Questionnaire answers on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on the lottery and sports betting sectors from:
Dato Lawrence Lim Swee Lin, CEO of Magnum Corporation Sdn Bhd, Malaysia
How has the pandemic and the resulting lockdown affected the lottery and sports betting sector?
Magnum has been in complete lockdown since March 18, 2020 over a series of six phases, which will only end on June 9. We are unsure if the lockdown will be further extended thereafter. From March 18 to June 9, we would have had to cancel 37 draws with zero revenue from lottery sales for the Company and our retailers during that period.
What do you believe will permanently change in the lottery and sports betting sector once the pandemic lockdown has been lifted?
Basically the consumers’ lifestyle would have changed with many now being more family oriented and home centric in their activities. Their buying habits, including for physical lotteries, would have been altered although we will need until the lockdown is lifted to see if the changes are permanent and the extent of the change.
How has the pandemic lockdown affected the working environment of your operation? Do you foresee any permanent changes in how staff will work once the lockdown has been lifted?
It has certainly accelerated the Work From Home (“WFH”) trend. It has given positive proof that it is possible to incorporate WFH, though perhaps not wholly or completely, as part of a more flexible work culture going forward.
Has the lottery sector's fundamental mission of raising funds for good causes been affected by the lockdown?
The regulators have been more focused on combating COVID-19 and saving lives than addressing the fund raising issue. That, I believe, will take on greater prominence once the extent of the damage to public finances due to the pandemic is recognized.
Lottery retail points of sale have been among those hardest hit by the lockdown. Even operators with a well-established online presence rely heavily on retail channels to drive sales and acquire new customers. Do lottery leaders need to redefine how their retail points of sale operate?
Social distancing and tracking measures will have very adverse implications on the operations of our retail channels. It will be especially challenging for stand-alone, lotteries only outlets whose viability may be called into question if physical volumes decline significantly and permanently.
Pan-jurisdictional lottery games such as Powerball and EuroMillions, which were once viewed as robust gaming products, have also suffered as a result of the lockdown. What do lottery leaders around the world need to do to protect pan-jurisdictional games in the event of another lockdown?
If, as expected, the average spend per lottery customer falls: the jurisdiction will need to expand to cover a larger potential customer base; a merger of a number of such pan- jurisdictional game may need to be seriously considered; and a drastic redesign of the game and/or prize structure to reduce the headline top Jackpot amount while expanding the number of smaller subsidiary prizes to increase the total number of winners and bring back excitement to the game by increasing the winning experience.
The cancellation of major sporting events has been devastating for the sports betting sector. Going forward, do you see sports betting operators embracing new products such as eSports or virtual sports to lessen their reliance on live events?
ESports will gain further traction. Physical games may have to be played in front of an empty stadium with simultaneous broadcast and streaming the preferred way to entertain and engage with fans.
Have illegal gaming operators been able to capitalize on the lockdown?
Being unregulated, illegals are not limited to the same extent in their operations during lockdown. They have also been able to innovate using new technologies in the new normal including following draw results of other legalized lotteries when their “home” lottery is not permitted to operate.
What regulatory and contingency measures should be put in place in order to protect the lottery and sports betting sector as a whole in the event of a future crisis?
To permit and encourage contactless transactions at outlets; and more customer friendly online purchases for lotteries and sports betting.
How do you feel the WLA can best help its members in the event of a future lockdown?
To create a section on the WLA website to post best practices and lessons learnt (including unintended horror stories) from around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.