In the last issue of CEM, WMS had the pleasure of introducing the 2013 edition of the Active Gambler Profile™ report that presents the results of our biannual online study of the preferences and interests of Active Gamblers—players in the United States, Canada and Mexico who have gambled in a casino in the past 12 months. We presented CEM readers with the significant trend that Active Gamblers of 2013 are more connected, involved and interactive than ever before—three characteristics reflecting the advanced technological environment of the 21st century. Ninety-six percent of the interviewed U.S. Active Gamblers are active on the Internet; with such strong engagement, the online space can be a powerful channel for interacting with these players. It is important to understand that U.S. Active Gamblers in this study are slightly ahead of trends of Internet usage among the general U.S. population, in which 81 percent of American adults use the Internet.1 Choosing the best methods to interact with Active Gamblers online is not only necessary to communicate with them, but it is also crucial for establishing long-term and meaningful relationships.

Identifying the most effective online communication methods begins with understanding players’ current online behaviors and preferences. On the Internet, players actively engage in discussions about win stories and game strategies; they share opinions on slot themes, and review and recommend casinos. The information received within this intricate social network influences the games players play, where they play and their overall casino experience.

Facebook is the most popular social network, and this statement holds true among the interviewed U.S. Active Gamblers—67 percent of U.S. Active Gamblers maintain a profile on Facebook, making it the most popular social network among players. Facebook is used very frequently—65 percent of U.S. Active Gamblers with a Facebook profile visit the site daily.

However, despite the general popularity of Facebook, Active Gamblers don’t prefer the site as an outlet for interaction with casinos or for discussion of gaming-related topics with other players. Only 26 percent of U.S. Active Gamblers have participated in any activity on a casino’s Facebook page. Even Avid Gamblers, the highest-spending segment of Active Gamblers who spend $2,500+ a year gambling in a casino, interact on a very limited basis with casinos on their Facebook pages, despite being technologically advanced beyond the average Active Gambler. The limited activities in which players participate are generally one-sided interactions, such as simply looking around a casino’s Facebook page or becoming a fan/follower of a particular casino. These infrequent online behaviors indicate there is lack of engagement with casinos on Facebook.
Nevertheless, players indicate that they enjoy sharing and discussing their casino experiences online. So the question becomes which social outlets do they prefer most to discuss these topics?

Avid Gamblers are the trendsetters in the industry, and examining their behaviors helps better understand players’ online preferences. Our study shows that U.S. Avid Gamblers are active on YouTube—26 percent maintain a YouTube profile, making it the second-most popular social media site among U.S. Avid Gamblers. The combination of easy video sharing and the opportunity to comment about videos has propelled YouTube into one of the most popular gaming-related social networks. Players control the content and discussion on YouTube by recording and uploading videos of wins. Also by following, watching and commenting on these videos, millions of fans have the opportunity to be collectively involved in one player’s casino experience.

Forty-three percent of U.S. Active Gamblers watch videos online, and there are many slot-related videos available for them to watch. In April 2013 there were:

• 5,000+ YouTube channels dedicated to slots
• 300,000+ videos showing slot play and wins

The top 15 slot channels on YouTube had more than 15,000 subscribers and 27 million cumulative views of 4,500+ slot-related videos.

Casinos can act on the fact that YouTube has become a preferred player social network. Ultimately, operators can use this platform to directly engage with their players to improve the casino experience. The easy and open communication that online outlets offer helps casinos learn more about the ideal player experience from a demographically and geographically diverse audience, while at the same time providing casinos the opportunity to educate their players about the industry.

Casinos have another opportunity to engage with players online through casual gaming, which is growing in popularity among Active Gamblers. More than 70 percent of U.S. Active Gamblers played casual games online in 2012, compared to 56 percent in 2010. Casual games satisfy a player’s desire to participate and be entertained. Casinos can develop an online social casino featuring players’ favorite games to build loyalty with players and promote return visits to the casino.

The cultivation of a loyal, online audience also may help casinos compete in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal, now and in the future. Online gambling remains a controversial topic in the United States; however, casino operators should prepare for legalization as the topic continues to be discussed. Eight out of 10 Active Gamblers are in favor of legalized online gaming. Twenty-four percent of U.S. Active Gamblers—representing some of the highest-spending and most-frequent gambling player segments—would gamble online if legalized.

In summary, the convergence of land-based casino gaming with online gaming and social, casual and mobile activities is here. These once-distinct realms are starting to form a unique environment in which the Active Gambler participates. Casino operators should move quickly to develop strategies and acquire tools, resources and managed services necessary to capitalize on the emerging opportunities in this dynamic environment. In our final byline, we will further explore Active Gamblers’ preferences and opinions about online gambling. We will also add more details about the convergence of land-based casino gaming with online gaming and social, casual and mobile activities to demonstrate the unique synergies they offer to our customers.

Footnotes:
1 According to a December 2012 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project Source: Duggan, Maeve and Joanna Brenner. The Demographics of Social Media Users – 2012. Pew Internet & American Life Project, February 14, 2013. http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Social-media-users.aspx

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