In 2009, with the number of bingo centres continuing to decline, the industry approached government directly to seek a mandate for change and support. Through tremendous hard work and communication of the value of the sector, a consensus for support was reached and duly granted under the Revitalization of Charitable Gaming (Bingo).
Creating Broader Partnerships
A key element of this initiative has been the option of choice. This was not a mandated initiative. It was designed to ensure that those who opted in did so knowing full well it would require a long-term commitment and it wouldn’t be an easy road.
Thus a ‘partnership’ approach was required from the commercial operator, centre charity association, municipality, Crown corporation (OLG) and AGCO. Every one of these five groups needed to be aligned or, quite simply, it could not go forward.
As with any new partnership framework there were cultural changes to accommodate the different needs of the partners and to establish their respective roles within the new framework.
Committing to Investment
The commercial operators had to agree to a baseline investment package for the initiative to be activated. The majority of commercial operators have gone beyond that baseline investment level and we are beginning to see innovative elements introduced around the province. The minimum requirement of investment is $450,000 which, given that most commercial operators are small business owners, has focused everyone’s mind on success. This investment level, known as phase one, has also generated additional employment opportunities in the centres, which is another good news story. It is about creating a more enjoyable social environment for the consumers where they can enjoy their leisure time with friends.
Supporting the Key Beneficiaries
The Revitalization of Charitable Gaming (Bingo) is about securing the valuable platform for our charities and non-profit groups by enabling them to continue raising and deploying funds in real time in their communities.
There has been a tradition dating back over 40 years of this community engagement and the enrichment of those communities through the hard work and dedication of the numerous volunteers. The more successful the revitalization initiative can be, the more we can collectively support the charities and non-profit groups.
Understanding the Key Driver
As we move forward, the understanding is that the key driver is the customer and obtaining a greater understanding and awareness of their behaviours, needs and wants is going to be critical. Through our partnership with the OLG, the c-Gaming team has undertaken comprehensive research into the bingo/social gaming customer with some interesting results.
Offering an engaging social experience is the key, creating and delivering an enhanced service experience that is delivered in the most efficient manner. The expectations of the customer are evolving as society is changing in general. No company or service has remained static for 20 years and survived. Charitable gaming is no different.
A Balanced Approach
As with all gaming environments, regardless of the channel, we need to be mindful of the need to balance development with responsible gaming practices. This initiative has engaged the Responsible Gaming Team at OLG to bring in resources and knowledge of this complex area into our centres. Specifically, accessible Responsible Gaming kiosks are sourced from and staffed by the Responsible Gambling Council of Ontario, a highly regarded organization in this field.
The regulatory framework has also been enhanced and updated, focusing on a risk-based approach that is linked to a set of standards that are clearly defined and cover the broader range of gaming environments from resort casinos to lottery kiosks. We are fortunate to have a respected regulator in the AGCO.
Making Headway – Long Way to go
Since the initiative was launched we have successfully converted 25 centres to this platform. Well over 1,000 charity and non-profit groups are operating under this new framework and receiving the benefits that have been created. We have seen over an estimated $20 million in investment deployed in the sector and incremental local employment opportunities generated. To date it is estimated that $72 million has been raised for charity and non-profit groups, which are deploying these funds in their local community under the guidance of the municipality.
And this is just the beginning. We have, in phase one, 37 centres to convert — a goal that is likely to be reached by mid to late 2015. The pace of these conversions has been tremendous but it is the beginning of the process. We still have a long way to go to maximize and leverage the opportunity before us.
An Initiative That Makes a Difference
This initiative is remarkable in that it has five different partners all working towards the same goal but all with a different point of reference. This keeps the initiative balanced and in tune. It is generating investment, employment, immediate local funds and a place for social interaction between friends. This is the main differentiator between charitable gaming (bingo) and other forms of gaming.
We want to make a difference. We want to strengthen and build on what has been achieved and through constructive partnership and working together to overcome challenges collectively, we are beginning to see the seeds come to fruition. Although there is a long road ahead, we remain optimistic for the future.