It’s less than two months until the third Online Bingo Summit in London, an event I’m eagerly anticipating after attending last year’s event. I caught up with the organiser of the Bullet Business event, Ravi Virpal, to find out a bit more about his role and the forthcoming event.
Playing Bingo: If interested people haven’t bought a ticket yet, what would you say to them?
Ravi Virpal: “Hurry Up!” Tickets are selling very quickly this year with well over 120 attendees already confirmed. We still have 2 months before the event takes place so we can expect that number to rise to at least 200 attendees this year. However, these spaces are limited and will be distributed on a first come – first served basis. If people are interested they should book right away – plus they will save themselves loads of money booking now while the discounts still apply!
Playing Bingo: If there are any people working in online bingo who think they don’t have time for the event, what would you say to persuade them to make time?
Ravi Virpal: In short “Make time!” The annual Online Bingo Summit will take just 2 days out of your diary but will give you the opportunity to meet with practically everybody in the Online Bingo industry. That sort of networking would usually take any company months to obtain. At the Online Bingo Summit it’s all done for you. All you need to do is come along and start swapping business cards!
Playing Bingo: How long does it take to arrange the conference?
Ravi Virpal: Well I started researching this year’s event while I was onsite last year… So effectively it has been a 12 month project. The real work starts with speaker recruitment, although this year even that seemed to be a quick process with over 30 speakers confirmed! I’d say it takes around 8 months from start to finish to organise.
Playing Bingo: What improvements have you made to the summit since the last one?
Ravi Virpal: Every attendee last year was asked to fill out a feedback questionnaire and happily the vast majority agreed the summit was excellent and wouldn’t do much to change it. However, this year we have really ramped things up. We have added some fantastic new features to the show this year including brand new topics, a speed networking session, extended exhibition area, an inaugural Online Bingo Summit Awards evening with live voting onsite, new panels, focused roundtables and plenty of new speakers to keep the agenda fresh and relevant. To top it all off we have arranged an official iGaming Business Social After-party too!
Playing Bingo: Has online bingo peaked yet in terms of people playing?
Ravi Virpal: Bingoport.co.uk recently released information indicating that average daily player numbers across all UK-focused online bingo operators had increased by about 19 percent since September 2007. This is great and really shows how rapidly the game is rising to the top of the favourites pile with online gaming players. I think this also shows how far we have come from the “only old ladies play bingo don’t they?” mentality of the past. 19 percent is great but I think online bingo has a very long way to go yet, and with the proliferation of TV advertising led by the likes of Foxy Bingo we are bound to see the demographic of the online bingo player getting more and more diverse. It’s an exciting time!
Playing Bingo: What do you think the biggest challenges facing the industry are, and how can the summit help prepare operators in facing them?
Ravi Virpal: Having spoken with many online bingo operators I can say that the challenges are as follows:
a) Acquiring high-end big spending customers – this will continue to be a primary challenge for operators going forward.
b) Effective customer retention – it’s all good when you win a new customer but not so great when you lose them just as quickly. Retaining your customer base and encouraging loyalty is a massive challenge to the operator.
c) European expansion and picking the right markets to move into – as bingo picks up momentum in various European markets such as Scandinavia, the operators find it increasingly difficult to decide where best to place their investment.
d) Navigating the confusing legal landscape – this issue is huge with challenges that extend into advertising, payment and billing, legal gaming, differing jurisdictions and more… Operators need to be updated constantly.
The summit will be discussing the above topics in real depth including case studies from the biggest operators on how they acquire and retain players, how to move off into new markets, operating legally and much more. It really is the only place to be to get the answers to today’s biggest online bingo challenges.
Playing Bingo: What sessions are you most looking forward to and why?
Ravi Virpal: I’m most excited by the Online Bingo Power Pack which includes Mecca, St Minver, Big Heart Bingo and Foxy Bingo. This session will delve into how these successful brands have achieved the levels of success they have and where they believe the future of online bingo is headed. I am also fantastically excited by the Chat Moderators panel session – after all Chat Moderators have voices too! These guys are at the forefront of the numerous online bingo portals and it will be very interesting to hear about what they have to say!
Playing Bingo: Which ways do you see the online bingo developing in the coming years?
Ravi Virpal: It’s going to get bigger. I have released a number of press releases and interviews from senior level executives in the Online Bingo space and it is clear that Online Bingo is experiencing massive growth. With the growing variation in types of player, expanding international markets, heavy advertising spend by the pioneers to push awareness, big consolidation activity by operators and increasing numbers of online players online bingo really does have it all to play for.
Playing Bingo: What’s you favourite Online Bingo Summit memory of the past events?
Ravi Virpal: I’d say my opening at last year’s summit. Just looking at how the show had grown from the previous year. That is a great memory and I know I will add to that memory this year.
Playing Bingo: What’s your worst memory of the previous events?
Ravi Virpal: 2006 – must be the morning of day 2. I ran the Industry Poker Tournament the night before and a few of our speakers and sponsors decided to buy me a drink or two that evening at the after-party. Suffice to say it was tough going the following morning. But hey, the party was great!