One of the biggest business success stories since the start of the millennium has been the boom in the online gambling industry.
Advancements in technology have proved to be transformative for gambling, providing a platform for established operators to completely revamp their business models.
The rise in popularity of online gambling has inevitably enticed new investment into the industry, thus ramping up the competition within the sector.
One area of the industry that has benefitted massively from the shift towards online gambling in recent years is bingo.
This iconic game was firmly established as a mainstream entertainment activity during the second half of last century, but started to slip out of favour in the 1990s.
Changes in consumer habits and increased taxation had a devastating impact on the land-based bingo industry, but technology ultimately came to the rescue.
The launch of bingo sites helped to attract a new audience to the game and the sector is now in better shape than it has ever been.
Industry experts have forecast that the global online bingo market will be worth around $2 billion by the end of the year, highlighting how far things have progressed.
With that in mind, we take a closer look at how bingo operators have grown their online presence and how they have benefitted from embracing the digital revolution.
Laying the foundations for success
It is fair to say that bingo was in serious danger of disappearing completely off the scene during the 1990s, with the industry suffering from a serious image problem.
Widely viewed as a ‘working-class’ activity, bingo started to fall out of favour as people started to gravitate to more ‘aspirational’ entertainment pursuits.
However, the internet saved the day for the bingo industry, and operators were quick to recognise the possibilities afforded to them online.
While the earliest online bingo sites were very basic, they laid the foundations for the game to enjoy a massive resurgence in popularity across the world.
Building a burgeoning industry
Having spotted the potential for growth offered the internet, operators could have been forgiven for feeling frustrated during the early years of online bingo.
Limited software capabilities and broadband connectivity often resulted in an underwhelming gameplay experience, but things quickly moved on apace.
By 2008, a new wave of sites led by the likes of Wink Bingo started to wow customers with their feature-packed websites.
Different bingo variants were added into the mix, boosting the game’s popularity even further and helping to re-establish it in the mainstream.
Mobile tech fires bingo into another stratosphere
One of the key drivers for the bingo industry’s success in recent years has been the rapid improvement in smartphone capabilities.
Coupled with significant advancements in Wi-Fi technology, this has helped to position bingo alongside other mobile-based gaming activities.
The top bingo operators have taken full advantage of these factors by investing huge resources into creating fully-optimised mobile bingo sites.
Many have gone the extra mile by developing standalone apps, making it even easier for people to access their favourite bingo games.
Understanding the benefits of online bingo
From the perspective of the bingo operators, there are several key benefits to focusing heavily on their online offering.
Perhaps the most important benefit is the difference in overheads between running a brick-and-mortar bingo venue and an online site.
Traditional bingo halls are expensive to run, with business rates, building maintenance, utility bills and staff costs amongst a plethora of necessary outgoings.
By contrast, while setting up a bingo site requires some initial investment, the ongoing costs are nowhere near as high as land-based venues.
Many operators utilise already designed software for a set fee or as part of a partnership agreement and then sit back and watch the profits roll in.
Marketing costs are also significantly lower online, with social media and search engines providing two easy routes to a captive audience.
Another key benefit bingo operators gain from online sites is the ability to offer their services on a 24/7/365 basis.
Land-based bingo venues simply cannot compete with this level of convenience, which further explains why online play is so popular.
With online sites also able to replicate the social element of bingo through the clever use of instant messaging software, it is little wonder that people are signing up for accounts in their droves.
Online bingo in the future
As with any successful sector, the bingo industry must keep evolving if it is to keep powering forward over the next few years.
While the projected $2bn market valuation by the end of this year sounds impressive, operators cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
Given the changes witnessed over the past couple of decades, it is not unreasonable to think that the bingo industry could look very different by the time 2030 comes around.
Many analysts have tipped virtual reality (VR) technology to have a significant impact on bingo over the next few years.
Operators and software developers have already made significant progress with VR and that is expected to continue in the future.
While VR bingo is primarily found on social gaming sites, it is unlikely to be too long before it becomes commonplace in the online gambling sector.
With the supporting VR hardware now capable of delivering truly immersive gameplay experiences, bingo could be about to embark on one of the most exciting periods in its history.
Having blossomed into a $2bn business in just over a couple of decades, do not be surprised to see that figure smashed out of ballpark by the end of the 2020s.