Published: July 19, 2020

Mike Veverka, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Jumbo Interactive and Richard Bateson, Chief Commercial Officer & Head of North America, Jumbo Interactive

Mike Veverka, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Jumbo Interactive (pictured left)

In the 20 years since Jumbo sold its first lottery ticket over the Internet, we’ve witnessed a lot of change – but nothing like these past few months! It’s quite remarkable to see Shopping Malls near deserted and roads empty. Australia has had only partial lockdown so I can only imagine what life must be like in the more densely populated regions of the world.

For me, that change was highlighted early one morning late March just as the effects of the pandemic were beginning to be felt in Australia. One of Jumbo’s customers had just won the $80 million Powerball and my job was to contact that customer, congratulate them and guide them through the process of collecting their money. Jumbo has had many winners over the years, so this was nothing new. However, the AGE of the customer caught me by surprise. He was 72!

Being completely online, Jumbo’s customers are typically in their 20’s and 30’s. I was eager to learn about his experience buying tickets online and of course why he chose to buy online. We had a long conversation that ranged from the recent Australian bushfires, the drought last year to of course the current home confinement (he said jokingly he’d been in home confinement since retiring 4 years ago!). He was also happy to suggest a long list of improvements that naturally went straight to our product development team.

Then as the world plunged into lockdown this phone call kept resonating with me. The “crash course in e-commerce” that we all were about to witness became very real and people that were not quite ready were moving online overnight. Would we be ready to help these customers that needed extra hand holding? Would their experience live up to expectation? A lot of lessons were learnt in a short time as our team adjusted to the needs of the “less technologically sophisticated” customer. That 72-year-old winner called our support team every day for 2 weeks just to have a chat (which typically lasted 1 hour!).

Clearly the social connection and overall experience is what these new customers want. Just like the friendly chat they have with their retailer; they want the same social connection when they move online. They want more than just a ticket.

As we now move into the post Covid-19 world, the lottery industry has a lot of adjustments to make. Thankfully our industry is not as affected as many others, but challenges will be plenty. How we respond now will determine how resilient and sustainable our operations will be into the future. As our 72-year-old customer demonstrates, if he can do it, we all can!


Richard Bateson, Chief Commercial Officer & Head of North America, Jumbo Interactive (pictured right)

No one could have predicted the start we have had to this decade, and no one can predict how we will look as we leave this decade and go into the thirties, the 2030s … One of the most commonly used superlatives for this year, so far, is “unprecedented”, and it is true we live in unprecedented times… We have commentators, colleagues, friends and family all predicting what our new normal will be and how we will all have to change in this new normal.

I don’t believe we can predict what the new normal will be, and whether there will actually be one. I do however believe that we are entering into a new abnormal, a time where we will all need to be adaptive and accepting of change. I am not predicting a dystopian world, or something out of a George Orwell novel, but I do think that many of the given rituals of yesterday, will no longer exist tomorrow – and consumers and business will have to, and are being forced to, adapt.

One of three trends that The Economist is predicting for the new abnormal is a quicker adoption of new technologies.  The Economist writes “the planet is having a crash course in e-commerce, digital payments and remote working”. 

I have seen this “technology adoption” only too well with my 74-year-old Mom, who couldn’t work-out how to close an app on her iPhone yesteryear, but today is hosting council meetings via Zoom and chairing family meetings via her favourite app – HouseParty! The much-trusted technology adoption curve has been turned on its head with laggards now becoming early adopters.

Less anecdotally, the US Census Bureau reported a record plunge in retail of 16% in April (versus previous year) and a 21.6% increase in online retailing for the same period. This shift is being witnessed across our industry too. Those lotteries that have an iLottery channel have seen record sales, and where lockdowns and restrictions have been at their greatest, we have seen unprecedented shift in play. I know from my home market, the UK, this has been the case, and there are many examples here in the US with PA and MI to name a few.

Therefore, in this new abnormal we need to make our games more convenient and more accessible – we must adapt. I don’t believe our games are obsolete and I still very much believe in “the chance to dream” of playing the lottery is relevant… but the way we serve our players must change if we are to survive in the new abnormal. Our regular players have witnessed and been forced to change their rituals, and we must join them in doing so.

This may all feel a little unnecessary today as many lotteries have seen a record in Scratch-off sales in April and May, but how sustainable is this? Many economists are predicting a deep recession following COV-19, with some stating that economies could contract by as much as 50% (the worst quarterly contraction in the last recession was a mere 15%). I don’t believe that our industry is counter cyclical, as whilst it can be argued that we become more relevant to consumers in down turns, we lose volume from our regular and core players.

With Asia seeing the next wave of the novel coronavirus further impacting their easing of restrictions, it is forecast that similar disruption will come to the US and Europe. In these uncertain times we need to plan for the future and we need to look at how we protect our businesses. iLottery has proven to be a good safeguard in many states and jurisdictions.

One theme that is clear during this crisis is that consumers and businesses are turning to trusted institutions. With uncertain economic and financial times ahead, businesses that can innovate and turn their experience (and financial clout) into adapting and supporting other businesses will survive. It is not a time to be complacent in thinking traditional vendors will have the answer, but it is also not a time to entrust our future to novices.

To meet the new abnormal, and our newly crazed tech savvy players, we need to turn to our trusted vendors and experienced suppliers to get them to help us innovate and adapt. We shouldn’t look at quick fixes and we must not compromise integrity. Whether lotteries choose Jumbo Interactive or not, lotteries must look at companies that have considerable experience in the industry and in iLottery itself, and have the ability to invest into their operations for the longer-term good of the lottery and its beneficiary. This is no time for the untested, nor the inexperienced, but time for the proven.

If we can combine the experience and proven supply that we have today into more innovative solutions for tomorrow – we will adapt and be able to meet the needs of our players like my Mom… who for the first time, last night, bought a EuroMillions ticket on her mobile phone!

© Public Gaming Research Institute. All rights reserved.