1on1 – The Brady bunch at Bede
1on1 – The Brady bunch at Bede
The recent performance of Rank’s digital operations has taken on an added interest to the wider industry given the switch to the Bede Gaming platform that was finally completed in March last year. After what was admitted to be a stuttering start, the business has begun to show signs that the transition to the brand-new platform is bearing fruit.
While trading at Mecca Bingo online remains tough – revenues were flat year-on-year at £33.1m – Grosvenor Casino was much more buoyant with revenues up 39 percent to £19.3m. To get a picture of how difficult the transition has been and to get a clearer picture of the hurdles that have been overcome, TotallyGaming.com spoke to Bede Gaming’s commercial director and co-founder Michael Brady.
He remains bullish about the prospects for both Rank and particularly the omni-channel opportunities that lie ahead for the UK’s largest land-based casino operator. And he also offers his thoughts on what operators should be doing with the data at their disposal, arguing that many more will “need to get their hands dirty” if they are to optimise their player base.
Totally Gaming: How much have you learnt from your experience with Rank in the past two years?
Michael Brady: Things are going really well and our collective effort during the integration process is now really bearing fruit. Being neutral and independent, we’ve been able to integrate content from any party Rank requires, as well as getting it up and running quickly and cost-effectively. For instance, in the last nine months, we’ve helped them add four or five major content providers.
As a result, they’re now at a similar level if not ahead of most major competitors in terms of content. They’re pretty bullish about what they’ve got and have the ability to cross sell from the retail business to digital business. This confirms our belief about how important it is to be able to offer our partners an omni-channel solution. Players now expect to be able to access online gaming brands wherever they are, whatever time of day, and for the experience to be seamless across all channels.
We’ve also been able to provide data from these players for real-time analytics, giving them sophisticated bonus tailoring (and even specific game content) to higher-value players, and at the same time helping to reduce the provision of bonuses to low-value players. With sports-betting now in place and a single-wallet on the way, we like to think Rank is well-placed to catch-up with more mature online competitors.
TG: What are your hopes for the business in the year ahead? What's the visibility on new clients?
MB: We have ambitious expansion plans for the year ahead, both in terms of our products and services and the markets we work in. We are really excited by opportunities in markets such as North and Latin America, as well as the lottery sector, where we believe established land-based operators are very much in the driving seat to capitalise on online. But to do that they need a powerful and flexible omni-channel solution, and that is where established suppliers such as ourselves can help them. Closer to home, we also plan to roll-out the Bede Gaming platform with more European operators over the coming months.
TG: How do you see the supply landscape developing this year? Do you think there will be more consolidation in the supplier sector?
MB: I think operators are going to move away from the one-size-fits-all turnkey platforms that became popular in the early part of this decade in favour of technology that offers them much more control and influence over the direction their brands and products take. This is particularly true when it comes to data; some platforms are so automated that operator involvement is next to none.
But now they need to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They need to be able to play around with the information, understand it, and use it to influence decisions and strategies. Modern tech platforms allow for this, which is why a growing number of operators, large and small, are migrating to new platforms. Given current market demands and pressures, I think consolidation is always on the cards. 2017 will see further consolidation amongst suppliers, and I can see some joining forces to secure new business.
TG: Do you have a view on how the bingo sector in the UK will perform given the imposition of the bonus tax later in the year?
MB: Like most in the industry, I wasn’t jumping for joy when the tax was first announced but it was to be expected. That said, it is still going to have a pretty big impact on how bingo operators use bonuses and free games, which play such a large role in marketing campaigns. It is not an insurmountable hurdle, of course, but will likely have a negative impact on bottom line. Operators will find their feet and adapt, but it may take a little while. More sophisticated and customised bonus strategies will be enabled by platforms like Bede.
TG: What tech advances do you foresee in the year ahead? Are there innovations you are looking at introducing?
MB: I think most advances will come in the quality of the technology and services that suppliers are offering. While it’s easy to get carried away with the arrival of virtual reality and so on, what players are really looking for is a top-notch experience. This means the platform has to be powerful and flexible, game portfolios packed with blockbuster content, a mobile offering that is seamless and smooth and coupled with intelligent marketing and bonusing. Once all this is in place, we can look at novelty tech such as VR.
Totally Gaming says: As Brady suggests, even as the supplier side of the online industry sees more consolidation, the opposite move from operators looking to source technology and services from a plurality of providers provides an opposite pressure. Within this, omni-channel is a vital cross-current as is the greater utilisation of data.