Gala Gives Internet a Go

9 May 2002

Gala Bingo, one of the largest bingo club operators in the United Kingdom, is taking its wares to the Internet.

The company, which acquired skill-gaming site from Carlton Interactive last November, plans to open a play-for-real bingo site in the summer.

Nigel Willis of Gala Interactive, the group's Internet division, said the development of the site's software was a joint effort. Gala designed some of the software itself, but also received input from a few interactive software firms including Carlton Interactive and Ashluecker.

The initiative has already been licensed in Gibraltar, although Willis said Gala may move the operation back to the United Kingdom if legislation is passed that is favorable to online bingo.

"It could happen within the next year or two, it's likely to be around 2004, maybe 2005," Willis said. "But we're not holding out on that. It would be ideal if we could operate from the U.K., but there's a lot of factors in deciding whether to come back to the U.K., just as there are deciding factors whether to go offshore."

Willis said tax rates and licensing costs would also affect Gala's decision to move onshore.

"It's a commercial decision at the end of the day," he said.

The majority of the bingo games on the site will be U.K.-style, as opposed to American, or Canadian, bingo, Willis said. The difference is that U.K. bingo has 90 numbers and 15 numbers per card. Willis said the site will offer some American bingo games but the majority of the site will be U.K.-centric.

In that vein, Willis said Gala will take a number of steps to bar Americans and others who are not legally allowed to gamble online in their jurisdiction.

"We're doing that by a whole variety of different means, from IP address checking down to checking customer registration details almost manually," he said.

Gala plans to market the site to its already substantial customer base, which includes Jamba. Jamba has one million registered users and gets about seven million hits per month, Willis said. In addition, Gala Bingo clubs have more than 6 million registered offline users.

"Gala is the best-known brand on bingo. We'll also have lots of use of online media and some very key industry partnerships with different portals that are already out there," he said.

Willis said Gala Interactive sees the bingo site as more than just add-on for current players. In fact, Gala hopes to win new types of players once its goes online. About 15 million people in the United Kingdom are interested in bingo, he said, but only three million regularly visit bingo clubs.

"The online world's very different for many reasons," he said. "We believe it would be very attractive to a lot of people who wouldn't go to a bingo club. If it's on interactive television or on the Internet, then maybe they'll have a go."

Anne Lindner can be reached at