I’ll be in Montreal for the next week at the World Lottery Summit, the conference and trade show produced jointly by the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries and the World Lottery Association. It’s not the first time these two organizations have held a joint event, but it will be the first time the American lotteries can join the Internet gaming discussions with real-world experience.
Several lotteries have offered subscriptions via the Web for some time, but last spring the Illinois Lottery became the first in the United States to sell tickets in real time through this channel. It is a limited test, however, with just two games to start (Mega Millions and Lotto; Powerball will be added soon). The Georgia Lottery is gearing up for its Internet launch this fall. But the real fun will come next year, when the Delaware Lottery will likely be the first American operator (of any kind) to offer casino-style games, played with actual dollars, on the Web.
This is old news in the lottery world – lotteries around the globe have been selling games online for many years. They range from standard fare (lotto and numbers games) to sports betting to casino games, depending on the product offerings of the operators. Their experience should be enough to dispel the idea that Internet sales will hurt retail sales – in fact the opposite is often true. Adding a convenient way for people to play puts lottery more top of mind, and retail sales can actually increase. History has also proven that traditional lottery products, when offered online, are not significant money-makers. Often they account for only a few percentage points of total sales, hardly a cause for concern among retailers. Lotteries know that brick-and-mortar stores are the essence of their existence, and that will never change.
While lotteries’ online presence will be a hot topic during the Summit, sharing top billing will be the evolution of mobile devices and social media – both areas considered crucial for any business today. Many, if not most, lotteries are well-versed in social media, taking advantage of much that it has to offer to build customer relationships. The use of mobile devices is growing among lotteries, but like the Internet, just what lotteries can do with them is often a policy decision in government’s hands. But there’s so much more to do than offer sales via mobile channels – apps for winning numbers and players’ clubs are just two examples of ways lotteries can take advantage of the fact that for an increasing number of consumers, the world revolves around mobile devices.
The biggest advantage of a global meeting like the World Lottery Summit is the information sharing on the broadest scale. Wherever you are based, there’s no reason to have blinders on when it comes to what is going on in the rest of the world. Even if some jurisdictions can’t do what others are doing right now because of governmental policy, there’s a good chance they will eventually. And it’s not just about utilization of technology – it’s also about more traditional topics such as game design, retail relationships, responsible gaming and more. There’s no reason to hold back because in most cases, lotteries don’t compete with each other.
On a personal note, I welcome the opportunity to reconnect with people from my past, such as Australia’s Jan Stewart (Lotterywest) and Bill Thorburn (Tatts Lotteries) – two Summit speakers and friends I haven’t seen for years. Let the fun – and education – begin!