Gambling is going to drive our club business for some time. With COVID Safe restrictions including reduced capacity, social distancing measures, limited or closed restaurants, limited bingo/raffles and promotional activities and no entertainment, the revenue focus must be on gaming. Making informed and proactive gaming decisions is more important now than it has been for years.
The old gaming data we used up to March is no longer relevant. We need to turn to fresh data analysis to find answers and make valid decisions on machine positioning, player marketing and gaming product choices.
In many cases older members are still hesitant about returning to clubs where they are concerned about social distancing and the higher risk for them of COVID-19. In their place, there is a trend towards a younger group of players who are working from home instead of in offices and are looking for short work breaks and a social outlet that feels safe. Changing gaming trends are active right now.
Here are some areas that need analysis in your new post-lockdown gaming data in order to find those useful nuggets:
- Younger players – 30-45 year old demographic group
COVID-19 workplace changes have seen many people working from home instead of in the office. Many who are still working in offices are only doing it a couple of days a week, and others are on shortened hours/days, and have more free time. With the office no longer providing a social outlet many clubs are seeing a younger player profile coming to the club more frequently. These players will want very different rewards, and will want to play different types of games, probably in a different part of the gaming floor.
Tip: Isolate this group in your data and see what game types they are playing and what part of the gaming floor they prefer. There may be a benefit in moving machines around or bringing back games from storage.
- Greater numbers of male players
Probably for the same reasons as above, work-related and social breaks, the number of male players has lifted in many clubs. While women play machines like it’s a party, men play like it’s a sport. They don’t tend to play for as long and will often have much higher average bets. So again, different types of games may need to be boosted based on increased demand.
Tip: check to see if the number of male players (not members or visitors, just poker machine players) have increased by comparing two months before and the two months after the shutdowns. If there is an increase, look at what games are being played and move machines as required
- Higher tier players
Higher tier players were quick to move back into clubs and hotels. They all recognise that online gaming isn’t as much fun, carries lots of risk and doesn’t offer the same returns (even if you get paid out). Social gaming on apps offers their favourite games but doesn’t have the same excitement as a real-life investment.
For these players, they returned to normal play almost immediately even if they are in older age brackets. They do play quite different games to the lower tier day-players so there has been some adjustment in the top ranked games. In many cases SAPs are performing better than links and “tougher” games for example Dragon Cash is better than Lightning Cash. The older mid-and multi-denomination, eg AGT Double-shot, Triple Shot, IGT Jetsetter, and Players Choice games are always popular with these players
Tip: Compare the top tier players that were coming in January-March to those coming now. Make sure you aren’t missing someone important!
- Occupancy and time of day trends
Most clubs have had to reduce the number of their machines in the gaming room in order to accommodate the new 1person per 4 sq meter rules. The interesting upside to this is that most clubs have not seen a decline in turnover despite the average 30% reduction in machine numbers. For players, the turnover going through a reduced number of machines sees them churning through their game cycles quicker offering faster rewards for play, with higher average bets contributing to this too. For clubs a much less volatile hold percentage is adding some stability to gaming profits. In most gaming systems, occupancy reports and time of day turnover charts are intertwined.
Tip: While they may not help with setting promotion times just yet, keep an eye on occupancy levels and the times of day that see peak turnover. There is definitely a new trend forming among most clubs with the changes in player types coming to venues currently.
- Keep it local
With the virus still active many people feel safer in their own environment and that includes local shops, local suburb, local restaurants and local clubs. People know their suburb well and hold the perception that their suburb is safer than everyone else’s. Its logical then that when they go to play at a club or pub, they will choose a local one and not want to drive halfway across town, no matter what you can offer them. Many clubs I work with are seeing a lift in players coming from their local area – their Top 5 suburbs are changing.
Tip: Compare your pre- and post-lockdown data to see what suburbs your new players, (well all players really), are coming from. Use the player data to target local players to ensure efficient use of your marketing budget. Don’t waste money trying to get players in distant suburbs to drive to your venue
- Don’t over-invest in lower tier players just yet
When it comes to clubs, the 60+ group remain a largest market with discretionary disposable income, free time, and a proven propensity to gamble and have for many years dominated club revenue streams in food & beverage sales, entertainment and gaming.
Safety and social distancing will dominate decisions when this group choose to visit the club. Sanitizing, cleaning and recleaning public spaces, social distancing in gaming rooms to create safer environments and 3.5 tonnes per person of hand sanitiser will be the order of the day. It is an all-consuming operational battle to create genuine and transparent safety zones that this group will find comfortable.
Tip: Don’t throw money at them getting them to come back to the club. Use targeted marketing messaging that explains your cleaning regimes, COVID Safe plans, and that their safety is a key consideration for your venue.
In some ways we are moving back to the traditional gaming operation, with a clear focus on “Recency, Frequency, Locality, and Spend or Turnover” to ensure gaming continues as a positive recession-proof revenue stream. We have an opportunity to grow business into different demographic groups with coronavirus seeing lifestyle changes for everyone. Making these new and re-engaged players comfortable relies on finding out what these new player groups are looking for, so….
Tip: engage with them, don’t assume you know what they want based on outdated data.
Justine Channing – Gaming Specialist