Questionnaire answers on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on the lottery and sports betting sectors from:
Jesús Huerta, President and CEO of Sociedad Estatal Loterías y Apuestas del Estado (SELAE), Spain
How has the pandemic and the resulting lockdown affected the lottery and sports betting sector?
Regarding the effect that this crisis has had on sports betting, I must point out that SELAE does not currently market counterpart sports betting. The only sports betting product sold by SELAE is La Quiniela, a pari-mutuel betting product.
Regarding the consequences that confinement on the products that SELAE commercializes in general, the immediate consequence has been the closure of its physical and online Points of Sale from March 15 to May 18 with the consequent loss of revenues during this time.
What do you believe will permanently change in the lottery and sports betting sector once the pandemic lockdown has been lifted?
I think it is too early to reach conclusions. It will be necessary to wait to get out of this situation completely to be able to analyze what happened and the incidents in the development of the business and therefore to obtain the consequences that arise and the resulting measures that would have to be implemented, if necessary
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?
During the alarm state, health has been the fundamental objective and to which all the activities of SELAE have been subordinated. However, remote working was prioritized over on-site work except in those operations where it was essential the physical presence of the workers.
Thanks to the effort of all the workers and their adaptation to the special circumstances, we managed to maintain vital operations and to be able to restart our draws and daily activities on May 18 at the beginning of the de-escalation period.
Has the lottery sector’s fundamental mission of raising funds for good causes been affected by the lockdown?
Not especially. SELAE, in normal conditions, already contributes with a considerable economic contribution, according to a percentage of the annual income set by law, also with different organizations and NGOs of social, cultural, and sports character.
During this crisis we have focused more on directing our aid to the health field, providing, for example, a large amount of health material and covering the basic needs of many families, helping to alleviate the negative effects of this lock-down.
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?
The products SELAE markets are products that are highly based on tradition and on the physical contact between seller and buyer. Therefore, the physical Points of Sale continues to be the main commercial agent of SELAE.
For this reason, SELAE’s commercial policy is aimed, above all, at trying to retain those weekly buyers, such as those at La Quiniela, so that they may also participate in the rest of SELAE portfolio, such as traditional Lotteries and Lottos and promote others, such as horse racing, supporting a wider divulgation through the media to increase their popularity.
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?
During this crisis, Euromillions has demonstrated its robustness and implantation in the countries participating in this game, resisting the situation posed by letting some of these countries participate in these draws, causing a reduction in revenues and jackpots. Even at that point, the game remained competitive and little by little it is recovering its place in the market at the levels prior to lockdown.
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?
As I said earlier, sports betting is not part of the SELAE portfolio except for our La Quiniela, which has little to do with sports betting.
La Quiniela is based on a tradition of many years that has passed from parents to children and football supporters. Both groups are the ones that maintain this product based more on entertainment and tradition than on its profitability.
Have illegal gaming operators been able to capitalize on the lockdown?
At SELAE we do not have outstanding references to illegal operators that directly affect our products.
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?
We are currently putting all our effort into the process of emerging from the current crisis and therefore need to complete this process in order to have time to study the consequences and possible measures to adopt in the event of a possible new crisis. There will be time for that.
How do you feel the WLA can best help its members in the event of a future lockdown?
Once this crisis is over, the WLA should analyze – through the different working groups and with the collaboration of all its members – the incidents that this crisis has caused in the different areas of the gaming business.
Once conclusions are reached, disseminate those measures that are applicable to a crisis such as the one we are currently suffering.