INTERESTING NEWS FROM THE HORSE BETTING “FAMILY”

The Swedish state-owned lottery company Svenska Spel and the French horse betting giant PMU published their cooperation contract about week ago. Nowadays it is normal to have that kind of international co-mingling operations but normally the lottery “family” and the horse betting “family” have done that among own “families”. I have already written about the fragmentation of the lottery world and now it seems that the same might happen in the horse betting world too. It is old-fashioned way to talk about lotteries, casino companies, sports betting operators or horse betting companies. All of them are just gambling companies which might have different kind of history and background, but which are offering quite similar products for their customers.

What I mean by “family” of lotteries or horse betting companies? Lotteries have their own associations like European Lotteries (EL) and World Lottery Association (WLA). Horse Betting companies have had similar organization called European Pari Mutuel Association (EPMA) and European casino operators have European Casino Association (ECA). Those associations are mainly just for discussions and lobbying but nothing to do with business. But the members of same organization have used to cooperate with the other members at the business level too. We have good examples of that from lottery business where lotteries have games like Euro Millions and Euro Jackpot.

Horse betting companies have tried to build up common European or even global level horse betting product, but they haven’t managed to do that yet. Co-mingling, which means participating in games of other horse betting company, has been popular among EPMA-members already long time. The biggest European horse betting companies, PMU from France and ATG from Sweden, have mainly acted as hosts of those common games. In practice it has been impossible for other companies than traditional horse betting companies to join in those pool-based games. But now it seems that there is big change going on among horse betting companies and it’s easy to foresee that similar thing will happen among lotteries soon or later.

As I already mentioned, horse betting companies have had association called EPMA where they have had some members also outside Europe. PMU has been the most active and dominant member of that organization which has had tight relationship with the European horse racing organizations. I don’t know what happened last year, but for some reason PMU wasn’t willing to continue anymore there in EPMA and decided to move towards WLA. I know that the other European horse betting companies thought seriously if they should do the same than PMU. There are already few companies like Danske Spil, Loterie Romande and Veikkaus which are members of EL and WLA but also of EPMA. Anuhow the decision of EPMA-members was to establish new association instead of joining in WLA.

The new horse betting association has already been established and the name of that organization is World Tote Association (WoTA). That new association is more global than EPMA was. There are now official members like Hong Kong Jockey Club, Singapore Pools, Tabcorp and Phumelela. The most remarkable thing is that the biggest European horse betting operator PMU is not the member of WoTA. That will break the horse betting “family” although the total turnover of WoTA companies is still as huge as 20 B€. It seems that with PMU the other gambling operators could offer big horse betting pools if they want to accept the business conditions set by PMU.

For some reason horse betting has been gambling area where specific companies established by horse racing organizations have taken care of business. Other gambling operators haven’t had interest or challenge to enter in that market. The situation in UK and Ireland has been different due to traditional reasons but in the other countries that has been the case. I’m not sure how much business interest gambling operators have had towards horse betting area, but they should consider that now. Horse betting is surprisingly big business. The total GGR of horse betting is about 25 B€/year which is 6 % of total gambling business. Would it be possible that gambling operators, including lotteries, could have share from that? Of course they could!

According to estimates of H2GC horse betting won’t manage very well among the other gambling verticals in the future. But it seems that the volume of horse betting won’t decrease in coming years – H2GC expects that horse betting will develop yearly by 0-1 % in next 5 years. I believe that horse betting has increased a lot this year during Covid-19 in some countries like the Nordics where we have managed to organize races despite of corona virus.

Cooperation deal between PMU and Svenska Spel is good example how the gambling world has changed and is going to change. There are still lotteries and horse betting companies but I’m sure that in the near future winners will be gambling operators who offer wide portfolio of different gambling products. Current lotteries and horse betting companies have similar strength and it is existing big pools which are difficult to reach from zero level. That’s why operators should work together and not only with their old “family members”.

YOU CAN’T MAKE GOOD DECISIONS WITHOUT CORRECT DATA

I have written this blog for LotteryDaily.com and they published it few days ago. This text is partly modified by Chris Murphy.

In my previous columns I have presented my thoughts on the most important success factors of 2020’s lottery business. I have written about digitalization of the lottery business and the need for new gambling verticals to be added to product portfolios. These are topics that every self-respecting lottery should be interested in. Now I will continue my journey into a little “deeper water” with the third theme. I have noticed that many lotteries are lagging in one specific area which is data-driven management.

When I started in the gambling business almost 30 years ago, the only metrics to follow in the development of the business were turnover and the number of coupons played. Sometimes we tried to find out how many players we had through customer surveys. 

My former employer, Veikkaus, has invested a lot in collecting and analyzing business data for the long-term. I took it for granted that all other lotteries also developed or purchased similar data management systems. I have learned that this is not the case after we established in the spring with my colleague the gambling consulting company which aims to serve lottery companies. 

Unfortunately for the weakest positioned companies, the level of utilization of business data is still at the same level as we had it in Veikkaus in 1990s.

Why is it so important to gather data? I should use the term correct data because there is no sense to gather data which you can’t utilize. Gathering data is important so that we have the possibility to lead our company towards better business results. 

Many companies have written phrases “the best customer experience in the industry” or “satisfied customers” as the goal of the strategy. But how do you lead your business to reach those goals? How do you monitor the impact of your own measures on the achievement of strategic goals? If the correct business data is not collected or analyzed, management or monitoring cannot succeed.

At this point, it should be noted that unfortunately in the case of many lotteries it is not possible to collect the correct data. If the digitalization of business that I wrote about earlier in my column has not been done – the situation is bad. An estimate of a company’s ability to leverage customer data is the proportion of turnover that it generates from identified customers. You can’t run a business based on data if most of gambling happens in a way whereby you don’t know who has played those games.

Let’s look at those companies that use some sort of customer authentication and collect the data. Many companies think the situation is in order because “we have CRM systems in place”. That’s only the first step towards data-based management. The main question is whether the most important components relevant to management have been identified, and whether this data is collected comprehensively and utilized all the way to operational operations.

The world is full of great theories about management by data. It is possible that the company has developed great segmentations and customer value calculation models to support management, but they still cannot be utilized. 

In the big picture, the situation seems to be such that the base is built to a good or at least satisfactory level, but its use is deficient from the beginning and its benefits cannot be transferred to the operational level. Of course, in many cases, there are already fundamental shortcomings in the basis of the system, which makes it impossible for you to manage operational activities.  

I challenge every lottery director to look critically at their own company. Do we know our customers and business? Can we predict at an adequate level the impact of our actions and reliably measure them? Do we have the ability to steer operational activity towards a better business? If the answer to any of those questions is “no”, it is now time to take a break and think about how to get the situation fixed.

When we carry out product renewal, marketing or actually any operational activity, each operation must have defined goals. What customer segments and profiles are we aiming for? How much is the measure aimed at increasing the customer values of different groups’ accounts and how much we reach new customers? 

The numerical objectives must be clear and closely monitored. Based on what exists, you have the opportunity to learn and find and further develop more functional products and concepts. The amount of money customers spend on gambling is usually distributed among different gambling companies. 

It is extremely important for lottery operators to understand whether the euro played on a new product has previously been spent on another of their own products, games from another gambling company, or whether it is a whole new gambling spend. If sufficient data on gambling is not collected, it is not possible to make such a reasoning. 

With correct data, companies can achieve the benefits of both business and responsible gaming. With the help of data, it is possible to target offerings to the right customer groups and thereby generate more sales. On the other hand, the data can be used to better identify potential customers with gambling problems and to reduce or even stop their gambling.

I understand that getting to the optimal situation is an extremely long and challenging project. Sometimes, however, the first steps have to be taken. Without a sufficient understanding of the key data of your business, it is not possible to succeed in the fierce competition of the 2020s. The goal can be to make the data a tough and productive helper for you. The positive thing is that benchmarking information and other help is available to achieve this goal – also directly from me!

MONOPOLY – THE RIGHT SYSTEM?

I have recently analyzed a lot of different gambling systems and their real objectives and effects. Last week, my company The Finnish Gambling Consultants published a “white paper” report on the current state of the Finnish gambling system and its alternative solutions. We have got familiar with the gambling systems in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, which differ quite a bit from each other and from the Finnish system. It has been interesting to note that it is possible to have different solutions to achieve similar goals. So what is the right solution? In order to answer this, you need to know what states are really aiming in the area of ​​gambling.

There have been two very interesting news from Norway about gambling business. First, the University of Bergen published an extensive study on gambling and, above all, gambling problems. According to that research, the number of gambling problems seems to have increased in Norway. The difference in research methods makes it difficult to compare the results both between different years and between different countries. Despite this, I dare say that Norway has more gambling problems than other Nordic countries. Why is this a strange result and how can it be possible?

Norway has a strict monopoly system for gambling. State-owned Norsk Tipping has the exclusive right to all other gambling products except horse betting which games are run by Rikstoto. There are some smaller companies in Norway that are licensed to run small-scale gambling, but this is not relevant in this context. The Norwegian state has imposed strict restrictions on Norsk Tipping’s operations. In Norway, it is only possible to play gambling products as an identified customer and there are strict maximum loss limits for gambling. So it seems that in Norway, the goal of the state has been to curb gambling and gambling problems, and not just to maximize the revenue from gambling.

In recent years, Norway has sought to restrict gambling for offshore gambling operators. The country has introduced a blocking of money transactions, which has made the customer’s money transactions to foreign gaming companies quite difficult. In addition, the country is making serious efforts to prevent foreign gambling companies from showing TV advertising in Norway, regardless of whether the TV channel is Norwegian or not.

Denmark and Sweden have opted for a quite different gambling system than Norway. Denmark decided to move to license-based gambling system less than 10 years ago, and Sweden followed to similar system from the beginning of 2019. In practice, only lottery and instant tickets games have remained in monopoly and other gambling verticals can be licensed. The volume of gambling has increased in both countries and players as a whole are losing more to gambling than before. Despite this, at least the number of gambling problems does not seem to have increased and the number of problems is clearly lower in both countries than in the strict monopoly country of Norway.

How can such outcome be possible? Studies show that there is a correlation between the volume of gambling and the number of gambling problems. The more you play, the more gambling problems you experience. However, studies have been conducted in situations where the actual amount of gambling has been known. This may no longer be the case in today’s digital world, where there is a large amount of gambling on offer via the internet and mobile that doesn’t show up in official gambling figures. Restricting the physical supply of games can only shift customers to the digital offerings of other operators.

It is often thought that in a monopoly system, state control is much stricter than in other systems. However, this is not self-evident. The regulator has just as good, or even better, opportunities to control gambling activities in the license model as well. An important factor is the channeling ability of the gambling system. The more the system makes gambling a legal activity in the country, the better the state control will work. At least after the change of the system, the channeling capacity of the Danish and Swedish gambling systems rose to a significantly high level and thus the operating restrictions worked better than before, with a large part of the gambling going to unregulated offshore operators.

So what should Finland learn from the experiences of the other Nordic countries? Before you can answer this, you need to know what Finland is really aiming for in the area of ​​gambling. According to the EU, a gambling monopoly system is possible if it can improve the protection of players and prevent criminal activities related to gambling. A particularly important justification for the monopoly system has been better prevention of gambling problems. It should be borne in mind that gambling revenues are not an acceptable basis for a monopoly system.

The prevention of gambling problems has gained more weight in the Finnish gambling policy and its practical implementation in recent years. The merger of gambling operators and the centralization of gambling operations in one company, Veikkaus, from the beginning of 2017 has given the regulator better tools to control the company’s operations. Veikkaus’ operations are supervised and regulated more than the three previously monopolies were supervised. This has been reflected in lower revenues from gambling operations. Unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, gambling problems have not diminished. The number of problems has been at the same level for long time. About 3% of Finnish adults suffer from gambling problems. Studies show that the number of people with serious problems is growing, which is a matter of real concern.

The operations of the monopoly company Veikkaus are thus controlled more and more, which reduces gambling through the company and thereby the state’s profit. According to research, a large part, almost all, of Veikkaus’ declining gambling is directed at other gambling companies. This way, overall gambling and gambling problems are not reduced. The regulator currently has little possibility to take action against offshore gambling companies. So something needs to be done and soon. Otherwise, the pace of development will only continue, and Finland will soon end up in the same situation as Denmark and Sweden years ago.

If the prevention and reduction of gambling problems is the primary goal, then Finland must be able to tighten control over all gambling activities, not just Veikkaus. This can happen in both a monopoly system and license-based models. The goal is to bring gambling under regulation in one way or another and then impose strict restrictions on gambling. According to results from Norway, it is not sure that monopoly would be automatically better from gambling problem point of view than license-based system.

If the goal of gambling activities is also to continue to generate revenue for the state but at the same time prevent gambling problems, the alternatives are more difficult to implement. Continuing in a completely monopoly system in this case is legally difficult to implement, at least in the way where customers would be satisfied. It seems to be obvious that license-based system would generate more money for the state than monopoly system.

I think it is particularly important that Finland now carefully considers the future of its gambling system and makes a comprehensive and neutral analysis of the matter before making a final decision! In our own report, we have described and calculated the effects of different gambling systems on gambling problems, government revenue levels, and customer experiences. We are happy to help you get a good and safe gambling system in Finland that is also good from customer point of view!

MORE GAMES PLEASE!

I wrote this column for http://www.lotterydaily.com and they published it few days ago. This text is partly modified by Chris Murphy.

The world is changing, and cycles of change are constantly accelerating in all areas of living. This is also the case in gambling business and the change will continue. The digitalization of gambling has been talked about to the point of fatigue, but despite this, for example, many lotteries do not seem to be able to move around in a large scale. Somehow it seems that traditional state-owned lottery companies prefer to focus on the fight against change rather than seeing it as an opportunity. But change can’t be stopped and coping with change requires the ability to adapt to it.

Instead of the relentless talk of digitalization, I would like to bring another topic to the debate where I’d expect a much more active approach from the lotteries. Fighting against change has meant that lotteries’ own game portfolios haven’t been developed as much as they should be. 

A typical portfolio has been just a few draw-based games and some scratch cards. Product renewal has meant a new lotto game or instant ticket. No more radical changes have traditionally been seen from the lotteries.

The gambling market has been constantly evolving and new business areas have followed each other. People use a wide range of gambling products and have started to become customers for several different gambling companies. 

A modern and agile gambling company focused on the digital business often builds its strategy for a goal that aims to get customers to use products from as many different product groups as possible. The idea is based on the fact that a customer playing several different products in the same company is more likely to remain the company’s customer than those who play only one or two products.

Gambling companies will get another benefit if they manage to expand customer product usage. Customers, who increase the number of games they play, will also increase their total consumption on average.  Of course, the growth is not as big as the money invested in a new game, because most of the money spent on the new game is out of some other games they used to play before.

However, the actual jackpot for the company is available. If the money that customer uses for playing your new game is at the expense of the games of another gambling company, then the entire profit of this new game is new money for your company. If lottery expands its offering to completely new game types, it is possible that its loyal customer will discover games which he used to play with another company. In this situation, there is a chance that the customer will transfer all his gambling to the lottery and even in the case where his total gambling does not increase, the lottery’s profits can and will increase.

How does the traditional lottery product development with a “new lottery game” fit into that pattern, which is hoped to produce customers who are going to use just lottery’s own products? Not so good. With a new lottery game or scratch card it is extremely difficult to get any customer to transfer his gambling from another company to your lottery. 

A successful launch of the lottery game can certainly bring new money from old customers, but the turnover that has been accumulated mainly for the new product is a shift from your other products. You won’t earn a lot when you just move money from your right pocket to the left one.

Of course, I’m aware that in many countries lottery owners have curbed product development and instead been satisfied with the profits from the traditional lottery business. The most important thing has been to secure the established monopoly position and try to prevent that from being jeopardized. Business growth may not even be a key consideration. But what will the future look like if the static offering starts to lose interest against other gambling offerings? Not good at all.

The monopoly status of the lotteries is beginning to be more and more nominal.  Lottery betting has come to rob the same market and other gambling verticals have otherwise stuck right next to customers on their skin. Modern gambling is often fast and entertaining compared to lottery products. 

Nowadays it is much more difficult to get younger customers to become regular customers for lottery products. Should lotteries expand their offering to other gambling verticals? They definitely should if it is legally possible. And if it is not, at least a reasonable effort should be made to change the legislation to a form in which other gambling verticals could also be offered to the lottery customers.

Why has this not been done to a significant extent? The owner’s will and legislation are, of course, valid reasons but they can be influenced if necessary. The big ideological problem seems to be that many lottery operators are cautious about using smaller prize games to compete internally against traditionally higher payout lottery products. 

If only the same bet moves to a lower payout product, the revenue will of course be lower. You shouldn’t worry about that at all. In modern gambling products, the rhythm of gaming and the circulation of money enable the same kind of profits thanks to increased turnover. 

The crucial factor for the overall development of revenue is whether the customer is ready to increase the total amount of money he used to play or not. It is difficult to see that adding a new product group to the company’s portfolio would reduce the total amount of money spent on gambling in any significant customer segments.

In today’s gambling world where responsibility is the key word, the offering of lottery has traditionally been the product vertical that causes the least gambling problems. Will lotteries risk their reputation if they start offering more harmful gambling products? 

This is a scenario that needs to be taken into account. An extremely aggressive offering of casino games could lead to such a thing. To offer much softer sports and horse betting is hardly not. And casino games can also be offered to customers in a responsible way. The market situation and the potential of the different new product verticals should determine which product groups give the best balance between possible risks and profits. But responsibility shouldn’t be a barrier to expanding the range of gambling verticals for lotteries.

As we go further in the 2020s, it is clear that the competition in gambling businesses will become even harder. Even in countries where traditional betting shops have managed to maintain a strong position in the face of internet competition, the situation is not everlasting. 

Even in those cases, lotteries can’t fail to try to maintain their position as the sole gambling operator of large customer groups in their own country. However, this won’t be possible in the future unless lotteries are starting to expand their offerings to other gambling verticals. In the future a modern, successful, and competitive gambling company will offer a wide range of different gambling products from different gambling verticals. I would like to see lotteries to be among those modern gambling companies!

TURVATAAN RAVIEN AMMATTIMAINEN JA HARRASTAJATASON TOIMINTA

Tämä kirjoitus julkaistiin http://www.ravinetti.fi sivustolla maanantaina 6.7.. Saamani palautteen vuoksi teen tähän alkuun yhden täsmennyksen. En itse ymmärtänyt kirjoittavani mitään ammatti- ja amatöörivalmentajien eroista, mutta moni lukija on silti syystä tai toisesta käsittänyt, että vähättelen amatöörivalmentajia. Tarkoituksenani on ollut puhua ennen kaikkea ravitapahtumien jakamisesta selkeämpiin luokkiin. On aivan toinen asia, minkälaisten valmentajien hevoset esimerkiksi ammattimaisissa tapahtumissa juoksevat.

Teen heti selväksi, että tämän blogin tarkoituksena ei ole syyttää ketään vaan ehdottaa yksi malli, jolla itselleni rakkaan raviurheilun tulevaisuus saataisiin näyttämään nykyistä paremmalta. On aivan turha murehtia menneitä ratkaisuja, koska aikaa on mahdotonta kääntää takaisinpäin ja asiat on aikanaan tehty niin kuin ne on tehty. Olen itsekin ollut muutamaan kertaan asemassa, jossa olen voinut ainakin joltakin osin vaikuttaa tehtyihin päätöksiin, joten voisin osoittaa ”syyttävällä sormelle” myös itseäni.

Olin jo vuonna 1994 valmistelemassa esitystä raviratojen rataluokituksesta, jota Suomen Hippos ajoi läpi silloin tuoreen puheenjohtajansa Kalevi Hemilän johdolla. Uskoin itse tuon mallin parantavaan voimaan todella paljon ja olin pettynyt, kun sen läpimeno tyrmättiin. Kukaan ei tiedä, mitä olisi tapahtunut, jos rataluokitus olisi tuolloin hyväksytty. Olen ollut myös ajamassa raviurheiluun muutoksia pelitoiminnan näkökulmasta. Minua on syytetty useaan otteeseen, että mielipiteeni raviurheilusta ovat ”pelurin puhetta”. Myönnän, että olen aktiivinen ravipelaaja, mutta olen myös pitkäaikainen hevosenomistaja, joten uskon katsovani lajia myös muilla kuin pelurin silmillä.

Raviurheilun yksi suurimmista ongelmista on erilaisten ryhmien suuri määrä. Päätöksenteossa pitäisi pystyä nousemaan omasta ”lokerostaan” ylös ja katsoa asioita laajemmin kuin vain oman sidosryhmän näkökulmasta. Meitä aktiivisia raviharrastajia on Suomessa kymmeniätuhansia ja yhdessä olisimme voimakas ryhmä ajamaan omaa etuamme, kunhan vain löytäisimme yhteisen linjan. Yritän esittää mallin, jolla jokaisen meidän tilanne voisi tulevina vuosina näyttää edelleen vähintään kohtuulliselta.

Raviurheilun erikoisuus verrattuna kaikkiin muihin merkittäviin urheilulajeihin on se, että ammattilaiset ja harrastajat kilpailevat keskenään. En pidä tätä hyvänä asiana ja näen sen jopa suurimpana esteenä järkeville ratkaisuille. On aivan selvää, että laji tarvitsee sekä huippu-urheilijoita että harrastajia. Tässä tapauksessa tarkoitan tällä sekä ohjastajia että valmentajia ja myös hevosia. Ilman laajaa harrastajapohjaa on mahdotonta pitää yllä huipputasoakaan. Tavoitteena pitää siis olla ratkaisu, jolla saamme vähintään säilytettyä ja mieluummin jopa laajennettua harrastajakuntaa ja samalla nostettua huippu-urheilun tasoa. Tavoitteesta lienee helppo olla samaa mieltä, mutta onko tuollainen tavoite realistista saavuttaa?

Olen jo aiemmissa kirjoituksissani todennut, että juuri nyt hyvän ravihevosen omistaminen Suomessa on kannattavampaa kuin aikaisemmin. Hevosella pääsee kilpailemaan silloin kuin haluaa ja palkintotaso on kohtuullisen korkealla tasolla. Suurta valittamista ei pitäisi olla, mutta valitettavasti tulevaisuus näyttää huolestuttavalta. Alan rahoitus on ainakin toistaiseksi riippuvainen Veikkauksen tuotoista, joiden kehityksen ennustetaan olevan erittäin heikkoa tulevina vuosina. Arvioiden mukaan tuotot tulevat putoamaan miljardin euron tasolta noin 600 – 700 miljoonan euron tasolle. Raviurheilun osuus tuosta tuotosta on 4 %, mikä on nyt tarkoittanut noin 40 miljoonan euron vuosittaista tulovirtaa. Uusien ennusteiden mukainen kokonaistuotto tarkoittaisi raviurheilun osuuden putoamista 24 – 28 miljoonan euron vuositasolle. Vertailun vuoksi todettakoon, että raviurheilun pelitoiminnasta saadut tulot olivat ennen peliyhtiöiden integraatiota noin 32 – 33 miljoonaa euroa.

Jätän ravipelitoiminnan tulevaisuuteen liittyvät kehitysehdotukset ja alan mahdollisten muiden tulovirtojen esittelyt myöhempään ajankohtaan ja keskityn nyt vain raviurheilun järjestämiseen liittyviin asioihin.  Miten siis turvataan se, että meillä on jatkossakin kasvattajia ja sitä kautta riittävästi hevosia, valmentajia ja ohjastajia – totopelaajia unohtamatta?

Suomen raviurheilussa on valinnut tasapäistämisen politiikka, joka on näkynyt resurssien jakamisessa ”sulle, mulle, sulle, mulle”-periaatteena. Taskulaskimet ovat käyneet kuumina, kun lisärahaa on jaettu, ettei vain jonkun radan saama lisätulo olisi prosenttia suurempi kuin oman radan saama korotus. En usko, että tällainen politiikka on ollut raviurheilun kokonaisuuden kannalta oikea. Keskustelu on ajautunut tämän seurauksena väärille urille. Peruskysymyksen ei pitäisi olla, kuinka monta ravirataa Suomessa tulee jatkossa olla. Raviratojen määrän vähentäminen ei nimittäin auta saavuttamaan tavoitteita ammattimaisen ja harrastajatason raviurheilun mahdollisuuksien parantamisessa. Me tarvitsemme koko maan kattavan ravirataverkoston aivan samoin kuin meillä on laaja jalkapallokenttien, uimahallien ja jäähallien verkostokin!

Sen sijaan iso muutos tarvitaan siihen, kuinka monta huippu-urheilun ravikilpailupäivää Suomessa tarvitaan ja missä näitä kilpailuja pitää järjestää. Käsitykseni mukaan Suomessa pitäisi olla joka päivä yhdet ammattimaisen raviurheilun kilpailut, joten näitä tapahtumia tarvitaan vuodessa vähintään 360 kappaletta. Huippu-urheilun sisällä voi ja pitää olla vielä eritasoisia tapahtumia. Suomen ravien kruunun jalokivet kuten Kuninkuusravit, Finlandia-ajo, Kymi GP, St Michel, Suur-Hollola, Derbyt ja Kriteriumit ovat jatkossakin eri kastissa kuin tavalliset maanantai-illan ”huippuravit”. Ammattimaisten ravipäivien välillekin pitäisi uskaltaa tehdä selkeämpää eroa kuin niillä on tällä hetkellä. Lauantain palkintotason tulisi olla selkeästi korkeampi kuin muina päivinä ja keskiviikonkin tulisi erottautua nykyistä selvemmin muista arkipäivistä.

Pelien tuotoista maksettava palkintotuki tulisi kohdentaa kokonaan näille ammattimaisille ravipäiville. Päivien jakautumisesta eri raviratojen välillä voidaan tehdä laskemia, enkä edes yritä tehdä sitä tässä. Sen sijaan pidän itsestään selvänä, että huippu-urheilua pitää pystyä järjestämään koko Suomen kattavassa ravirataverkostossa. Kokonaisuus ei hyödy millään tavalla siitä, että esimerkiksi Lappeenrannan tai Ylivieskan raviratatoiminta ajetaan kokoaan alas. Tämän tyyppisillä raviradoilla on suuri merkitys ravitoiminnan harrastamisessa ja palaan siihen asiaan hieman myöhemmin. Koska kattava ravirataverkosto tarvitaan joka tapauksessa harrastamisen mahdollistamisessa, voidaan näitä ratoja hyödyntää myös silloin tällöin huipputapahtumissa, jotka auttavat pitämään ravit näkyvillä ympäri Suomen maan.

Ammattimaisesti pyöritettävien ravirataorganisaatioiden määrää sen sijaan voidaan vähentää nykyisestä vajaasta kahdestakymmenestä alle puoleen. Nämä ravirataorganisaatiot voivat myös huolehtia muilla radoilla silloin tällöin ajettavista korkeantason tapahtumien järjestämisestä. Pidän edelleen esimerkkinä edellä mainittuja Lappeen ja Ylivieskan ratoja. Ne eivät todennäköisesti kuulu valittaviin ammattimaisiin organisaatioihin, mutta siitä huolimatta Lappeen Villimiehen Tammakilpailu ja Ylivieskan Ruunakunkkarit kuuluvat jatkossakin huipputapahtumien listalle.

Palkintojen keskittäminen noin 360 päivälle auttaa säilyttämään riittävän korkean palkintotason, vaikka Veikkauksen peleistä saatavia tuottoja ei onnistuttaisi kasvattamaan muilla tulolähteillä. Myös ravipelaamisen näkökulmasta ammattimainen tarjontaa pitää kotimaiset kohteet kilpailukykyisinä ulkomaiseen, lähinnä ruotsalaiseen, tarjontaan verrattuna. Myös viestinnällisesti on kokonaisedun mukaista, että huipputason raviurheilu erotetaan nykyistä selvemmin omiksi tapahtumikseen.

Ammattimaisen raviurheilun keskittäminen noin 360 tapahtumaan ei kuitenkaan tarkoita ravikilpailujen määrän vähentämistä tuohon lukuun. Kuten jo edellä totesin, meidän tavoitteenamme tulee olla paitsi ammattimaisen niin myös harrastajatason raviurheilun turvaaminen. Ravien harrastaminen vaatii laajan koko maan kattavan ravirataverkoston, joka meillä onneksi on jo olemassa. Siitä on pidettävä kiinni ja huolehdittava ratojen riittävästä kunnossa pidosta. Tämän lisäksi muilla kuin säännöllisesti huipputapahtumia järjestävillä radoilla tulee olla mahdollisuus järjestää ravikilpailuja niin paljon kuin ne katsovan oman alueensa ja toimintansa kannalta olevan järkevää. Mikään ei siis estä esimerkiksi Lappeenrannan alueen hevosjärjestöä järjestämästä ravikilpailuja vaikka joka viikko, jos se on tarpeellista hevosharrastamisen näkökulmasta. Näitä tapahtumia ei kuitenkaan tule tukea taloudellisesti raviurheilun yhteisestä potista, vaan palkintojen ja muiden kulujen tulee olla paikallisten toimijoiden vastuulla.

Ravien hyvä puoli verrattuna esimerkiksi palloilulajeihin on se, että harrastajatasolta voi nousta huippu-urheilun tasolle vaikka päivässä – ainakin jos puhumme valmentamisesta ja ennen kaikkea hevosista. Hyvät hevoset pääsevät nopeasti kilpailemaan hyvistä palkinnoista. Sen lisäksi kaikilla hevosilla päästään kilpailemaan niille parhaiten sopivalla tasolla ja parhaimmillaan kilpailumahdollisuudet tulevat lisääntymään nykyisestä tasosta. Kilpailuihin osallistuvien hevosten määrät eivät harrastajatasolla ole niin kriittisiä kuin ne ovat nykyisessä aika pitkälti pelitoiminnan ehdoin tapahtuvassa tilanteessa.

Voisin verrata raviratoja jäähalleihin. Samassa jäähallissa voidaan pelata huipputason Liiga-ottelu, korttelisarjan peli ja eri ikäisten junioreiden otteluita. Jossain toisessa hallissa pelataan pääsääntöisesti junnuotteluita, mutta silloin tällöin siellä voidaan pelata paikallisen Suomi-sarjan pelejä, jotka voivat paikallisesti olla iso tapahtuma. Aivan vastaavasti tulisi toimia raviratojen kanssa. Meillä kaikilla tulee olla mahdollisuus harrastaa lajia riittävän lähellä kotipaikkaamme. Myös kilpailumahdollisuuksia pitää tarjota koko maassa, mutta huipputapahtumien tulee olla tiukkojen ammattimaisten vaatimusten takana. Kaikilla on kuitenkin periaatteessa mahdollisuus elättää unelmaa suurista palkinnoista.

Kasvattajilla, omistajilla, valmentajilla ja ohjastajilla tulee jatkossakin olla mahdollisuus saada tulonsa raviurheilusta. Kaikki eivät kuitenkaan edes yritä ansaita tästä elantoansa. Heilläkin tulee kuitenkin olla mahdollisuus harrastaa lajia hyvissä olosuhteissa ja elättää unelmia hyvän hevosen osumisesta omalle kohdalle!

RESPONSIBILITY – COMPETITIVE EDGE FOR LOTTERIES?

I wrote this column for http://www.lotterydaily.com and they published it some days ago. This text is partly modified by Matthew Ramirez.

The background of lotteries is in almost all cases from states and quite often it is also linked to the organizations that care for charity issues like social welfare and sports. Consequently, lotteries have been regarded as different from normal commercial gambling enterprises. 

Lotteries try to collect money for good causes but haven’t always been able to use all possible tools to achieve that end. There is also the perception that lotteries are more responsible operators than those from the commercial gambling sector. 

But during the last few years the lottery environment has changed a lot and lotteries are no longer the homogenous group they were. As a result, it’s not obvious that lotteries are acting any more responsibly than their commercial gambling counterparts. But should that be the case?

I would say that we could section lotteries to three separate groups. The first group is lotteries which are owned by states and which are acting like state offices. The next group is lotteries which are running their business in a similar way to other gambling companies. The third group falls somewhere between those two first groups. They are trying to run business but are not willing or allowed to use all possible commercial tools to achieve that.

What kind of business could those ‘state office’ style companies have and how could they succeed against commercial competition? The owners of those companies are in all cases the states which try to control gambling business as much as they can. But it has become more difficult due to digitalization where customers have lots of other opportunities available. 

There are just two possibilities for those kinds of lotteries. One is to prevent all other gambling activities which, for me, is the ‘North Korean’ way to act. The second option is to change the business strategy of the company.

I’m not sure if we should call those business-oriented lotteries as lotteries at all. While they are still ostensibly running lottery businesses, they also have lots of other businesses. They have other gambling verticals like sports betting and in many cases also casino games in their product portfolio. They could also have business operations in other areas and in many countries. 

There are some lotteries which are privately owned and even listed on the stock exchange. It is easy to understand what the difference is between totally state controlled companies and publicly listed companies. I would say that the only reason why those companies are still considered a part of the ‘family’ of lotteries is that they operate monopoly-based lottery products (Lotto). 

The most challenging and, at the same time, interesting group are those lotteries which exist between those two first groups. This ‘middle group’ of lotteries is trying to achieve commercial business goals, but without the same tools that their business-oriented counterparts are using. 

Those lotteries could have some other gambling products like sports betting in their offering and they are in most cases serving their customers in retail and digital channels. Channeling is a good word to describe the ideology behind those kinds of lotteries. It means that they are trying to offer their customers legal alternatives to those games offered by private gambling companies. 

However, they are restricted to using lower payout percentages and are not allowed to offer bonuses etc. I’m not sure if that kind of operation would succeed in the long term without tight restrictions for other gambling companies. The ‘middle group’ will sooner or later face similar challenges and problems to those experienced by ‘state office’ lotteries if they don’t change their strategies.

For a company to succeed, it should understand what its customers are willing to have and what other options those customers have available to them. It sounds simple – know your customers and your competitors. The next step is to understand what your own strengths are. If you are not better than your competitors in any area, you will have big difficulties ahead! 

A successful company doesn’t have to be the best one in all areas – nowadays it is probably impossible. You should have a few (or at least one) areas where you are better than your competitors and you shouldn’t be worse than average in any areas. That’s incredibly good basics for a successful business!

So where should lotteries be looking to identify their competitive edge? Are those ‘middle group’ lotteries better than other gambling operators in any areas? The most common success factors for companies are strategy, people, finance, operations, and marketing. I don’t believe that lotteries could be stronger than other companies in management or leadership areas and the same problem is also with personnel/staff. 

The salary level in lotteries is so far away from top-class business companies that it’s impossible to attract the best people to lotteries. But I trust that it would be possible to get good enough directors and experts and avoid the risk to be worse than an average in those two areas.

How about finance? Could lotteries find their strength from that area? In principle it could be possible but not in practice. States have money but there are so many areas which need more resources that it’s unlikely that they would invest lots more resources in their lotteries. I would say that state-owned companies are not investing as much as the best companies are doing and states are in many cases careful owners – they are risk-averse. So, no competitive edge from that area.

We have two potential areas left. How about operations? Would it be possible to have better processes and/or way of working than other companies have, and would it really matter for lottery/gambling business? Of course it could be possible, but I don’t believe that operations would be the area where any companies could gain competitive edge for gambling operations.

Some lotteries seem to think that their perceived trustworthiness in relation to commercial gambling enterprises remains their strength, but I don’t believe in that. This could be area where a company could lose the game, not win it.

So, we have just one area remaining – marketing. I think that “marketing” is a limited way of describing that area. It involves among other things communication, brand, sales, and customer relationship. But there seems to be two areas which could offer a potential competitive edge for lotteries. 

All lotteries have strong retail sale channels and most lotteries nowadays have digital sale channels too. Those lotteries which have two strong sales channels or even one omni-channel solution could achieve a competitive advantage on commercial gambling operators which are serving their customers solely online. 

Unfortunately too many lotteries still face challenges with their own online sale channels. That’s why I don’t believe that omni-channel is currently the solution to winning the competition against private gambling companies. Maybe it could be possible in the coming years? 

Lotteries have enjoyed strong brand recognition and good reputations, at least in Western Europe where lottery operations have operated for tens of years and given millions or even billions to good causes. That ‘money for good causes’ could be seen as a potential strength for lotteries. 

But nowadays in many countries lottery profits are going to the state and not directly to beneficiaries. As a result, customers are no longer certain as to where those profits are actually going, to the point where it looks just like another form of taxation. 

My solution would be a combination of brand, communication, and customer relationship. Lotteries should communicate that they are acting in a more responsible way than the most of their commercial gambling counterparts. 

They should explain that they are subject to stricter limits on the gambling products they offer which is why they are different from those offered by commercial gambling firms. Lotteries should tell consumers that they take responsible gaming seriously and that they are operating frameworks where gambling is as responsible as possible. 

The purpose of those restrictions is to take care of customers and to prevent problems. I believe that lotteries could use responsibility as a way of gaining a competitive edge in gambling business. They should be saying: “We are offering the safest and most trustable environment for gaming!” But it won’t work if lotteries just say it, they must also run their businesses in a way that demonstrates that.

USKONTO 10 JA MATIKKA 4 VAI JOTAIN MUUTA?

Kirjoitin tämän jutun SHKL:n (Suomen Hevosenomistajien Keskusliitto) Hevosenomistaja-lehteen, joka saapui jäsenille ilmeisesti eilen. Vaikka tämä on hieman erilainen kirjoitus kuin yleensä tällä blogissani julkaisen, niin ajattelin täydentää tällä lähinnä kuvaa itsestäni. Ravit on minulle yksi tärkeimmistä, ellei jopa tärkein harrastus! Toivottavasti tämä kirjoitus auttaa ymmärtämään miksi näin on!

Miksi kukaan ostaa hevosia, kun niihin vain menee rahaa? Ravihevosten osalta tilanne on hieman parempi kuin ratsuilla, koska Suomen raveissa maksetaan palkintorahaa vuosittain yli 20 miljoonaa euroa. Toisaalta palkintorahan suuruus voi ylläpitää turhaa toiveajattelua siitä, että ravihevosen omistamisella voisi rikastua. Raviharrastajien keskuudessa on yleinen sanonta, että hevosenomistajalla tulee olla kouluarvosana uskonnosta 10 ja matematiikasta 4. Uskon parempaan tulevaisuuteen tulee olla luja ja kaikkia kuluja ei kannata laskea, muuten koko hommassa ei vaikuta olevan järkeä vai onko sittenkin?

Hevosen omistaminen on vuosien saatossa muuttanut muotoaan ja nykyään yhä suurempi osa ravihevosista asustelee jossain muualla kuin omistajansa kotitallissa. Olen itse arvioinut, että ammattivalmentajalla olevan hevosen tulee ansaita palkintorahoja noin 15000 euroa vuodesta, jotta taloudellinen tulos ilman hevosen ostokuluja olisi +/- 0. Todennäköisesti tämäkin laskelma on liian optimistinen eikä ota huomioon mahdollisia sairastumisia ym. ylimääräisiä kuluja. Katsoin pikaisesti Hippoksen Heppa-järjestelmästä, että v.2019 raviradoilta ansaitsi yli 15000 euroa reilut 300 hevosta, joka on noin 4 % kaikista kilpailleista hevosista. Tämän lisäksi on aika paljon hevosia, jotka eivät edes selviä raviradoille asti.

Pidän itseäni analyyttisenä ihmisenä, joka perustaa päätöksensä faktatietoihin eikä tunteisiin. Miksi siitä huolimatta olen omistanut ravihevosia jo vuodesta 1975 lähtien, vaikka omistamisessa ei pitäisi olla taloudellisesti mitään järkeä? Mielestäni on muita syitä, joita on vaikea mitata taloudellisesti ja jotka kuitenkin selittävät harrastuksen jatkamisen yhä uudelleen ja uudelleen.

Olen kasvanut hevosenomistajasukuun, vaikka meillä kotona ei koskaan ole ollut hevosia. Sain ensimmäisen oman hevosen, tamma Valoisen (i. Valid Hanover), jo 10-vuotiaana. Valoise asusteli tuolloin aika lähellä kotiani sijainneella Raiwa-tallilla, jossa Raimo Vainikka opetti minut käytännön hevoshommiin. Valoise jatkoi pian upouudelle Teivon raviradalle ja siellä nuoren Jorma Kontion tallille. Tamma meni ”vaikka toisen perässä puuhun”, mutta ohittaminen oli aivan liian vaikeaa. Nuorena loppuneen uran saldona taisi olla yli 20 totosijaa, muttei yhtään voittoa. Elämyksiä sain silti niin paljon, että olin lopullisesti koukussa. Valoisen Teivon rataennätyspalkinto ja valiorajan alittamisesta saatu hevosenkenkä ovat edelleen visusti tallessa.

Olen vuosien saatossa saanut olla mukana mukavissa hevoskimpoissa, joissa hevosen menestys ei ole ollut ainoa tärkeä asia – välillä se on jopa jäänyt täysin sivurooliin. Hyvä esimerkki tällaisesta hevosesta oli Fatboy Fling, jossa olimme kaveriporukalla mukana Tauno Jantusen kanssa. Ravireissuilla oli hauskaa, vaikka Fatboy ei ainakaan pärjännytkään. Koin itseni suureksi hevosenomistajaksi, kun Fatboy Fling oli St Michel-raveissa samassa lähdössä toisen kimppahevoseni Lovechildin kanssa. Jos muistan oikein, niin kumpikaan ei pärjännyt, mutta tunne omien hevosten kilpailemisesta omissa suosikkiraveissani yhtä aika oli elämys.

Tähänastinen hevosenomistajan urani huippu tuli Tapsan Tahdin kanssa. Jo tuohon kimppaan mukaan meno on oman tarinansa paikka, josta tässä vain hyvin lyhyt versio. Menin lauantain St Michel-ravien jälkeen hotellin saunaan Perttusen Tapsan kanssa ja kun tulin saunasta, niin sanoin vaimolleni, että tuli vähäsen kallis saunareissu. Vaimo kysyi puolihuolimattomasti vain, että minkä hevosen ostit? No, aika hyvän hevosen silloin sain kohtuulliseen hintaan. Vaikka en Tahdin koko uraa ollut omistajana, niin ennätys 20,2a ja ansiot 200 000 euroa on suoritus, johon vain harva hevonen pystyy!

Onko raveilla vielä tulevaisuutta?

Hevosten ja hevosenomistajien määrä laskee huolestuttavaa vauhtia. Kyseessä ei ole vain Suomen ongelma vaan samanlaisesta kehityksestä kärsivät kaikki merkittävät ravimaat. Mitä asialla voidaan tehdä vai voidaanko mitään? Varmasti voidaan! Avainasia on ymmärtää asiakkaiden motiivit olla mukana lajissa. Tässä tapauksessa pidän asiakkaina kahta eri ryhmään – hevosenomistajia ja raviharrastajia. Miksi joku haluaa omistaa hevosen tai nykyään lähinnä osan hevosesta? Miksi toisaalta ihmiset haluavat käydä raveissa ja/tai seurata ravikilpailuja kotisohvalta? Yksiselitteistä vastausta ei ole, koska ihmisiä motivoivat erilaiset asiat. Sen vuoksi pitää ymmärtää, mitkä ovat yleisimmät syyt olla mukana meille rakkaassa lajissa ja toisaalta, mitkä ovat olleet suurimmat syyt lopettaa lajin harrastaminen.

Kun raviurheilun päättäjät ymmärtävät, miksi ihmiset ovat mukana lajissa tai jäävät siitä pois, pitäisi olla paljon parempi pohja yrittää vaikuttaa oikeisiin asioihin. Omalta osaltani voin todeta, etteivät taloudelliset tekijät ole pääasia. Tietysti hevosesta aiheutuu kuluja ja niistä huolehtimisen pitää olla omistajalle mahdollista ilman pelkoa siitä, että oma talous romahtaa, jos hevonen ei menesty. Minulle hevosen omistamisen suurin syy on elämysten hakeminen. Tunne, jonka saa, kun käy tallilla katsomassa ja rapsuttamassa ja jopa joskus ajamassa omaa, vaikka vain osaomistamaa, hevosta on hieno. Vielä suuremman elämyksen kuitenkin saa silloin, kun hevonen on kilpailupäivänä lämmityksessä ja esittelyssä ennen lähtöä, itse lähdöstä puhumattakaan. Loppusuoran adrenaliiniryöppyä on tosi vaikea edes yrittää kuvailla. Hevosen omistamisessa on kysymys elämysten hakemisesta.

Olen ollut mukana SHKL:n tai oikeastaan ULHO:n toiminnassa vasta noin vuoden ajan. Myönnän, etten edelleenkään tiedä kaikkea, mitä omistajajärjestömme tarjoaa jäsenilleen. Olen kuitenkin huomannut, että palvelut ovat edelleen aika pitkälle suunnattu omistajille, joilla hevoset ovat omassa tallissa. Hevosen omistamisen muoto on kuitenkin muuttunut ja yhä suurempi osa omistajista on mukana kimppahevosessa, josta omistetaan yleensä noin 10 %. Tämän lisäksi nk. suurkimpat ovat yleistymässä ja niissä omistusosuudet ovat vain 0,1 – 1 % luokkaa. Miten tällaisia pienomistajia voitaisiin palvella ja aktivoida yhä paremmin mukaan raviharrastukseen? Kaupunkilaiselle sadasosan hevosesta omistavalle tarvitaan jotain aivan muuta kuin 5 hevosen tallia maaseudulla pyörittävälle omistajalle. Kumpaakin ryhmää pitää pystyä palvelemaan, mutta tavat ovat erilaiset. Tässä on mielestäni hevosenomistajajärjestön suurin haaste, joka pitää pystyä ratkaisemaan pian, muuten hevosmäärä jatkaa vajoamistaan.

Unelmista kannattaa maksaa!

Omistan nyt osuuden kahdesta hevosesta. Nelivuotias Rarity Red (15% osuus) asustelee Emma Väreen tallilla Vihdissä ja kolmevuotias Taistelija (10 % osuus) harjoittelee raviurheilijan aakkosia Antti Tupamäen tallilla Petäjävedellä. Rarity Redin kilpailu-uran aloitus on jo tuonut elämyksiä kimppaporukalle. Viimeisen takasuoran laukka Kymeenlaakso-ajon karsinnassa ja alkulaukka Mascate Matchin lähdössä Vermossa kuuluvat ”ei niin mukaviin” muistoihin, jotka onneksi ne jäävät unholaan, kun muistelee kolmea peräkkäistä Vermon voittoa. Iho menee vieläkin kananlihalle, kun ajattelen loppusuoran fiiliksiä!

Sain reilu viikko sitten videon Välähdyksen velipojan Taistelijan ensimmäisestä ratahiitistä Killerillä. Poika pisteli sellaisella tyylillä ja vauhdilla, että tuskin maltan odottaa tulevien vuosien kisoja! Tässä vaiheessa tuntuu, että minulla on tuleva Ravikuningas ja Suur-Hollola voittaja… Unelmia pitää olla, vaikka järki sanookin jotain muuta. Tästä hevosen omistamisessa on minulle kysymys!

THE IMPORTANCE OF FACTS

I have a problem, big personal problem! I’m a person who likes to make decisions based on facts. I haven’t understood how someone can trust on decision-making process where they haven’t used correct information. But now, someone could say finally, I have realized that it is not always clear what the facts are. “The truth” could be different for me than for the other person.

It has been obvious that there are almost always lack of information and we have to make decisions without all facts. We are living in the middle of chaos and we should accept that. But I still believe that right information will help you to make better decisions and that’s why you should try to collect as much facts as possible.

My company made quite big report for one of our customers. We needed there lots of information about different countries and market developments. As always, I made a list of statistics and other information which we should have before writing the final report. It sounded as a quite simple process to collect that kind of background package and the idea was to make analysis based on that information. It wasn’t so difficult to collect information, but we made one mistake which caused me personal crisis. We were curious to hear two different stories about the same situation. Both of those stories were believable ones and they were based on facts. How it could be possible that two bodies were using different facts when they were talking about the same situation?

The outcome of our work would be quite different if we would believe on the other story but not on the other one. That’s why we decided to have the third opinion from the independent research company. We got there the third version of “the truth”. Which one of those three stories is the right one? We don’t know but it was easy to choose the facts from the research company because they probably don’t have reason to have wrong data by purpose. But those two other bodies are working in that area and they should have more information than the foreign research company has, so did we make right decision?

Of course I have known that companies are using data which is supporting their own business goals. Here in Finland we are even used to say “lie, whopper, statistics” which describes that it’s possible to “prove” with statistics whatever you want. My problem is that I don’t understand why we are doing that? I believe that the world would be better place and companies would make better business if we would have the real data available. Sharing the information would help everybody and then it would be up to companies and persons how they would use that information.

I describe two cases from the gambling world where the correct information would help almost everybody. The first case is the prevention of gambling problems. The gambling industry has all data of their customers’ gambling behavior. If ministries or other authorities who are taking care of gambling problems would have that data and if they could link that to other information they have about same persons, they would have much better tools for fighting against gambling problems.

Someone might say that gambling companies are not willing to share all information about their customers because they are afraid of loosing too much revenue by doing that. They have risk of loosing customers who are playing much, probably too much. From short term business point of view they are the most profitable customers, but is that the case in long-term? If gambling business would manage to reduce gambling problems, the reputation of whole industry would increase and in long-term it might mean better business for all gambling companies. If regulators would have better information and tools, they could set more personalized limits and let normal customers continue gambling without so tight restrictions.

The other case is the discussion of market shares and the size of gambling business in specific countries. I take Finland as an example although I believe that it is not the worst example at all. Does anyone know what is the size of whole gambling business in Finland and how big market shares different gambling companies have here? No, although all data is there but companies are not willing to share it. Just the total numbers from monopoly operator Veikkaus are available and everything else is based on estimations or even guesses.

Veikkaus used to publish their own analysis about the size of total gambling business and their own market share of that in Finland. Offshore companies were saying that Veikkaus was underestimating the offshore gambling business in Finland. At the same time gambling problem researches were saying that Veikkaus was overestimating that offshore gambling. That led to the situation where Veikkaus is nowadays using the independent estimation from H2GC, but the similar discussion is still going on around that issue. Offshore companies say that offshore business is bigger than H2GC is estimating and authorities say vice versa. It is easy to understand what the reasons for that are. Both bodies are trying to improve their own interests.

It would be important to have the real data from the offshore companies to make correct decisions about the gambling law and regulation. Now the authorities have to make decisions based on incomplete information and there is the risk that they will make wrong decisions. I would like to develop the system where we would have all important facts available for decision making. That would make gambling business better for the customers for sure and probably it would be better for the companies too.

ARE LOTTERIES DIFFERENT THAN OTHER GAMBLING COMPANIES?

What is the definition of lottery? Wikipedia tells that lottery is a form of gambling that involves the drawing of numbers at random for a prize. Lotteries are outlawed by some governments, while others endorse it to the extent of organizing a national or state lottery. Is there anything which makes lottery totally different compared to other gambling and gambling operators. Lotteries think that yes of course but I’m not sure about that at all.

When I joined in Veikkaus, the Finnish national lottery operator, over 25 years ago the lottery and gambling world was quite different than it is now. Gambling was among those words which we weren’t allowed to use when we were talking about our own business. Gambling was something bad and lottery was good. Some lotteries had pool-based sports games like Football Pools and the word we used for whole business was gaming. Nowadays gaming means rather casual and social games not lottery or other gambling verticals. Lotteries weren’t willing to be part of gambling business and believed that their reputation and operation were much better than for example casino companies had. I know that some lotteries are still thinking that way.

Many lotteries are established by the states and have been owned by those states too. In practice all of them have had monopoly situation in lottery business in their own jurisdictions. All lotteries have had lotto games and most of them have also sold scratch cards and some have had those pool-based sports games. Lotteries have had strong position in retail business and important role in the societies thanks to profit/money they have given to the state and/or to their direct beneficiaries.

The gambling world began to change when internet appeared in 1990’s. At the same time some forerunner lotteries decided to introduce fixed odds sports betting. It was huge change when we jumped from traditional retail lottery business to digital sports betting business in mid-1990’s. Internet, and later mobile, has changed our business totally but it has influenced on the legal situation too. There is still monopoly in basic lottery business in all countries but in practice that is not the case anymore. There are nowadays secondary lottery products and sports betting about lottery results which customers could play instead of the original lotteries.

European Union has also caused lots of changes here in Finland and probably in many other EU-member countries too. Monopolies are against the basic principle of EU where we believe on free movement of products and services. The European Court of Justice has accepted the monopoly in lottery business if it is necessary to prevent gambling related problems. Those problems could be gambling problems or crime which is linked to gambling business. I would like to hear how much gambling problems are coming from lottery products and how much crime is linked to those products… There is no monopoly in casino business where gambling problems and criminal actions are much more common than they are in lottery products.

There are still many lotteries where state is the owner of the company, but there are more and more lotteries which are public companies with private owners and in some cases state could be among those owners. If I analyze the World Lottery Association (WLA) and its’ members I would say that it is not homogenous group at all. If I think about how lotteries are trying to target their business goals, I could notice extremely big difference between the most active and the most passive ones. There are lotteries which are acting like real business companies and there are also lotteries which are like state offices – which they actually are. Then there are lots of lotteries between those two groups.

Some lotteries have divided their businesses to two or even more separate companies where the other company is operating in the monopoly environment and the other one is in serious competition (license market). Danske Spil and Svenska Spel are good examples of that kind of structure. There are also companies like IGT, SISAL, FDJ, SAZKA etc. among WLA members and they are like normal publicly listed business companies.

Few other important features where attitude and action among lotteries vary a lot are responsible gaming and profit of the company. Lotteries have taken responsible gaming issues seriously and they still are, but are they really doing things better than the private gambling operators? Some lotteries are but not all of them. There are also some private gambling operators who are doing excellent work in that responsible gaming area. The profit from lotteries is going to the state or/and to good causes. That’s still the case in monopoly part of the business, but in licensed based business that’s not the case.

I don’t believe that it will be possible to keep monopoly and act like normal business company although lots of lotteries are moving towards that kind of action. I think that there are two totally different options available. The first one is to act like monopoly company should do – concentrate mainly on prevention of gambling problems and not be too active with marketing, sale, and development. Then it’s up to the state how well it could protect that monopoly from the competition. The roles of state and lottery company should be separate and clear enough. There are tools for that protection like internet and payment blockings. The other option is to concentrate on real business and offer as good and wide gambling products to customers as possible and trust on own strengths. Thanks to their backgrounds and history, lotteries have some competitive edges compared to private companies and they should try to utilize them and make good business. In that world monopoly won’t be possible, but it doesn’t matter if lotteries would develop their businesses.

In many countries lotteries can’t make that kind of decision by themselves. The final decision maker is the state, but lotteries could influence on that decision. I think that it would be possible to further develop business also in monopoly situation but there the tools are totally different compared to real business world. In both worlds keywords are customer satisfaction, good products and services and digitalization. If lotteries are willing to move towards real competition, they should digitalize their business, introduce customer-oriented systems, and add more gambling verticals to their portfolio. In the monopoly world responsible gaming is the most important issue and it should be clear that it has important role also in business world but not so big than in monopoly.

COVID-19 – A WAKE-UP CALL

I wrote a blog “Digitalization of Lottery Business” two months ago. I will now continue with the same theme and this blog will partly be the same than that previous one. I believe on principle “Repetition is the mother of learning”. I got the impulse for this one from the virtual SBC Digital Summit event where I participated in panel discussion last week. I discussed with Steen Madsen (A Game Above), Stuart Godfree (Mkodo) and Chris Armes (GiG) about mobile and digital opportunities for lotteries. I have thought that issues a lot during last few days and believe that we could help operators, lotteries and the other ones, who would like to develop their offering and service in that area.

It is already now obvious that Covid-19 has changed our lives. It has been amazing how fast that changed has happened. Unfortunately, it has not been good changes, but I would say that it hasn’t been totally bad either. Of course, I’m not talking about the number of dead or sick people, but how we have changed our habits to buy things and spend our free time. That “damn virus” has also showed to companies that there should be agile ways to change business strategies and plans very quickly. Those companies who have managed to do that, have better possibilities to stay alive during that crisis and after that.

Covid-19 has shown one big weakness from gambling business which is mainly problem for casinos and lotteries. That weakness is to big role of retail business and the lack of digital online business. It’s not good solution if you have “all your eggs in the same basket”. We have the best/worst examples of that in Las Vegas where casinos have been closed now some weeks and most of them have just minor online business going on or in many cases not at all online business. That has meant 95 – 100 % lost of sales and profits have changed to losses. Too many lotteries have faced similar problem. When places where you are used to sell your lottery tickets are not allowed to be open, you don’t have any places where you could get sales if you don’t have online/digital channel. There are examples where big lotteries have been forced to stop whole operations when they haven’t had online sales at all, or the share of that business has been too small.

The other example of “all eggs in the same basket” problem is sports betting. Those operators who have had just sports betting business without any other gambling verticals have faced extremely big problems. If you have offered only sports betting and there are no sports events going on, what else you could do than stop your operations? Those sports betting operators who have had for example virtual sports and/or online casino games in their product portfolio have had possibility to continue their businesses.

I said in panel discussion last week that hopefully Covid-19 is the wake-up for lotteries. Actually it should be wake-up call also for some other gambling operators too! It is not useful to say that lotteries should understand the need of change already many years ago. It is better to concentrate on the future and how they could make things better. As a skeptic guy, I‘m not sure how many of them are willing to change and how fast they are ready to do it. The time for action is NOW not sometimes in the future!

There are many things what gambling operators should have learnt from the crisis we have faces during last 2 -3 month. Companies should have adaptive strategy which means capability to react on big changes fast. They should also have capability to move changes in strategy to business plans and further to operational level as quickly as possible but in the way which their organization and customers will understand. The main problems in that area are slow processes, the fear of change and the lack of communication with employees and customers.

There are at least four areas where the most of lotteries should make improvements. Those area are digitalization, customer centric operations, products & services, and technology. All those areas would be worth of own blog, but I try to explain the main changes now shortly.

Although retail is really important part of lottery business, lotteries should have digital business too. Lotteries should understand that online sale is not against retail business but rather will support that. The next step for more developed lotteries will be omni-channel solution where retail and online will establish “one package” and work as a one sale channel. We have noticed that it is easier to offer services for customers in digital channels than in traditional retail network. But it would be possible to offer those supporting services and new kind of products also in retail network if companies could utilize digitalization in all channels, not only in online channel. Lotteries should start digitalization immediately if they haven’t done that yet.

Lotteries should have capability to serve their customers whenever and wherever they are willing to buy products. It is old fashioned way to think that good product would be enough to get customers and sales. Companies should understand and admit that customers are kings and queens and they will decide what, when and where they are going to buy. We should understand more about our customers and data is one important part of that. Lotteries should put more resources on data utilization and automatization. I’m sure that it would bring them more satisfied customers and better business.

I already wrote about “all eggs in the same basket” dilemma. Gambling companies should have wider product portfolio than the most of them have at the moment. That is big problem for lotteries mainly. There are still plenty of lotteries who are offering just basic lottery products like Lotto and scratch cards. There might be legal reasons for that, but I would say that in many cases those legal and regulative problems are just too easy explanations. I don’t believe that it would be impossible to add for example horse and sport betting to product portfolio. From business risk management point of view it is better to have wider product portfolio than limited one.

I have always seen technology as a tool for business. I must admit that it is extremely important tool which allows you to develop your business. Gambling operators should have as modern and agile technology solutions as possible. Companies should have as fast time to market time as possible and technology is the most important element there. I think that one big challenge in that area for lotteries is unwillingness to make changes to technology which they are used to use. The most of lotteries are used to buy everything from same technology supplier and that would block the possibility for change and opportunity to use the best solutions in different areas.

Lotteries should be more ready to take more risks, controlled ones of course. I’m extremely keen on helping lotteries, and other gambling operators, if they would like to start to change their business now. The game is not over, but Covid-19 has showed that time for change is now!