The challenges facing operators in the U.S. market are always changing. From the promotional price wars of the 1990s and 2000s to the emergence of digital gaming, the ground seems to be always moving under the industry’s feet.
Digital products are gaining acceptance with casinos, and some are even attempting to operate for-wager businesses in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. For the vast majority of casinos, for-wager online gaming is not going to happen anytime soon. So then, what are the opportunities for making a profit from the numerous digital casino platforms (social gaming) that are being offered?
There are some chances to make money directly from digital games. Some platforms allow players to purchase coins to play the games either on the site, or in Facebook. To make this anything more than a trivial contribution, a casino needs to have scale. “Freemium” casino businesses are a volume game, and casinos should not expect to make any kind of meaningful revenue without having at least hundreds of thousands of players per month.
An alternative approach is to develop an entirely free-play site. For these to have a purpose, a very clear set of objectives needs to be set by the operator, as revenue cannot be generated directly from within them. Platform providers are typically touting these systems as being either “get ready now by building a database for when for-wager regulations appear in your state,” or, “drive new footfall to your property by acquiring players online and then marketing your property to them.” Neither of these is a good enough reason in and of itself to invest in a new digital casino addition to your property.
The reality is that for the majority of casinos, the truth is somewhere between the two. Digital games have a very real opportunity to engage players and drive greater loyalty and theo in your property. How? Here are some ways the market leaders are making digital really work for them:
Silos don’t work: Integrate your digital casino as closely as possible with your land-based systems. Players see value in a digital casino if they can earn loyalty points/comps for your property.
Deliver value to the players: In addition to earning loyalty points, turn your digital casino into a player info venue. Show loyalty points, number needed to upgrade to next tier, promotions, events, new in-property games and tournaments, travel info, accommodation booking, etc.
Leverage the strengths of digital: Players want a marketing message that is relevant to them—showing the same promotion to everyone means that it will be attractive to no one.
Integrate your marketing: A digital casino can be seen to be an extension of the marketing function, especially in a free-to-play environment. Digital casinos provide a channel for highly targeted marketing message delivery that can change in real time based upon how the player behaves.
VIP no matter where they are: Operators need to have a single view of their most valuable players regardless of whether they are playing in your property or on your digital casino. Players that play both digital and land-based typically have higher lifetime values. Recognizing a player’s level in the loyalty program when they are in the digital casino shows that the casino cares about their experience.
Nicky Senyard, CEO of affiliate specialist Income Access, recommends that brick-and-mortar casinos take a step-by-step approach.
“Land-based operations can use digital platforms in three phases,” she says. “The first is to build engagement with their current databases, and create a clearer picture of who those customers are. The second is as an acquisition strategy to create an extended reach of the land-based brand to customers outside of the current property database. The third is to use the digital platform to continuously engage with customers and create transparency on what digital activities attract the most volume and value.”
While all this might sound great, you may be asking yourself, “How do I do this with my existing team? We’ve never done digital gaming or even extensive online marketing.”
Choose your platform provider correctly and they will make a range of third-party marketing tools available that will enable you to automate a lot of the heavy lifting of turning a stand-alone digital casino into a revenue-generator for your property. There is no need to invest in an expensive team, especially when you are taking your first steps into digital.
Jon Friedberg, CEO of Overlay Gaming, another affiliate provider, believes that the casinos already have powerful brands. Just take the next step.
“Operators need to focus on utilizing digital casino experiences to extend their brands and player relationships beyond the traditional ‘night-out’ entertainment mindset, into their regular daily lives at home and or the go,” he says.
At the end of the day, your first step into digital gaming can seem confusing, especially if you have not set down what your specific objectives are.
However, if you fully understand what the purpose of your digital product is, you choose your platform and marketing systems providers carefully, and focus on the value to the player, you have every chance of delivering real value to your business in the short term.