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Top-10 things I'd do if I ran an online casino6 February 2012
Writing that column got me thinking about what I would do if I was in charge of an online casino. So here's my top-10 list of things I would do if I was running an online casino.
10. Forge a relationship with a brick-and-mortar casino
Some people don't trust online casinos. And there have been some pretty infamous scandals that should make people think hard about with whom they are entrusting their gambling experience. But brick-and-mortar casinos have too much to lose to cheat people. Having a solid relationship with a brick-and-mortar brand builds credibility, and it would also allow my online casino to provide my customers with opportunities to travel to brick-and-mortar resorts using loyalty points they earn on my site. I know that I might be more likely to play at an online casino or poker room that had a relationship with a casino in the Bahamas, knowing that my play might eventually get me a free trip to an island resort, and I can't be the only one.
9. Have a social media presence
Facebook had 845 million active monthly users at the end of last year, and Twitter had roughly 150 million active monthly users as of last summer. That's a lot of people. No, I couldn't reach ALL of them. But I could reach a good number of people in my target audience. The key to success in social media marketing is building a social media identity that matches your brand. As an online casino, I'd focus on building a fun, edgy online identity. I'd try to make people laugh, provide interesting information and most of all, get people thinking about my brand.
8. Let anyone participate in play-money games
This is a no-brainer to me. It drives me nuts when I'm trying to write about an online casino and it blocks me because I live in the United States. I understand why online casinos make business decisions to exclude Americans from real-money play. But I don't understand why I can't download their casino and play for free. If and when the United States (or individual states within the U.S.) decides to license online casinos to offer real-money games to Americans, wouldn't it make more sense to have a database of active American play-money players rather than blocking them from play-money games? Providing play-money games to Americans (or any other jurisdiction you decide to block) costs next to nothing. I'll let them log on and play.
7. Offer the best odds
I can understand why many Las Vegas casinos have dropped payouts on Jacks or Better video poker machines, offer American roulette instead of European roulette, and offer $5 blackjack tables but only pay 6/5 on blackjack. These rule changes make the tables more profitable, but they also have a very negative impact on the expected return for the player. There's a lot of overhead involved in running a brick-and-mortar casino; you have to pay the dealer/croupier at the tables, and they take up a lot of valuable real estate. But at my online casino, you'll only find the best odds. I want to have the most competitive online casino out there, and I'll make my money on the tiniest house edges on a high volume of players. And people who have a positive experience (which yes, means people have winning sessions occasionally) will usually come back for more.
6. Offer promotions with a player edge
Casinos make money because they have an unfair advantage in the games they offer. Players know this and play anyway. But every once in a while, wouldn't it be nice to give the players an edge? At my online casino, about once a year, I'd offer a promotion that would be a guaranteed loser for the casino. Maybe I'd pay 2/1 on blackjack instead of 3/2, or let customers know that one of my online slots would be programmed to pay back 101 percent. Or maybe I'd offer a deposit bonus and have the requirements to clear it be advantageous to the player. The key here, however, is to make sure you cap player winnings. If I were running the blackjack promotion, the player would get paid 2/1 for his first 25 hands with a cap of $10 per wager; if I went with the slot promotion, I'd only run it for an hour, and only for the lowest denomination offered on that machine. If it's a deposit bonus, I'd cap it at $100 and configure the bonus so that the average player would have about $10 in extra money left after the playthrough requirements were met. Will I have some bonus hunters who take advantage of my generosity? Sure. But I'll also have a legion of loyal customers who appreciate the chance to have the tables turned for once and have an advantage over the casino.
5. Offer big progressive jackpots
Nothing gets the juices flowing like playing for a seven-figure score. That's really the dream of the gambler, isn't it? Turn a small wager into life-changing money and retire to a cabana on a beach on a small Caribbean island. Okay, maybe that's just me. But regardless, when I'm in charge of an online casino, I'll be offering a few big jackpot games, like Mega Moolah and Shopping Spree.
4. Use lots of humor in advertising
Similar to building my brand through a social media presence, I'd work hard to build my brand using humor in advertising. No one does this better than Paddy Power Sportsbook. I'm not sure I'd take exactly the same tack as the Irish bookmakers (I might not want to alienate cat lovers!), but you have to admit, the ads are memorable!
3. Utilize all gaming verticals
When someone puts me in charge of an online casino, my attitude is going to be like Queen's: I want it all. Some of the biggest brands in the online gaming space offer just about anything a gambler would want to bet on. William Hill Online (William Hill Casino), bet365 (bet365 Casino), PartyGaming/bwin (Party Casino) and Bodog (Bodog Casino) all offer a casino, a sportsbook and poker, with some offering bingo as well. Focusing on just one vertical can lead to success (PokerStars is an obvious example), but I think variety is the spice of life, so I'd want to offer everything under the sun.
2. Allow bonuses to be cashed out
I don't mind playthrough requirements on bonuses. If online casinos offered free bonus money without requiring players to wager it a few times before cashing out, they'd go broke. But I don't like bonuses that aren't real money and can only be used for wagers. Here's an illustration of why I dislike these types of bonuses. Say an online casino offers a 100 percent match bonus on first deposits. A player deposits $100 and gets a $100 bonus for a $200 account balance. After meeting the playthrough requirements, the player has $75 left in his account. The player is down $25, but in reality, he's down the full $100 he deposited because he can't cash out anything below $100, because that money is viewed as "bonus money." If I ever run an online casino, that player will be able to choose whether or not he wants to play with that money or cash it out, because any bonus I offer will be as good as cash once playthrough requirements are met.
1. Offer a no-download Flash version
There's a reason people like to test-drive cars before they buy them. It gives them a chance to see how the vehicle feels, and whether it's a good fit for their driving style and their lifestyle. Well, a no-download Flash version of your casino allows potential players to get a sneak preview of the games you're offering without requiring them to submit a million details that they may not want to provide. It also gives players who don't want to download software onto their computers a chance to play. 7Red is an excellent example. All their games are available to play without downloading a thing, and you can even play them with play money without registering an account. When I'm in charge, I'm following 7Red's lead. Play at my casino and you'll have the option to download or play games on a no-download Flash version of my casino.
Best of Aaron Todd