Red Tiger CEO Gavin Hamilton explains why the casino industry is focusing more and more on jackpots to incentivise players.

When Red Tiger launched its Daily Jackpots in the summer of 2016, most eyes within the betting and gaming industry were focused on France. With the European Championships only days away, sportsbook marketing budgets were in place and sign-up offers had been made in the promotional push to attract new customers. On the casino side, free spins ruled, as they had forever seemingly, with regard to both acquisition and retention.

Working closely with Paddy Power Betfair’s gaming team, and the operator's then director of gaming (myself), Red Tiger was trying something different. By introducing jackpots on its games that had to drop by a certain time each day, they had developed a new retention mechanic which didn’t require a war chest of free spins. Players took to it immediately and kept on playing. The jackpots they were chasing weren’t on the scale of Microgaming’s Mega Moolah. But they weren’t designed to be either. They were designed to be far more attainable.

Fast forward nearly three years and the bug has bitten. Blueprint Gaming was the first to follow Red Tiger’s lead with the introduction of Ceiling Jackpots, ensuring big wins were triggered when a certain total was achieved rather than time. Playtech now offers both these and daily jackpots to their operator partners, whilst Habanero revealed its new Jackpot Race functionality at ICE. The twist there is that the system pays out to multiple winners in a descending style at the end of the designated period, much like the breakdown of a poker tournament.

Looking back, Red Tiger was leading the industry then and it’s encouraging that a number of our competitors have followed suit. What we saw back then was that the sheer size of the big progressive jackpots, the thing that was meant to attract players, was putting them off because they didn’t believe they stood a chance. You didn’t need a maths degree to figure out the stats of winning.

With a daily jackpot tailored to a single operator, the player was only ever competing with whomever was playing on that one site that day. Overnight the odds became much more interesting. They weren’t going to be able to buy an island in the Caribbean, but it would still be a cracking pay day.

Nothing has changed from a player point of view in the three years since. In fact, it’s still an under-served niche that hasn’t reached its potential and it has none of the headaches that other player promotions now suffer from, saving operators time and money.

Regulatory landscape

What has changed is the regulatory landscape. With compliance concerns around free spins gathering pace in several markets, things crystallised when the re-regulated Swedish market opened its doors for business in January this year. Its most eye-catching stipulation was that welcome offers were only for new customers. Gone was the opportunity to get a dormant player spinning again with a few freebies. Whether or not this proviso is a one-off or becomes the new norm remains to be seen. But what it does mean is that the industry can’t stand still.

It has certainly sped up the drive for innovation. Little over a month ago Pokerstars debuted Victory Tribes, promising ‘multiple community features in a real-money slot experience.’ Developed in-house, the slot allows players to customise their game by selecting a ‘tribe’ and taking on opponents in the bonus game, with tournament battles featuring five times every hour, with up to 50 players battling each other for victory. When the tribe wins, you win.

Red Tiger has not been resting on its laurels either. Next month, we will be launching the Daily Drop Jackpots Network, which functions the same way as the one introduced with Paddy Power in 2016, but across a network of operators instead. Its purpose is to offer jackpot functionality for the first time to smaller operators who would otherwise be denied by their size or forced to swim among the bigger fish in the network-wide competitions their customers have fewer chances of winning.

The trick is to make the jackpots attainable but interesting at the same time, whether that’s ceiling jackpots or daily ones. You really need scale to deliver that, which is why they need to be run with the larger operators.

Ordinarily, that would shut the door on the smaller brands. Yet with pooled daily jackpots you can ensure their players get the chance to join the party. And if you get the numbers right, you don’t have one over-sized brand in there, whose players have a better chance of winning. It can work for one operator with multiple brands, an aggregator who works with a number of different partners, or up-and-coming casinos looking to compete on level terms.

What we are looking to do is stay one step ahead of the game and ensure that we can create meaningful player experiences for all of our operator partners, no matter what their individual requirements. And we have loads of things in the pipeline like it, so watch this space.

With regulatory change forcing us all to rethink our approach, it seems safe to say that we won’t need to wait until the next big football tournament before we see further developments in the world of jackpots.