He’s futuristic without being intimidatingly complicated, has a bit of charm, and is a perfect concept to feature on regular social media posts – with the idea naturally being that players and prospective players start to associate the unmistakable Ognib with Club 3000 and a fun leisure experience.

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The approach fits well with Club 3000’s aspirations – it’s one thing to pack a huge budget as a national operator, but for the more tightly focused smaller operator, the ethos is “if we can’t outspend them, we’ll have to outthink them”. There are other media to consider as well. Crab have put together some video content which will sit well on YouTube and work on other social media, and of course the whole concept will be shared with the agencies providing collateral for in-club and outdoor use, to make sure the whole campaign (and future) is integrated and consistent. It’s all about generating as much noise as possible in a pretty loud environment. The other angle Crab work on is maximising value


out of online advertising, again featuring Ognib and his interplanetary hi-jinks. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and Pay Per Click are critical elements of any online campaign, and Crab, largely through their Creative Director Costas Michalia, have worked with hundreds of clients over the years to get maximum impact for any given budget. In conclusion, it’s great to see someone trying to do something different in a crowded marketplace. Club 3000 is clearly trying to take a new approach to marketing their online and offline bingo offer – partnering up with Crab Creative, who are veterans of helping betting and gaming operators drive engagement – and one can only hope the innovative Ognib and Co pay dividends.

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Profile for Casino Life Magazine

Bingo life autumn 2017 issue 25  


Bingo life autumn 2017 issue 25