Public Gaming International July/August 2023

34 PUBLIC GAMING INTERNATIONAL • JULY/AUGUST 2023 and we’re working on the technology that will allow lotteries to move as fast as the retailers to ensure that new ways of playing the lottery are as appealing as the traditional clerk-assisted ways.” As the Lottery Director in Oklahoma, and Marketing Director before that, Jay Finks works closely with his state’s retailers. While he has seen much change in the lottery industry, he believes more is needed. “We all need to challenge each other – vendors, lotteries – to stay relevant,” he said. “Our industry has always been accustomed to taking more time to change our methods and we need to learn how to move faster. In Oklahoma, we’re embracing self-service and working with our top corporate chains to make sure lottery is always a priority. Ultimately, we need to get lottery into self-checkout, but our current self-service machines are filling a gap that will get us there.” Justin continued the discussion about multi-store corporate accounts. “There is so much change in the corporate world and lottery has to be flexible in dealing with the natural ebbs and flows of private commercial business,” he said. “7-Eleven acquired Speedway which was the biggest acquisition in that sector’s history. Kum & Go recently sold its business. So the corporate sector is constantly evolving and lottery has to evolve along with it. They want to grow value and if lottery doesn’t provide that, we’ll lose to other products that can. And that means implementing modernized methods of merchandising and supporting the retailers.” As a provider of in-store marketing technologies that help lotteries attract customers and increase sales, Maxwell Goldstein said he and his colleagues at Carmanah Signs work with lotteries to modernize retail and boost player engagement. “Lotteries like OLG are working with retailer partners such as Circle K to make investments in communication at retail using Digital Menu Boards and Digital PlayStations, putting lottery front and center instead of being hidden,” he said. “For these large retail chains, it's about future-proofing by investing in technology that improves the in-store experience and keeps them competitive. It’s also about meeting customer expectations. A robust digital communication platform enables automated, highly targeted messaging to any screen, anytime, anywhere.” Abacus is at the forefront of providing lottery retailers with in-lane technology that allows lottery to keep pace with retailer changes. But like most modernization projects, it comes down to money. “Most retailers are worried about keeping up with the latest technology,” Terry Presta said. “Technology is moving fast and it’s expensive. So in the end, whoever has the most capital usually wins the technology race. What this means for the future is that consolidation will continue, and the remaining retailers will be bigger and better financed. For lottery it will be good news because we’ll have fewer units with higher sales per location. I think this is a positive for lottery in the long term.” Burbank said that with any retailer, but particularly those impacted by mergers and acquisitions, it is important to see how lottery is managed. “We need to make sure that with any changes, lottery is still considered a product of importance,” he said. “Do they have games on the counter? Are the games easy to see on the wall behind the counter? Walk up to the counter and ask yourself ‘O.K., I’m three feet from the register. Do I see lottery easily and clearly?’ Too many times I’ve seen the lottery get pushed aside when there are changes, moved off a counter or on the counter facing the bathroom. Even if the retailer is independent, we need to make sure lottery is their priority.” Walmart is an example of a corporate account that has drawn almost every lottery and vendor’s attention, as their presence across the country is so pervasive. But it can be complicated working with such a large enterprise. “Walmart is so big and wide-reaching that the lottery industry created a vending machine just for them,” said Frank. “Given the specifications of Walmart, the machine is short and hard to see but it’s what they wanted. To me, this is the potential risk of consolidation in the industry – you begin to lose your impact. You might be in a state with just one corporate retailer and a few smaller chains which allow you to place more POS. But then they begin to consolidate, get bigger, to the point where lottery is just another product. My feeling is that the entire industry needs to act together when we are dealing with large retail groups. We did it with Walmart for things like settlements and instant ticket accounting. Let’s continue to work together because it’s only going to get more complicated as consolidation inevitably continues.” Jay agreed, especially because Oklahoma has a strong corporate presence. “We’ve seen the corporate stores grow from 35-40% of our stores and sales to 50% of our stores and 65% of our sales,” he said. “That has caused us to assign our people in the field to corporate accounts to build the relationships. Since COVID, we’ve had strong leverage over these accounts because lottery basically helped them survive that period. We have a number of corporate retail executives tell us that they are making money on gas and lottery but losing money on food. We need to take advantage of this position because the corporate stores are now in stronger positions than the independents.” In the spirit of an evolving landscape for lottery, Justin moved the conversation back to in-lane. “In-lane is still a relatively young feature for the U.S. lottery industry,” he said. “In Florida, we’re going on two years of our in-lane project and I see it as an investment in the future. But are our efforts to provide efficient, consumerfriendly retail solutions moving us in the right direction? Are they perhaps a stopgap between the traditional and digital versions of lottery? I believe in the in-lane technology, but I’m interested in how everyone else feels about it.” Obviously, this is a topic in Terry’s wheelhouse. “So much is changing right now, and lottery needs to keep pace,” he said. “At Abacus, we have seen the move to in-lane coming for many years as it really began in Europe well over a decade ago. We have been working with retailers to make sure we are offering them solutions that work for them. Their customers don’t want to go to the customer service desk to buy lottery? Well, it needs to be in-lane. No matter the size of the retailer, we have solutions that will answer their needs and the direction they are taking their customer-focused technology.” Carmanah is no stranger to in-lane, as they have been involved in virtually every install of in-lane lottery signage, working with early adopters in Europe and Canada for over a decade. “As Carmanah provides the signs that attract and inform players, we have deep insight into global best practices for advertising at the point-of-sale,” said Maxwell. “In order for in-lane to work, Retail modernization and Optimization: Applying the most progressive tools, methods, and ' best-practices' to drive sales at Retail continued from page 20