Competition in the online casino world is fierce. With a huge number of casinos players can choose from, and hardly any barriers to switching to a different provider, casinos are forced to focus on customer retention and loyalty to ensure growth and ensure maximum sales with existing players. It almost goes without saying that casinos use different tricks and tactics to achieve this.
That starts with the games themselves: the design, animations, music and sound effects portray themes that attract players, while in the background carefully balanced algorithms determine the right RTPs and winning frequencies so that players win exactly – and just don't win – enough keep going. All casinos try to furnish their lobbies with the best games from the best developers, so that they can offer players the best gambling experience.
But we want to look beyond what is happening in the games and above all to gain insight into the strategic approaches of casinos that must ensure that players are and remain fully involved. Because the house always wins in the end, this is mainly about ensuring that players deliver maximum revenue. We will see how some strategies really add something to the experience of players, but other strategies are frustrating and sometimes even question ethical standards.
Promotions and VIP
Who doesn't want extra money or free spins? Casinos nowadays offer a wide range of bonuses and promotions: from free spins on new games or slots of the week to deposit bonuses (whether it's on your first, second or later deposit), part of your loss money back, competitive gambling tournaments, " happy hours' and bonuses for those who refer a friend to the casino.
By offering the player something extra in this way, often in the form of (play) money, casinos motivate the player to spend more; Normally you get higher or better bonuses the more you bet.
Then there is also the VIP part. Casinos divide their players into different categories and players in the VIP category usually get the most attention. These players are also called "high-rollers"; the category that deposits more than € 10,000, gambles a lot and often and regularly loses tens of thousands of euros in one bad day.
Casinos try to ensure that the balance in their player base is such that 20% of their customers are VIPs and are responsible for around 80% of total revenue. Most casinos also have a rank system in their VIP program that allows players to promote from a bronze level to a platinum or diamond level based on their monthly activity. By recognizing those players and giving the high rollers the best service and promotions, the casinos can generate much more revenue with this small group of players.
In addition to the psychological benefit of calling someone VIP and treating him in this way, these players often receive personal guidance and communication with the casino is through a special VIP manager, who is sometimes always available. That way the VIPs don't have to wait for normal customer service, but they get faster and better service. Withdrawing money faster can also be one of the benefits. In addition, VIPs sometimes receive special extras, such as vacations or tickets for exclusive parties and other events. Finally, VIPs generally have better bonuses and promotions. Sometimes these are bonuses that are only available for VIPs, but other bonuses can be available for everyone, but with better conditions for VIPs, such as lower deposit values.
With all the benefits that a VIP status brings, the VIP program and the different levels within it is a way in which the casino makes it harder for players to switch to another casino. This keeps the value of a player, and his deposits and gambling, within one casino, rather than being spread over different competitors.
Now for the less pleasant side for players: problems or delays in payments to players. Many online casino players know the frustration that comes with this and also wonder why depositing money is so fast, but withdrawing money can take so long. There are more than enough reasons for this.
First of all, there are often strict procedures that must be met before the money can be transferred to the player. You can think of submitting documents such as ID card or passport and proving your address details. Sometimes personal telephone calls are also required.
In addition, many casinos also set their own limits for withdrawing credits. This can be a time limit, for example one recording per week; a limit in the amount, for example a maximum of € 5,000 at a time; or a combination of both, for example a withdrawal of a maximum of € 5,000 per week. For some players this is not a problem, but for a "high roller" these are quite drastic measures. Smaller players are affected by other conditions, such as a minimum deposit of € 5 and a minimum withdrawal amount of € 20. Although these measures can be frustrating, they can still be somewhat defended as a way to protect the casino and / or the player.
However, there are also casinos that use less tidy methods that seem to focus primarily on maximum revenue, especially at the expense of the less disciplined players. For example, there are casinos that first place a cash withdrawal request in a virtual waiting room; a type of waiting period during which the player can cancel the withdrawal at any time and still use the money again. Hereby both the casino and the player avoid the costs associated with the deposit and withdrawal. After this waiting period, the credit goes to a status in which the request is processed, whereby canceling costs money. The casinos naturally hope that undisciplined players change their mind about withdrawing their credit during the first waiting period.
The most unorthodox method that casinos use is the deliberate delay of withdrawals. In addition, they sometimes even violate their own conditions. A quick search on watchdog and consumer websites that focus on online casinos (such as casino store and askgamblers) shows that this method is no exception at all.
Some casinos not only continue to hope that players change their mind, but use active marketing methods to offer bonuses and promotions to players with a withdrawal request that make it extra tempting to cancel the request. These bonuses are clearly aimed at impulsive players who nevertheless convert their winnings into game credit, where it is then used again – and lost.
Whether the above methods are ethically justified is questionable. What the casinos do to squeeze the highest possible profit from their players are incredibly tempting proposals; especially for gamblers who are at risk of an addiction. Small-scale questionnaires among players show that more than 70% of players have canceled a withdrawal at least once.
Gamification, the application of game techniques in non-game-related environments, has been on the rise in recent years. You come across it in all sorts of environments: from the working atmosphere, where jobs and vacancies are better structured, to health care, where gamification stimulates movement and ensures that certain disorders can be monitored themselves. It is therefore not surprising that we also come across gamification in online casinos, where it forms a deeper layer alongside the slots and table games that the principles have been applying for centuries.
In casinos, gamification is reflected in missions that players have to complete, indirectly motivating them to try new games or to keep playing longer. These missions are often set down in storylines. Casino Heroes, one of the pioneers in the field of gamification in casinos, makes the player a virtual hero who must redeem a kingdom from a terrible dragon. By completing the various tasks and achieving the goals, the players collect XP ("experience points") and receive virtual badges and medals that subsequently yield a carefully selected prize. Often players get hidden slots or extra options within the casino as they progress with their missions.
Another aspect of gamification is in the social component. Comparing yourself with others gives you an additional psychological reason to perform better, which in an online casino always means that you play more. Casinos play players against each other with rankings where they can compare themselves with similar players, or by giving virtual characters with a higher "rank" extras, such as more options or special clothes, weapons or items. In Casumo, for example, every player starts out as a rookie with a white band, but the character and band can be improved by playing a lot. This responds to emotional factors such as jealousy and shame – nobody wants to be seen as a beginner or as a basic character.
The aim of all these ways in which gamification is used is of course clear: to get more revenue from the players by offering them a compelling and enjoyable experience and at the same time to better bind them to the casino and their fellow players.
Data and algorithms
Players in the casino can vary enormously, with widely varying preferences. Casinos recognize this in a simple way by classifying slots according to the number of reels, volatility (the degree of randomness in which slots distribute winnings), theme, whether free spins and jackpots are available and other features. In this way, it is made easy for players to navigate through the lobby and choose a slot that closely matches their preferences and taste. Some slots go even further and allow a player to adjust their game themselves, as Betsoft does with the Good Girl, Bad Girl slot. In this game the players can decide for themselves whether they want to play with high or low "volatility".
But by applying new technologies, casinos can go one step further, to the point where, by analyzing data, the system can search for games for the player itself – and sometimes even select games. Just like gamification, big data is another emerging concept used by casinos to get the most out of players.
The amount of data that casinos can collect is staggering: every game you play, every spin you spin, every win or loss, every bonus you participate in and how you perform with that bonus, every time you log in or log out, how long you play a game or stay on the website, what you are looking for in the lobby, how you enter some parts of the site, even hovering over a game image or advertisement or whatever – everything may be recorded and stored for analysis. The question then is: what do the casinos do with all this data?
It started with small things, such as the automatic placement and reordering of slots in a lobby based on popularity. The idea behind this is that the most important places must be reserved for the games that appeal the most to the widest possible audience. That reordering mission has now been expanded: by deploying self-learning computer models, valuable, predictive insights can be collected and a behavioral pattern of every player can be recognized. By combining that information into a "big data" driven marketing strategy, the maximum value of a player can be achieved by offering products and promotions that are most attractive to a specific player. The three driving forces behind these self-learning computer models are: grouping, classifying and predictive analysis.
To group, players are divided into similar groups. There are several reasons for this. For example, if you are classified in a group based on similar behavioral patterns and preferences for certain slots, but you are one of the few in your group who have not yet tried out a particular slot, it is obvious to recommend that slot to you . You can then see the recommendation, or even a personalized promotion such as free spins for that particular slot, so that you will display the behavior (playing the slot) that the casino wants.
Classifying is more about ranking. The system views every player and arranges it in one of a number of predetermined grades, such as a VIP or returned player. By judging the player on that ranking, the casino can offer very precise promotions. For example, the casino can offer free spins to entice players to try a new slot, but offer a 'cash back' arrangement for VIPs whereby in the first week a percentage of the losses on that slot are refunded as play credit because VIPs are not under get the impression of a few free spins. In another scenario, the system can offer an additional deposit bonus to a player who has not been active for a while and returns to the site.
To predictively analyze, different data points are connected to each other to predict future data points. This has a number of advantages. By looking again at the preferences and behavior of a player, the system can predict what a player will spend as a casino customer in his time. That way the casino can determine exactly how much it can spend on marketing and bonuses to a customer. The behavior of players can be used to determine their favorite slots and after how many days, weeks or months they will stop playing. This information can be used again by offering a promotion at critical moments, which in turn extends this duration. Another example is that the system can recognize when a player is always depositing € 50 in game credit and next time offering a deposit bonus with a slightly higher percentage, making it attractive to, for example, deposit € 60 or more.
They are truly limitless possibilities for casinos when it comes to data mining, self-learning computer models and algorithms. There is much more that casinos can achieve with such techniques and it is definitely an area where we will see a lot of growth and development in the future of online casinos. Their goal is to learn more and more about players and to use that knowledge in order to always offer a small change in the right ways and moments that influence the behavior of the player in such a way that the casino turns more revenue.
If we consider how well the casinos can use the ideas of 'big data', combined with the other elements that we discussed above (the promotions, VIP programs, withdrawal delays and gamification) we can still have such a willing mind as players , the meat remains weak!