2014 was a phenomenal year for new bingo sites, with the 400th bingo site launching in the UK early in the year. Many more followed closely behind with some of the big networks spawning a handful of new bingo brands each. Thankfully this trend looks set to continue, with much anticipation for new bingo sites in 2015.
Major changes in online bingo
Some major game-changers were introduced in 2014 improving and altering our experience of online bingo. The most major positive change came from the introduction of HTML5 to almost all bingo brands, meaning each site is now far more responsive on mobile devices on both Android and iOS devices. This has bridged the gap between mobile gameplay and desktop gameplay meaning there are now fewer discrepancies between each choice, with more mobile users able to access games on the go. Now, as new technology such as the Smart Watch and even more advanced smartphones launch, we might find ourselves with completely new ways to play on new bingo sites over the next couple of years. And, perhaps, one day, we’ll be able to play online bingo using virtual reality mobile headsets or Google Glass technology.
The other big factor in 2014 was the introduction of the new Point of Consumption Tax as part of new Gambling and Advertising laws in the UK. This basically means that sites with an operational base outside the UK will still have to pay tax on profits generated by any UK based players. There have been many debates about how this will affect online bingo sites, with claims of sites closing down or withdrawing from the market. However the laws only came into force in November and December 2014 so it looks like any effects will be felt in 2015. Whilst it may be a loss for overseas bingo brands, we could see many more UK based new bingo sites popping up in 2015 and 2016.
The new UK Gambling and Advertising laws saw another key change in how existing and new bingo sites operate. From late 2014 onwards, sites must be licensed by the UK Gambling Commission even if they are based abroad in locations such as Malta, Alderney, Gibraltar, and the Isle of Man. You can check if a site holds a UK license by scrolling to the very bottom of its homepage. N.B., it’s not uncommon for operators to be regulated and licensed by more than one gambling authority, e.g. the UK Gambling Commission and the Gibraltar Gambling Commission.
In early 2016, the IGRG (Industry Group Responsible for Gambling) made several amendments to its code that affect how gambling operators can advertise on television. The most notable change is that sign-up offers encouraging people to sign up at new bingo sites are no longer allowed pre-watershed (i.e. before 9pm). However, bingo and sports betting advertisements are currently excluded from these changes, although both existing and new bingo sites must still adhere to strict guidelines when creating adverts for television, radio, and in print by making sure they include “18+” and a socially responsible gambling message.
The Advertising Standards Authority is the UK’s independent regulator for all media advertising, and 2014, 2015, 2016, have continued to see the ASA crackdown on operators who breach its CAP code. In recent years, the ASA has ruled against several well-known operators who have (in its eyes) published misleading adverts and banners on websites, television, and print publications, and the Authority is notoriously strict about bingo brands clearly referencing wagering requirements for sign-up offers and promotions, as well as including more in-depth information regarding their terms and conditions. As the Advertising Standards Authority acts on complaints from members of the public, any operator that breaches its CAP code is liable to receive negative press, and this is something that new bingo sites should be mindful of.
What else can we look forward to?
Although those are the most major changes set to have the biggest impact on new sites over the next year, there are plenty of other changes and improvements we can still look forward to.
No deposit sites – The trend towards no deposit bingo grew steadily in 2014 and we can anticipate more of the same for the year ahead. No deposit sites are bingo brands which offer players a free amount of money just for joining and creating an account, with no need to put any of your own cash into the site first. The amount of free cash awarded usually starts at £5 but the latest figures show new no deposit sites offering as much as £20 or even more in some instances. Keep your eyes peeled for bigger freebies from new no deposit bingo sites in 2016.
Casinos – In the last few months alone, we’ve seen a number of network operators diversifying into the world of online casino games. While many well-established sites and new bingo sites offer their members a sizeable selection of side games, slots, scratch cards, and casino games, their owners seem to be realising that it’s hard to provide players with a truly diverse and extension range of both bingo games and casino games. Hence, a new trend appears to be emerging which encourages players to ‘follow’ their favourite bingo brands as they venture into the brave, new world of online casinos. By signing-up at the operator’s new online casino, players can still remain a part of their preferred bingo community and feel close to the brand while also broadening their horizons and gaining access to more games and prizes.
Social media promotion – Most bingo brands now have their own Facebook and Twitter pages where fans can interact and enjoy more bingo fun. However as free just for fun social bingo apps become more and more popular, we will see existing bingo sites using social media in new ways to help combat this and keep our interest with them. For example, some operators now offer their social media followers free game cards in return for following their accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Plus, in a similar fashion to the chat games you often encounter on bingo sites, several brands run exclusive social media competitions that include quiz questions, caption competitions, and photo contests that allow participants to win loyalty points and BBz. Expect more competitions, bonuses and exclusive social media only offers in 2016.
Games – with new sites comes new games too! In 2014 some brands introduced 50 ball bingo into the fold whilst the year also saw the launch of the all-new video bingo game. The latter is a hybrid between slot games and online bingo, offering an innovative new take on our favourite online games. In 2015 we may see more of this great innovation alongside better quality, 3D and HD games for both mobile and desktop with genres and styles we’ve never played before.
That’s just some of the things we can excitedly anticipate from the bingo world in 2016. By the end of the year, there will no doubt be a whole lot more exciting features and new bingo sites added to the market too.