There is only one time a year when all the big players in the online bingo industry get together and have their own event dedicated to the online gambling niche they know and love.
To get an idea of what we can expect from this awards re-launch, I’ve spoken with Wayne Howe of WhichBingo whose excitement about these awards is simply contagious. Here are some words from Wayne on how these awards have changed since years previous, why they are so important to the online bingo industry and what you can expect on the big night.
Becky Liggero: Wayne, you are clearly so enthusiastic about the awards you’ve put together for this year, we’re all looking forward to seeing what’s in store. Lets start with how the nomination categories have changed since your previous awards.
Wayne Howe: The previous awards had 4 categories:
• Site of the Year (now named Best Online Bingo Site)
• New Site of the Year (now Best New Online Bingo Site)
• TV Ad of the Year (now Best Online Bingo TV Ad)
• Promotion of the Year (now Best Online Bingo Promotion)
The new categories we’ve added this year are:
• Best Mobile Bingo Experience
• Most Socially Responsible Bingo Site
• Best Boutique Online Bingo Site
• Best Online Bingo Software
• Best Online Bingo Chat Team
• Online Bingo Game of the Year
The mobile category obviously is a reflection on how the industry is changing with all the major sites now going mobile & tablet compatible. We’ve called this award ‘best mobile experience’ because some operators have apps, some have mobile sites that aren’t apps, etc.
For me, the most interesting new award has to be the ‘Most Socially Responsible’ award. Online gambling in general gets a bad press, and so we wanted to discover what the bingo industry is doing in terms of implementing safeguards for their players in regards to support for online gambling, and to recognise that.
The boutique award is basically a best site award for all of the smaller operators and those who operate skins on a bingo network. Some of these sites despite their small size do regularly punch above their weight in regards to interesting promotions, customer service and community interaction, and this award is to give them a chance to be recognised for their efforts.
Best software as it sounds is an award not for the individual sites, but for the software development teams who build the games. There are maybe a dozen main software providers to the industry as a whole, and a small number of sites have their own unique software. We don’t expect all players to know what the name of the software is at the site they love, so they can nominate simply by entering the name of the site, and we’ll automatically know what software house they are voting for.
Best Chat team is basically an award for the chat moderators. We had previously run an awards for this on another website, WhichCM.com so this isn’t amazingly new other than it is now part of the WhichBingo Awards instead of being separate.
Finally, Online Bingo Game of the Year is essentially there to identify the very best individual game. There has been a lot of innovation in the past few years, with particular the bigger sites investing in exclusive games and TV show tie-ins, so there is plenty of choice for this award we feel.
BL: You’ve clearly put a lot of hard work into this, sounds really professional to me. What changes have you made to the voting and judging process?
WH: In previous years it was always a total free-for-all – very simple, standard web poll. In December we would open the voting form and any player could vote for any site in any category. When voting was finished, the sites who won got a big pat on the back, a nice shiny winners badge to put on their site. No trophy, no presentation, nothing tangible in the real world if you know what I mean.
This year we wanted to update the process and turn it into an awards process that could sit proudly alongside those such as EGR Awards or iGaming Business awards, not in scale, but in regards to how professional they come across and how transparent the whole process is.
So we decided to bring in a nominations round, and in each nomination form players and operators can provide optional data to support their nominations. We expect operators to leave more in depth information of course, but we are getting players leaving their reasons, and when we do announce the shortlists at the end of it, we will be explaining precisely why each site made it to the shortlist – something I don’t believe I’ve seen in any other bingo related awards.
After that, it will be more like the traditional vote, but all the sites up for the votes we will know deserve to be there and could be worthy winners.
BL I like it, looking forward to congratulating those winners. I know you cannot reveal too many details just yet, but can you give us some idea of what to expect on the night?
WH: OK so the biggest step we’re taking with all of this is to put on a real awards evening for the industry at the end of it. We’re really pleased that Bullet Business have partnered with us to bring the awards to the Online Bingo Summit. This will ensure we’ll be able to get the great and the good of online bingo along to the event.
As for the event itself, it’s not going to your usual black-tie, sit down meal type of awards ceremony. Ours will be much more relaxed and informal, hosted at a top London venue that I know people will get very excited about when we announce it. There will be the usual free drinks and canapes, plenty of time to relax and chat after a long day at the summit, and then of course our awards presentation itself.
We’ve got some really nice trophies designed, and we’re going to get a really exciting host to present it all. I just can’t wait for it all to come together on the night.
BL: What makes me smile is when you tell me this event is going to be great- so tell me, why is this event going to be great? ☺
WH: It’s going to be great because we’re finally delivering an awards event that the industry deserves. No longer will bingo have to settle for a bit part in a larger awards ceremony. Our aim is to make these awards the highlight of the year for the industry – the Oscars of the bingo world.
BL: The Oscars of the bingo world it is- thank you very much for joining me today Wayne and best of luck preparing for the big night, the online bingo community is looking forward to it.