Jean-Luc Moner-Banet, Chief Executive Officer, Loterie Romande
It’s a genuine challenge to try to answer the questions you’re asking. I will try to let you know my current and local analysis of the Covid-19 crisis and its potential consequences on our industry. Nobody dares to make predictions about what will happen this year and next, but I’ll give it a try!
Why my focus on current and local? I think that whatever the global challenge from a public health perspective, it must be analysed from a local perspective for the consequences to be properly understood. Each and every jurisdiction has a different situation that they live in. Local sanitary, political, economic and regulatory conditions vary widely across geographical regions. The magnitude of the crisis is imposing and we need to recognize that anything we do has also to be considered in a dynamic perspective. Of course, there is still so much to learn about the virus itself. But also our self-image and our view of society that we have today may not be the same tomorrow.
The virus is global, but we must address its challenge locally! Our local solutions must find a way to be valued, reformulated, and consolidated globally to benefit the entire community. In this respect, the World Lottery Association has a major role to play in the coming months and years.
Our industry should be focusing on clarifying and communicating our fundamental values, the pillars on which we can reinvent ourselves not only after the crisis, but right now during the crisis. This crisis represents an opportunity to rediscover and refocus on the strengths of the WLA community. Over the past decade, we’ve been constantly focusing on a responsible approach for our gaming activity. Since the beginning of the outbreak, social responsibility became increasingly central in our societies. Governments are now trying to find the right way to protect people from the virus, especially the vulnerable. The crisis has already had an impact on everyone’s ability to commune and interact with each other and that includes lottery and sport betting players! More than ever, lotteries and sport betting operators must hold fast to the values of integrity and responsible gaming that have always been at the heart of their activities and also resonate as the highest priority of the society. This is the number one orientation to keep for the future: act responsively, be successful but respectful.
So too, the role that the WLA community is playing to fund good causes is becoming more and more important in a time when all the stakeholders of the cultural, social and sport sectors see their activity dramatically slowing down or even stopped. The recent WLA Data Compendium reflects the importance of our contribution to these causes. It is the sum of 87 billion USD that our community is allocating every year to good causes and to public treasury. That’s net funds transferred, not gross sales. In these difficult times for our states and our beneficiaries, this is the ideal time to remind all our stakeholders of the objective that we stand for: raising money for the community and the good causes!
Social responsibility and the allocation of our profits to good causes must remain at the center of our activity and public communication, now more than ever!
Another pillar, common to all lotteries and sport betting operators, is the capability that we have to inspire people to dream, to dream high and big while playing our games. This is a strength of our industry – both during and after the crisis our players will pursue the dream of winning the lottery! This is the reason why our games are so firmly established in the hearts of our players and this, in my opinion, will not change. The loyalty of the players to our brands and games is a key factor to our long-term sustainability. If sometimes we’ve been worried about the reluctance of players to embrace new games and adopt the innovations that we offer them, we should today be happy that they are such strong, resilient, and loyal customers.
On the other hand, there will definitely be an evolution in our retail environment. Because of the highly contagious nature of the virus, customers may be reluctant for awhile to re-adopt their previous shopping and consumption behaviors. It is also highly probable that some retailers’ businesses will not survive the crisis and that further consolidation will take place in the sector. For some of us, like Switzerland, the bars, cafes and restaurant sector is key to our business and central for the distribution of games such as VLTs, sport and horse betting or club keno games. This part of the retail market is likely to suffer a lot and many popular places will not re-open after the outbreak, or will at least be highly affected. Lotteries and sport betting companies therefore need to adjust to this evolution to protect their market-share and relationship with the consumer. New commercial and marketing initiatives will be needed to support their re-start period. Perhaps outstanding invoices could be discounted or other incentives extended. It is obviously the ideal time to develop and implement new games, new products and solutions, and digital apps to facilitate the convergence of the traditional retail environment with the fast-growing digital world.
To end, I think that it is paramount that our industry aggressively builds its on-line activity! Over the past few weeks, Loterie Romande has doubled its focus on the digital market in its jurisdiction. Customers are opening new accounts in very large numbers on our internet site; the average amount players spend weekly has also increased. There is no doubt that slowly but surely the retail network will emerge from the midst of the crisis and will remain very important in our business model. But during this difficult time, digitalization is demonstrating its effectiveness and ability to address the player needs in all circumstances. We have also discovered during this time how digital solutions can be applied to enable employees to be effective while working remotely from their home offices and being available 24h/7. Our industry has to ride this wave to pursue the development of its digitalization in parallel with the support the retail network will need. If there is opportunity to emerge from the crisis, it is that one!
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