Aspiring Bingo Monarch Shoots for the Stars

1 June 2001
Wayne Townsend has a simple goal: "I want to be the king of bingo."

To achieve this goal, Townsend is looking to reshape the way online bingo is played around the world. His concept is unique and if it works could give him claim to the reign of bingo that he seeks.

The Yucca Valley man wants to bring the power of the Internet to bingo halls everywhere, but instead of targeting players globally he wants operators to put the focus on the region in which they are located.

Case in point: Townsend's first effort out of the box is He's hoping bingo hall and casino operators in the Palm Springs area will sign up for his services.

But instead of trying to lure customers away from the bricks-and-mortar facilities, he's hoping to use the Internet to bring traffic into the facilities.

"What I would like to do is market this only to players within driving distance to the casinos," he explained. "Initially the plan is if a player wins they have to come to the casino to collect their winnings."

Forcing the players out of their homes and into the facilities to collect their money does a number of things, according to Townsend. "Most obvious, it creates more traffic in the casino," he said, "but it also gives the casino some control with who is playing online. Winners will be forced to show an ID which will cut down on minors playing."

Townsend is initially targeting destination places like Palm Springs, but he sees his vision reaching Las Vegas, Atlantic City and everywhere in between.

"There are over 4,000 bingo halls in the country," he said. "It is a nice audience to deal with and I think the Internet can help maintain the excitement the players get even if they are at home."

Instead of using the site as an alternative to the casinos and bingo halls, Townsend sees his operation as another way for operators to make money, even when players aren't at their facilities.

"Think about all the destination places there are in the United States alone," he said. "How many people only go to Vegas or Atlantic City for a couple days and then return home? How do these people fulfill that void when they are away from those places? This will give them a channel for that even when they are at home."

Townsend does see a day when his plan can be targeted nationally--or even globally--but until certain measures materialize, he feels it is best to target players within driving distance to the facilities.

"Until there is a third-party gamblers banking system, this is the safest way to monitor activity," he said. "I am waiting for the day when there will be a system where players will have to go into a bank and show ID and fill out forms, and then be able to go home and use that information to gamble online. Until that day comes I think the focus has to be regionalized."

Townsend stresses, however, that he doesn't want to bite off more than he can chew at this point. "We need to make sure this can work here first," he said in reference to the Palm Springs area.

Under his plan Townsend wants to work only with land-based operators. He's looking at traditional facilities to help protect the online players.

"If you don't have a bricks-and-mortar casino, don't talk to me," he said. "I want the players to know they aren't dealing with a fly-by-night operation and they have a place they can physically go to if they want service."

Besides all of that, Townsend doesn't see much of a future for online-only operators.

"As soon as MGM and Harrah's go online, the overseas and offshore guys go away," he said. "There are plenty of good virtual casinos, but no one out there has the branding that the traditional powers do."

In addition to the regional approach, Townsend is hoping that the looks of his games will make them an easy sell for operators. His suite of games is chat-enabled, and the graphics and sound are cutting edge.

"These are all tier-one games," he said. "The first generation of games were all Java-based and the software wasn't that great. They weren't bad with what they had to work with, but once people get a look at these, they will not want to go back to the old games."

The chat ability is necessary to accommodate the Internet player, according to Townsend. "Bingo is a very social game," he said. "When people go to the bingo halls they sit and talk about movies, news or just good-old gossip. They can do the same thing when they go online now."

While his games are progressing along nicely, Townsend hopes to have his demo site fully running by July; he feels there's still plenty of ground that the industry needs to make up.

"Although it is the Internet, I am trying to convince the casinos to do it in steps," he said. "The rest of the world comes to the U.S. to play. But the laws have to go the right way in order for the U.S. to compete."

In due time though, if all goes according to plan, bingo hall and casino operators as well, as players everywhere, will have a new monarch.

"If we can go to destination places like Palm Springs and Vegas and bring their excitement to the Internet," Townsend said, "we will become the online destination for bingo."

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