Gregg Mineo, Director, Maine Lottery; Chair of MUSL Powerball Group
How will the world be different when we come out of this crisis - and how will the lottery industry, retailing, consumer shopping and recreational behavior be different?
These are big questions that I would imagine many businesses in many industries are grappling with now. Some of the “cottage industries” that have either developed or grown during the pandemic are delivery services and personal shopping services. Will they continue to play a part in the consumer shopping experience? I can see more people using these services to buy everything from groceries to prescriptions to even lottery tickets. Of course, in the lottery business, those states that legalized iLottery have a leg up; players can enjoy the comfort of their home and buy tickets on-line; the pandemic and resulting “stay-at-home” culture may continue into the near and long term, and this in itself may spur on more states to consider on-line play.
What might lottery operators be doing to position ourselves for success in the post-coronavirus world?
When a crisis occurs and a business struggles to adjust, retrench or perform a reset, it’s always important to look to the “blocking and tackling” components that got us where we are. That includes being nimble in our approach to the customer and consumer demands, having a quality portfolio of games that responds quickly, an innovation platform, responsibility messaging and of course stellar customer service. This is what we should be thinking about and working on.
Lottery has performed better than other sectors in past economic recessions. How severely will the economic repercussions of coronavirus impact Lottery?
Well, first of all we were successful in Maine to designate the 1100+ lottery retailers as “essential.” These comprise grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores and others, who sell lottery tickets in addition to staples that most everyone needs. Selling lottery products helps them to stay in business and survive this downturn. We have seen a significant downturn in lottery sales, especially draw during the last 6-7 weeks, but interestingly enough, last week we saw a slight upturn. I think people are getting restless, and are starting to venture out, hopefully being safe and keeping a safe distance from others while stopping at their favorite lottery retailer. Regardless, we have a long road ahead of us, and getting back to some sort of normalcy will take ingenuity and perseverance.
What opportunities will emerge in the post-coronavirus world?
That’s the big unknown, isn’t it. Even after the “all clear” is announced, how will the consumer react? How quickly will someone want to get on an airplane? Go to a concert? Travel to see family? Get a haircut? Go to a movie? I think you’re right on your second point that we are “highly social animals,” but how will that be tempered with our hesitance to “touch the people” again? I think people at first will automatically think “local.” And, yes, casinos may benefit, but I am confident our players will gravitate to what they are comfortable with, and that includes lottery stores. As Lottery managers and regulators we need to be ready for this new world.
How might we reinforce and build upon the symbiotic relationship that Lottery has always had with its retail partners?
Great question. This is the “blocking and tackling” I mentioned previously. Excellent customer service. We will ramp up our presence in lottery stores in a safe way, and be on call for all of their needs. Really nothing new, but more heightened.
Legislators and regulators will have a lot on their plate over the coming months. Even so, what can we do to push harder than ever to get approval to make Lottery products available online, i.e. iLottery? And to push for authorization to invest in new games categories, and new technologies like in-lane sales and cashless transactions?
Legislators and administrations have one thing in common; they have gotten used and continue to want revenue streams to fund programs. The Lottery does just that, and this post-COVID time will be a good time to renew those discussions on new game categories, new retail channels and new routes to market.
What are some of the new challenges and obstacles that we will need to adjust to?
The obvious one is simply less discretionary spending available. Most people will be regrouping post-COVID (if there is one that feels “normal” to us), and will be trying to make ends meet. I look at this as an opportunity to be more responsible with our players; offer products that meet their needs, maybe less costly, easier access, BUT not intrusive and not heavy handed in any way. The lottery regulator needs to be the business manager of course, but also the partner with the players.
Again, those are some questions that come to my mind – please feel free to speak to the issues in whatever ways you think are most relevant.
I would like to add Paul that in this industry we are lucky to have such strong and diligent support from our trade associations, vendor partners, game system operators and fellow lottery colleagues. I am heartened to think that we will get through this together, and come out of it in good shape, and that we have the smartest people to rely upon.