If you follow online bingo news on blogs, there’s a good chance you’ve read an article by, or inspired by one of the most prolific bingo writers around, Nickie Shute. She writes under a number of pseudonyms on a number of different sites, such as BallsUp Bingo. Nickie’s knowledge comes from years of experience in the game, both as a player and as a chat moderator. I caught up with her recently for a good chinwag at the 3rd Online Bingo Summit, and she agreed to do an interview for Playing Bingo.
Playing Bingo: Tell us a bit about your background in bingo: how did you get involved in the game to start with?
Nickie Shute: I always used to think bingo was for the older generation and it was a friend who first took me to our local Mecca Bingo hall when I was about 24 I think. Her nan used to go with her friend who sadly passed away and my friend used to take her and got really into the game. I was dragged kicking and screaming to my first bingo session hoping that no one would spot me; I really did have an image of the blue rinse brigade waving their bingo wings in the air. I was hooked though from that first session and then started going once a week with my friend and her nan.
As for online bingo, I had no idea it even existed until about 2005 when I saw an advert on the television for Think Bingo and £5 free. It wasn’t the quality of the advert that caught my eye, simply the £5 free and I thought “What the hell, nothing to lose”. I then spent about 18 months playing at Think Bingo with no idea that there was such a wide array of online bingo sites.
Playing Bingo: What are you working on at the moment?
Nickie Shute: It would be so much simpler to say what I am not working on! Currently I provide bingo articles daily for onlinebingo.net – yes, I am Betty Pandora. I manage BallsUp Bingo and provide all the content and articles for the site; I own and run Bingo Spy but am taking a bit of a back seat with that at the moment and leaving that to my business partner Lee. I am also training my son Adam in the art of writing bingo articles so he can become more involved in the business as well.
BallsUp Bingo is my main focus as the moment, it’s my baby if you like. Although recently I made the decision to sell the site it was never so much a financial decision as one to help the site grow. I know bingo but I don’t know the behind the scenes stuff that makes a site the best it can be so it seemed the best decision for me was to let the site go to someone with a far greater knowledge of that part of running a web site, but still be able to be heavily involved in providing the articles and information you will find at BallsUp Bingo.
Playing Bingo: What has been your favourite bingo job?
Nickie Shute: You know I don’t think there has been one more enjoyable than the other in all honesty. Each have their own merits. I started as a bingo player; although not a job it’s the foundations for where I am now and as all bingo players know there is nothing more exciting than waiting for one number for a big jackpot!
Then I moved on to becoming a bingo affiliate and again that has its own sense of excitement watching your earnings fluctuate with people depositing and withdrawing all the time: it’s a bit like watching the stock market. Hand on heart though I can say that it’s always been a pleasure to see both winners and losers at online bingo, and as an affiliate you see both sides of the coin.
I did a short stint as a bingo CM and again that carries a lot of enjoyment. Not only do you get to interact with people from all walks of life and share their enjoyment of the online bingo game but you also get to learn some of the behind the scenes workings of an online bingo site; how chat games are devised; the use of macros in a bingo chat room and much much more.
And finally onto the bingo article writing; this opens up a whole new world when you start to research more and more into online bingo or bingo as an industry. Every day I learn something new about the industry; there is definitely never a dull moment.
Having said all that each and every area I have worked in in the bingo industry has bought me a whole new set of people I consider friends. I interact daily with many people in the bingo industry; from the bingo player to other bingo affiliates, from bingo affiliate managers right up to the directors of online bingo sites.
Playing Bingo: Why do you think online bingo has become so popular in these last couple of years?
Nickie Shute: I can only really speak from personal experience and for me the biggest factor has to be the changes in the law of advertising bingo. After all I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not seen the advert for Think Bingo. Add to this the smoking ban which I think pushed more people into playing from home simply because they could smoke – another aspect may be the closure of many bingo halls due to the double taxation levied against bingo as a game, and online bingo was bound to come out a winner.
Playing Bingo: Where do you see the game developing over the next couple of years?
Nickie Shute: This is not so much where I can see it developing as where I would like to see it going. I think with more and more sites like yours David, bingo players are being given platforms and voices and as the bingo industry starts listening to those voices the online bingo industry should become a far more interesting industry to be part of.
Playing Bingo: What are the biggest challenges for online bingo?
Nickie Shute: The biggest challenge to online bingo is keeping the momentum going in what is said to be rapidly becoming a recession. The first thing to give will be the social activities with people being hit in the wallets and bingo is very much a social activity, whether it’s online bingo or land based bingo.
Playing Bingo: Where does online bingo succeed over its retail brother, and where does it fail?
Nickie Shute: I can’t really see any failings of online bingo against its retail brother. Online bingo offers much more than land based bingo for me. I can smoke to my heart’s content, play at anytime, day or night, and still have that social interaction with other like minded-people. I don’t have to worry that my shout of “bingo” is not heard by the bingo caller nor do I need to worry about talking during a bingo game and being “shushed” by other players. I don’t have to pay extortionate petrol prices in order to play online bingo nor do I need to get out of my pyjamas to play! :)
Playing Bingo: Do you play at your local bingo hall?
Nickie Shute: As I said at the beginning, I used to go once a week about 10 years ago but in all honesty I haven’t been to my local bingo hall in some six months now. That’s not because I don’t like it but it’s changed so much and with the introduction of the mobile devices at Gala Bingo it took away the equality of the game. By that I mean you used to be only able to play a maximum of six tickets per game and this meant you were on an equal footing with all the bingo players in the hall: the introduction of the Gala Wiz saw this being increased to 18 tickets per game meaning the equality was lost.
Playing Bingo: What are your plans for the future, where do you see your work taking you?
Nickie Shute: For the foreseeable future I plan on continuing to write informative bingo articles from a bingo player’s perspective. As for where I see it taking me, who knows! Ultimately my goal would be to own and run my own bingo site; not a skin but a standalone site where I have control of promotions, chat hosts the whole essence of a bingo site but at the moment that’s a long way off!
Playing Bingo: What’s the best thing that happened to you as a CM, and what’s the worst?
Nickie Shute: The best thing that happened to me as a CM was being voted CM of the Month at Which Bingo’s CM of the Year site. It was such an honour to think the players at the site I worked at thought that highly of me. Reading the comments they had taken the time to write was a massive ego boost! My head swelled so much I had to widen all the door frames ;)
I don’t think there was a worst thing really – there were bad days as a CM, granted, but nothing unusual really. I argued once with a player about the use of the word ‘crap’ in a bingo chat room it’s difficult to find that line with what is offensive and what isn’t. As a CM you are dealing with people with all different standards and morals, some far higher than mine ;) and you have to find that line and draw it. For me the marker I set with regards to the language allowed in a chat room was that of my 15 year old son. If it was a word I wouldn’t allow him to use then it was a no no in the chat room. Although bingo players have to be over 18 some people have a lower tolerance to the use of the English language than others and ultimately you as a CM are trying to keep ALL the players happy, not just the majority.
Playing Bingo: What’s your best piece of advice for anyone wanting to write about bingo?
Nickie Shute: Be unique and be yourself. You may find an article that someone else has written expresses an interesting opinion but think for yourself. Don’t rewrite someone else’s opinion as your own! There any many bingo article writers online today but very few who have a real grasp of the bingo industry from the ground up. It’s all too easy to be spouting off about how great an online bingo site is when in fact it’s rather pants – don’t be afraid to express an honest opinion whilst still maintaining your professionalism.