Pick your numbers: why operators are missing a trick with Keno

Keno paper
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Tony Plaskow, Founder at Pixiu, says that Keno provides unrivaled acquisition and retention opportunities for online gambling operators across North America but many are overlooking this land-based staple

Pixiu’s Tony Plaskow

Online operators are always looking for ways to engage new audiences and drive them to their sportsbooks and casinos. In recent months, this has seen many stock their lobbies with non-traditional content such as crash games that allow tap into the psyche of Millennial and Gen Z players and provide them with a gambling experience that aligns with their preference for fast-paced mobile play that offers interaction in spades.

But very few online operators look to land-based gaming and more traditional player audiences as a source for new customer acquisition, meaning many are missing a trick. Land-based gaming is live and kicking in markets across North America, particularly the lottery vertical, which has always appealed to the widest player audience. But within the lottery space, a particular game is turbo-charging revenues for some of the biggest state and provincial operators.

Keno is a super-simple draw game that sees players pick between two and ten numbers ranging from 1 to 80 in value. Numbers are then drawn, and the number of matches determines whether the player wins or not, and if they do win, the size of that win. Some Keno games come hooked up to jackpots, so there’s the potential to land a life-changing cash prize. It’s played by millions of people across the US and Canada, but mostly on VLT terminals and machines located in casinos and bars.

It generally appeals to older players – 40 years plus and with a 50/50 split between male and female. But the revenues it generates are significant and for large state and provincial lottery operators, we are talking in the hundreds of millions. But this is mostly being generated by the just-mentioned IGT video lottery terminals stationed in casinos, bars and lottery outlets. Could you imagine what those numbers would look like if it was being offered online?

So, with just 3 interactive keno titles available in the US market, operators do not yet have the all-important dedicated keno tab to house these titles. Acting as its own genre, keno needs a specific destination for players to find and enjoy the games but, until now, there have not been enough games to warrant that. But that is about to change… throughout 2023 more and more keno titles will be released into the US and Ontario market to add material value alongside their staples of slots and table games.

This presents an opportunity for savvy operators across North America to add Keno to their offering and drive new customer acquisition and retention while their rivals are focussing their content efforts on the staples. By giving keno its own tab or area within the lobby, operators can add up to 10% of incremental revenue from their casino vertical.

Those that do this will be able to unlock the incredible acquisition opportunities that it provides. At the moment, Keno players can really only play their favourite game in person at a sports bar or lottery outlet, so being able to play online would drive this audience to any operator brand that offers it at scale.

At Pixiu, we have seen this happen in a meaningful way for both Loto Quebec and the British Colombia Lottery Corp where offering our games online actually increased overall NGR for the whole site as Keno revenues were created and these new players crossed over into slots in a very meaningful way indeed. In fact, the cross-sell between slots and Keno is around 80% – a cross-sell rate that is frankly unrivalled.

Keno also moves the needle when it comes to retention. Our data shows that Keno players are, by some distance, the most loyal players for online operators. Our Canadian partners launched our initial games five years ago and the same players who played those games for the first time then are still going strong today.

It’s also a softer, low-stakes game which means that players don’t burn through their cash and can enjoy much longer playing sessions even with a small budget. But the gameplay can be set for different player preferences – our fastest base game mode sees 20 balls drawn in five seconds with the slowest at 15 seconds. This means that players can choose a Keno game that plays five times slower than most slots or have a similar experience in terms of the speed of the gameplay. Where bonus rounds feature, it can extend the gameplay even more.

This small stakes/big fun approach also plays into the need for operators to consider responsible gambling and player protections. At a time when some regulators are slowing the speed of slots, Keno is the right product for operators to be offering.

By launching a dedicated keno tab, online gambling operators in North America can harness a new, lucrative and robust revenue stream which can be a huge differentiator too. A catalyst for new player acquisition, bringing valuable, loyal players to their brands that will naturally and easily cross-sell into slots and other gaming products. In highly competitive markets such as the US and Canada, this can give them a tremendous edge over their rivals.