Not long now until April and the change in stakes and prizes for FOBTs.
Recent corporate announcements from Hills and Ladbroke Coral identify that it’s all about digital, but not in their high street shops going forward. In fact, both companies are saying that their UK retail betting on the high street will be seriously affected, resulting in the closure of UK betting shops. They intend to turn their attentions elsewhere in Europe and the US and increase their international and other digital revenues.
Of course, you can expect some retail repositioning in flagship stores and a more customer attentive offer from LBO operators. Hang on there, Musky! Isn’t that what pubs, clubs and arcades are really good at?
It was interesting to note the thoughts of retailers in these sectors at the recent EAG show. It felt like apathy, but it wasn’t; It wasn’t quite denial of the opportunity created by this paradigm shift in the market; It was more wait and see, than a concrete decision to encourage players to migrate a few doors along Main Steet.
Yes, many former FOBT players will be enticed online and stay within the gaming omni-channels, already created by the LBO sector. But, like the early settlers in the Wild West many will continue to migrate until they find somewhere safe, somewhere comfortable and somewhere where they can be appreciated, without the higher stake and prize. Many may feel that their local saloon could fit the bill.
To that end, whilst pubs and arcades have gone digital to an extent, it’s not the same offer because it is not as technologically advanced or robust. It certainly isn’t a futureproofed platform. This is the time to create the single identity for lower stake gaming in pubs in particular, where the player can clearly understand the offer and can access game content that he or she prefers to play when they step up to the digital terminal in their new saloon.
Over the next couple of years, moving from the current sub-optimal and confusing game compendia on a digital AWP to a focused game offer on a thin client terminal is easily where the pub, club and arcade markets could be; delivering what the player and the retailer needs on each piece of carpet; optimising income. Furthermore, it’s no longer about more tweaks to machine aesthetics and another re-naming, it’s about core digital functionality and the Cloud.
There’s a once in a life time opportunity to create a new identity for a single high street gaming market, based on a solid, secure and cost effective communications network to deliver data and commercial choices to the retailer for content management, content distribution and content sharing; self-collections; cash in – ticket out; cashless Apps; player Apps; and social responsibility management, but more importantly to offer a new start to those LBO settlers looking for a new home where they will be safe.
None of these impacts on the identity or commercial position of any retailer, operator, manufacturer or brand. Collectively, it’s time to set out on that trail, (not trial), and become the next iteration of digital pioneers on Main Street UK.