Everybody Loves Ladbrokes' Balls

4 October 2001
Ladbrokes recently added a bit more fun to its Web site. Customers can now log on and play a new game with a very original name—Balls.

Balls is a numbers betting game that features a draw every minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The company calls it the world's first "every minute" numbers draw.

If you haven't heard about this game, however, don't be surprised.

"We have given the game no marketing support and virtually no P.R., so customers have found it 'by accident' only when they have visited our site," said Ladbrokes eGaming spokesman Andy Clifton. The game first launched in July.

"Even so," he said, "in the first four weeks of operation it took in £2 million and continued to grow since."

The game has even rivaled horse race betting in popularity among Ladbrokes clientele. It's become common for Balls to average as many bets online as horse racing does. It provides a daily turnover of £100,000, according to Clifton.

"Until now, we've let Balls sell itself as a fun, innovative and great value betting game and our customers have just discovered it for themselves," he said.

Balls was developed in-house in association with software development firms Orbis Technologies and NT Media. The game has proven especially attractive to players from the Far East, Clifton said.

Balls features 16 red, 16 blue and 16 yellow balls that can be bet in 37 different ways, based on the individual numbers, their totals or even their color combinations. The most popular bet, however, is "the cocktail," in which one ball of each color must be drawn.

Bets can be repeated up to 1,440 times--basically the same bet repeated every minute during a 24-hour span--and can be played for as little as 10 pence or as much as £10,000 each.

Balls also gives players a 94.4 percent payout, which has been independently verified by accounting firm Ernst and Young LLC. This payout compares favorably to that of the U.K. National Lottery, fruit machines, bingo and similar numbers games.

And while Ladbrokes continues to have success offering customers a wide range of sports betting options and casino games, Balls is showing the company that customers also crave fun, innovative new games.

"Its success proves that despite the widespread availability of betting on worldwide sporting events, there is still a place for the 'buzz' of instant-win casino-style numbers games that can provide good value to customers and a bit of fun," Clifton said.

Vicky Nolan joined the IGN staff in October 1999. She's best known for inventing fire, the wheel and swiss cheese. She can be reached at vicky@igamingnews.com.