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!

MY NEW BUSINESS LIFE

This blog will be quite personal and commercial one. I’m going to tell something about my business future and would like to hear what you think about my/our plans.

As you might have read, I resigned from Veikkaus two months ago and now I’m officially out from there and it’s time to do something else. I have started today new consulting company together with my friend Reijo Anttila and would like to give some information about our plans. Our timing is not at all perfect “thanks” to Covid-19, but we believe on our ideas and expertise and trust that there will be request for our service soon or later anyhow.

We have established consulting and development company called The Finnish Gambling Consultants which will concentrate on gambling related operations globally. We are targeting international gambling operators and suppliers. Me and Reijo (also from Veikkaus) own that company together. Both of us have worked 20+ years in the Finnish gambling operators in many different high positions and have got lots of knowledge about successful gambling business.

We have managed to make non-exclusive partnerships with five excellent professionals who will give us more resources and expertise if needed. I guess that you have heard names Philippe Vlaemminck, David Sargeant, Christian Kalb, Robin Bowler and Mark Knighton before. We have also informal network of esports experts which we could utilize if there would be need for esports consulting. It’s possible that there will be few more partnerships quite soon.

We have recognized our focus areas. There could be even more of them, but we have decided to concentrate on these six areas mainly.  

  1.  Digitalization of gambling business. We have both over 20 years’ experience about that. I was responsible for online business when Veikkaus introduced that as the first lottery in late 1996. Reijo led the project when horse betting company Fintoto did the same some years later. We believe that we could help companies as well in strategic planning’s as at the executive level. During that special Covid-19 pandemic time it has been easy to notice that some companies, mainly lotteries, should be much more active in digital business.
  • New gambling verticals. We could help gambling companies, including lotteries, if they want to introduce new gaming vertical to their product portfolio or establish gambling business for the first time. We could help customers to find the most tempting products for their customer segments. We have recent experience from that when we were involved in the merger process of three gambling companies here in Finland. Nowadays all gambling verticals (lottery, casino, sports betting) are in the same company.
  • Improvement of existing business. We can help companies to make analysis of existing situation and give proposal of potential improvement areas. We could also help them in the decision-making process and further execution of that plan. We are used to make lots of analysis in our works and managed to get good results from that work.
  • Horse and sports betting. Our deepest experience is from horse and sports betting sector and we could offer new business and products ideas for that business sector. I’m sure that give lots of help for example to the lotteries who would like to introduce sports betting to their product portfolio. The other special knowledge we have from that area is pool-based games which are popular ones here in Nordic countries.
  • Utilization of data. We have worked many years with customer and product data and are able to help companies to create customer-oriented business models. We know gambling specific features about data and measurements. We believe that same models with local tunings work well around the globe and that’s why we would be able to help all kind of gambling companies globally in that area.
  • Strategy work. We could help companies to plan the strategy work of the company or the specific business division. We have done that many times in Veikkaus and Fintoto and could utilize that knowledge for sure. We could also provide content for that work if needed. Especially in that area we have excellent partnership network!

We are not going to concentrate only on consulting business although it will be big part of our business. The remarkably interesting area will be our own development & innovation. I would describe that as the seventh area.

  • New business models. We are doing the development of new business models for gambling operators by ourselves and are ready to make revenue shared business contracts about those models with operators. I’m excited about that area! I’m sure that we have and shall have excellent new business ideas and hopefully we’ll find out companies who would like to utilize those ideas.

You could find out more information about the company and us from our internet site: www.finnishgc.fi . You could send me your comments about our business plan/focus areas to my new email address jari.vahanen@finnishgc.fi . You could use the same email if you would start cooperation discussion with us too.

RAVIPELAAMISEN MUUTOS JA RAVIURHEILUN MAHDOLLISUUDET

Osallistuin maanantaina 9.3. Forssan raviradan strategiaseminaariin yhtenä alustuspuheenvuoron pitäjistä. Esitykseni tarkoituksena oli kuvata rahapelaamisessa ja hevoskilpailuissa tapahtuvaa kehitystä ja sen vaikutusta Suomen raviurheilun tulevaisuuteen. Tässä on puheenvuoroni pääsisältö vielä auki kirjoitettuna.

Kulutustrendit & rahapelaaminen

Rahapelaaminen ja raviurheilun seuraaminen ovat osa normaalia kulutuskäyttäytymistä. Tämän vuoksi on tärkeää ymmärtää, minkälaisia yleisiä muutoksia ihmisten kulutustrendeissä on tapahtumassa. Kuluttajien käyttäytymisen megatrendejä on aika paljon ja olen poiminut niistä kolme, joilla on varmasti paljon vaikutusta myös alamme kehitykseen.

Digitalisaatio on muuttanut ihmisten kulutuskäyttäytymistä jo paljon ja tulee muuttamaan sitä yhä enemmän. Asiointi on siirtynyt verkkoon ja erityisesti mobiilikanavaan. Tämän kehityksen seurauksena kilpailu on kiristynyt merkittävästi. Aiemmin fyysisellä sijainnilla oli suuri merkitys kulutukseen, mutta nyt esimerkiksi maiden rajat eivät enää ole kriittinen tekijä asiakkaiden valintamahdollisuuksiin. Verkossa on tarjolla satojen, ellei jopa tuhansien peliyhtiöiden tuotteita ja hevosurheilua pystyy seuraamaan monista eri maista.

Toinen merkittävä muutos on osittain sidoksissa digitalisaatioon ja se on asiakkaiden valintamahdollisuuksien kasvu. Tämän seurauksena asiakkaiden vaatimustaso on noussut. Menestyvän liiketoiminnan perusedellytys on ja tulee olemaan asiakaskokemus. Toimija, joka pystyy tarjoamaan parhaan asiakaskokemuksen, tulee menestymään varmasti. Rahapelialalla näyttää olevan menossa konsolidaatio, jossa muilla aloilla perinteisesti toimineet yrityksen ovat tulossa mukaan rahapelitoimintaan. Tällaisia uusia rahapelialan toimijoita on tulossa mm. media-alalta, jossa erityisesti urheilun tv-oikeuksia omistavat yhtiöt ovat jo aloittaneet tai ovat harkitsemassa rahapelitoiminnan aloittamista. Perinteiset rahapeliyhtiöt tulevat olemaan pulassa, jos asiakasdatan jättiläiset Google, Amazon ym. tulevat mukaan rahapelitoimintaan.

Kolmas merkittävä muutostrendi on vastuullisuuden merkityksen nousu. Turvallisuus ja toiminnan eettisyys ovat saaneet kuluttajien silmissä entistä suuremman merkityksen. Olemme saaneet tästä jo hieman esimakua myös Suomessa viime kesästä lähtien. Pidän mahdollisena, että jotkut rahapelialan toimijat voivat tehdä vastuullisuudesta itselleen kilpailuedun, jolla ne erottautuvat muista peliyhtiöistä ja menestyvät sen ansiosta. Pidän varmana, että vastuullisuuden laiminlyönti ainakin ajaa yhtiöt syviin vaikeuksiin.

Hevospelaaminen & kilpailutapahtumat

Paras määre kuvaamaan rahapelaamisen volyymia on pelikate, joka tarkoittaa ihmisten rahapelaamiseen häviämää rahasummaa (pelimyynti – maksetut voitot). Globaalin rahapelaamisen pelikatteen on arvioitu olevan tällä hetkellä reilut 400 000 000 000 eli 400 miljardia euroa. Tästä summasta noin 12 % tulee digitaalisista kanavista. Hevospelaamisen (ravit & laukka) globaali pelikate on noin 25 B€ eli noin 6 % koko rahapelaamisesta. Pelaamisen kasvu tulee käytännössä vain digikanavista ja näyttää siltä, että asiamiespisteissä tapahtuva myynti laskee lähes kaikkialla. Hevospelaaminen kehittyy muihin pelialueisiin nähden heikommin. Tutkimuslaitos H2GC ennustaa hevospelaamisen kasvava tulevina vuosina 0 – 1 % vauhdilla, mikä on selvästi vähemmän kuin muun rahapelitoiminnan kasvu. Hevospelaaminen menettää siis merkittävästi markkinaosuuttaan ja pelaaminen siirtyy nopeasti pois rataympäristöstä.

Ravi- ja laukkatapahtumien katsojamäärät laskevat ympäri maailmaa. Arkikisoissa ei käy enää juuri ketään. Ongelma ei ole siis pelkästään Suomessa. Katsomot ovat tavallisissa kilpailuissa sama niin Solvallassa, Vincennesissä kuin Englannin laukkaradoillakin. Tavallinen bulkkituote ei enää näytä kiinnostavan ketään. Sen sijaan suurkilpailuilla ja erityistapahtumilla näyttää menevän kohtuullisen hyvin ja katsojamäärät ovat edelleen korkealla. Televisioinnilla on ollut suuri vaikutus. Itse kilpailutapahtumat näkyvät paremmin kotisohvalle kuin paikan päällä katsomoon.

Suomen raviurheilun muutos

Suomen raviurheilun kiinnostavuus laskee. Yleisömäärät putoavat ja arkiravien katsomot ammottavat tyhjyyttään. Positiivista on kuitenkin se, että myös meillä suurtapahtumat näyttävät edelleen kiinnostavan yleisöä. Tässä yhteydessä suurtapahtuma tarkoittaa muutakin kuin Kuninkuusraveja. Valtakunnallinen suurtapahtuma on eri asia kuin paikallinen suurtapahtuma ja niille kummallekin näyttäisi olevan tilausta.

Katsojamäärien laskun lisäksi iso ongelma on hevosmäärien lasku. Hevosen omistajien määrä on laskusuunnassa, mikä on todennäköisesti sidoksissa alan yleisen suosion laskuun. Tilanne on itse asiassa aika mielenkiintoinen, koska juuri tällä hetkellä tilanne menestyvän hevosen omistajan kannalta on parempi kuin koskaan ennen. Palkintotaso on korkealla ja hevosen on helppo päästä mukaan kilpailuihin. Alan tulevaisuuden haasteet tietysti ovat todellisia ja harmaalta näyttävä tulevaisuus ymmärrettävästi vähentää hevosen omistamisen kiinnostavuutta.

Rahapelaamisen suosio on ollut viime vuosina lievässä laskussa. Uuden koko pelitoimintaa hoitavan Veikkauksen pelikate on laskenut yhtiön koko kolmivuotisen toiminnan ajan. Osa vähentyneestä pelaamisesta näyttää siirtyneen ulkomaisille peliyhtiöille. Ravipelaamisen suosio on laskenut jopa enemmän kuin muun rahapelaamisen. Ravipelien osuus ennen uuden Veikkauksen perustamista kokorahapelaamisesta oli lähellä neljää prosenttia, mutta nyt se on enää reilut 3 %. Näyttää siltä, että ravipelit eivät ole kiinnostava tuoteryhmä tilanteessa, jossa asiakas saa kaikki mahdolliset rahapelituotteet yhdeltä luukulta.

Raviurheilun mahdollisuudet muutoksessa

Avainkysymys on, miten raviurheilu pystyy vastaamaan yleisiin kulutustrendeihin. Raviurheilu on osa viihteen ja vapaa-ajan markkinaa. Valintoja ei tehdä siis pelkästään rahapelaamisen sisällä vaan myös muiden viihdykkeiden välillä. Käytänkö torstai-illan katsomalla Lahden raveja vai kenties katsomalla jääkiekon liigaottelua paikan päällä tai tv:n välityksellä vai menenkö vaimon kanssa elokuviin jne.

Pitkän tähtäimen tärkein tehtävä on raviurheilun yleisen hyväksyttävyyden kasvattaminen. Tätä varten tarvitaan aktiivista näkyvyyden ja tiedottamisen lisäämistä. Tätä tehtävää varten on terävöitettävä viestinnän kärkeä. Mitä ala haluaa itsestään kertoa? Mikä on se kuva, jonka haluamme alan ulkopuolisille kertoa? Moni alan harrastaja on esittänyt kritiikkiä siitä, että raviurheilua on markkinoitu liikaa rahapelaamisen kautta. Mielestäni tämä on ollut menneinä vuosina oikea valinta, koska alan rahoitus on tullut hyvin pitkälle ravipelien tuotosta ja hevosen omistajien rahoista. Nyt alan rahoitus ei ole suoraan kytköksissä ravipelien volyymiin, joten muitakin vaihtoehtoja on olemassa. Yksi ratkaisu viestinnän ja markkinoinnin kärjeksi voisi olla hevonen, mutta erottuuko se silloin riittävästi esimerkiksi ratsastuksesta? Oli valinta mikä tahansa, sen tulee olla uskottava!

Raviurheilun haasteena on ollut alan sisäinen erimielisyys. Tästä on päästävä eroon! Ei ole olemassa ratkaisuja, jotka miellyttävät kaikkia. On kuitenkin uskallettava tehdä valintoja ja luotettava siihen, että viime kädessä alan parempi yleinen tulevaisuus hyödyttää lopulta kaikkia, vaikka lyhyellä tähtäimellä hyödyt ja haitat jakaantunevat epätasaisesti. ”Oma pesä” on saatava kuntoon, koska muuten ei voida tehdä uskottavaa viestintää ja markkinointia ulkopuolisille.

Digitalisaatio on alue, jossa Suomen raviurheilu ja erityisesti ravipelaaminen on onnistunut hyvin. Digitaalisten kanavien osuus ravipelaamisessa on paljon suurempi kuin muilla pelialueille. Suomen Hippos on myös ansiokkaasti kehittänyt digitaalisia järjestelmiään ja informaation osalta tilanne näyttää hyvältä. Ongelmana ovat reaaliaikaiset digitaaliset palvelut itse tapahtuman aikana. Raviurheilu ei sovi kovin hyvin vedonlyönnissä suosiota kasvattavaan live-pelaamiseen. Ravilähdön aikana tapahtuvaa livepelaamista ei ole vielä edes testattu ja sen mahdollisuudet näyttävät huolestuttavan pieniltä. Asiakas ei myöskään saa juuri mitään reaaliaikaista palvelua ravitapahtuman aikana. Tapahtumaa ennen ja sen jälkeen digitaalisia kanavia voi hyödyntää, mutta mikä tukisi katsojakokemusta kotisohvilla ja paikan päällä raviradoilla?

Ravialan on ymmärrettävä, että asiakas on kuningas (& kuningatar)! Ketkä sitten ovat raviurheilun ydinasiakkaat, joita pitäisi palvella parhaiten? On pääkohderyhmä ”suuri yleisö”, nykyiset aktiiviset asiakkaat vai kenties lajien harrastajat eli ”tallialueen väki”? Näiden ryhmien tarpeet ovat hyvin erilaiset ja ne vaativat erilaisia toimenpiteitä, joita kaikkia ei voida toteuttaa yhtä aikaa. Suuri yleisö on kriittistä, jos ala haluaa saada uusia harrastajia. Nykyiset asiakkaat puolestaan ovat kriittisiä tässä ja nyt, koska alan rahat tulevat tältä ryhmältä. Lajin urheilijat puolestaan ovat kriittinen ryhmä, jotta ravitoimintaa yleensä on olemassa. Avaintekijä on joka tapauksessa ymmärtää, mitkä tekijät millekin asiakasryhmälle ovat tärkeimpiä tekijöitä.

Onko raviradoilla enää tulevaisuutta? Kuten jo aiemmin totesin, niin bulkkituote ei kiinnosta enää juuri ketään. Ratojen on kehitettävä asiakkaille elämyksiä ja viihdettä, jotakin erityistä, joka on syynä saapua paikan päälle ravikilpailuihin. On selvää, että kaikki ravitapahtumat eivät voi olla erityistapahtumia. Mielestäni ravikilpailuja tulisi uskaltaa profiloida nykyistä voimakkaammin. Ratojen tulisi hakea itselleen erottuvaa roolia ja keskittyä joihin tiettyihin tapahtumiin ja tehdä niistä nykyistä suurempia. Ravipelitoimintaa varten tarvitaan vähintään yksi urheilullisesti kiinnostava ravitapahtuma per päivä, mutta kaikkien näiden kilpailujen ei tarvitse yrittää olla spesiaalitapahtuma yleisölle. Raviratojen ja ravikilpailujen osalta olisi myös syytä erottaa nykyistä selvemmin ravipelaamista varten järjestettävät kilpailut ja raviharrastamista varten järjestettävät ravit.

Vastuullisuus tai itse asiassa sen puute on tekijä, jolla raviurheilu voi menettää enemmän kuin voittaa. Alan kannalta on kriittistä, että hevosten kohtelu sekä radalla että valmennuksessa on kunnossa. Media on tämä päivänä yhä julmempi ja negatiiviset asiat saavat helposti laajaa julkisuuttaa. Tämän vuoksi on kaikkien alan harrastajien etu, ettei raviurheilu anna aihetta negatiiviseen julkisuuteen. Esimerkkinä ehdottaisin, että Suomessa harkittaisiin Norjan mallista piiskan käytön kieltämistä.

Kaikkea ei tarvitse muuttaa kerralla. Muutos on saatava kuitenkin käyntiin saman tien. Eteneminen voi tapahtua pienin mutta suunnitelluin askelin. Nyt ei ole enää aikaa odotella!

DIGITALIZATION OF LOTTERY BUSINESS

Lottery business has been based on monopoly all over the world as long as I could remember. Lottery games have been run by national lotteries mainly. Those companies have been owned by states, but that’s not the case anymore. There are already many countries where lottery games are operated by private companies which are trying to make as good business as possible. That has changed the lottery world a lot and has caused big differences between different lotteries. Lottery companies used be like state offices in old days and they still are in some countries. At the same time there are modern business companies running those games too. It would be interesting to see what will happen in lottery business if for example Virgin Group will win the UK lottery license…

Because the ownership and business strategies of lotteries are so different, it’s natural that the state of digitalization of those companies varies a lot. We have lottery companies where the share of digital business is something like 50 % of total business and companies which haven’t even started the digitalization of their business. Someone could guess that state-owned companies are in the latter group and private companies are in the first group, but that’s not the case. For example, my former company Veikkaus is 100 % owned by the Finnish State and almost 50 % of lottery business is coming from digital channels. Another similar example is Norsk Tipping.

I have said many times before that gambling, or lottery, business is not specific and separate business area. Our consumers are used to use digital channels to get other services and products. People are using internet and their mobile phones almost for everything and it’s strange if they can’t get their lottery products from there too. Actually, lottery products are more suitable for digital channels than many other products, because there is no need for distribution. Lotteries should be part of normal life and be available in digital channels if customers would like to get them there.

Veikkaus introduced lottery games in internet already in 1996/1997 as the first lottery in the world – sorry my Icelandic friends! I was in charge of that digital business first years and due to that I was visiting many lotteries and events and told about our solutions and experiences. Those days the most of lotteries were afraid of reactions from retail network and weren’t ready to introduce digital solutions. It took surprisingly many years until lottery companies outside the Nordic countries started digitalization of their business. Veikkaus and other Nordic lotteries (Danske Spil, Norsk Tipping and Svenska Spel) have further developed their digital businesses. Someone might say that we are using digital tools even too much and trying to sell more than enough. Digitalization and utilization of customer data enable us to make more effective marketing and product development and that will improve the business results. Lotteries should find out the balance of business and responsible gaming together with regulator, but that is partly another story.

I believe that digitalization will give lottery companies and regulators more tools for responsible gaming too. We get lots of data from digital channels and that make it possible to analyze customer behavior more than it’s possible in retail channels where gambling has been anonymous. Digitalization makes it possible to give better service for customers. We could also offer more entertaining games and services. Of course, it’s important that lotteries understand how far they could go and control their actions. Otherwise there is a risk that gambling problems would increase.

The market situation has also changed. There are nowadays companies like Lottoland operating in lottery sector and traditional lotteries should compete against those modern companies. It’s impossible “fight” if we are not using the similar tools. I think that it’s better way to compete by developing our own business than try to beat those newcomers in courtrooms. I would almost like to thank Lottoland about “wake up-call” for lotteries…

It’s important to understand that digitalization of lottery business doesn’t mean just new digital channels internet and mobile. There are also lots of new opportunities for traditional retail channel. It’s possible and necessary to utilize new technology in retail business too. We have already lots of example of multi-channel products. We have brought digital services to retail network and that has utilized both sales channels. FDJ in France and Danske Spil in Denmark have managed to get excellent business results when they have launched new digital services for their retail network. I have admitted that I believe in omni-channel solutions. I’m sure that lotteries will introduce games where customer could play same game in retail network and continue that game in digital channel or vice versa. I’m also sure that customers will use their mobile phones for gambling when they are physically in retail shops – we have already seen some small examples of that. It might be impossible to say in the future which part of lottery business is digital and which retail business and it doesn’t matter at all. Lotteries should understand that retail business is the asset which the most of other gambling operators don’t have and that’s why it’s important part of the business to further develop!

Marketing of gambling (products)

I just spent long football weekend together with my former colleagues Antti, Erkko and Mika with whom we took care of marketing of sports and horse betting business in ”good old days” here in Finland. We used to have real funny time at the office and we managed to make excellent marketing campaigns. I believe that quite many middle-aged sports fans still remember our ”Maailma on erilainen vakioveikkaajan silmin”-campaign (you could find those Football Pools themed ads with Google or from YouTube…). We didn’t only toot our own horn but also tried to find out ideas for gambling marketing. It’s not easy task at all, but we had interesting discussion about that.

Gambling has always been ”dangerous” business, almost like alcohol and tobacco. Now attitudes against gambling have become even more negative due increase and awaremess of gambling problems. That has effected on marketing and communication a lot. Many countries have lots of restrictions for marketing of gambling products. Italy decided to have total marketing ban of all gambling products. There are similar rules for all gambling verticals like casino, sports betting and lottery. It seems that some countries might follow the example of Italy.

Veikkaus has still possibility to use marketing as a tool to promote its business in Finland. Gambling products have been divided to ”green” and ”red” games. Veikkaus is allowed to have marketing campaigns about ”green” games (for example lottery, football pools and scratch cards) which are not so dangerous ones. It’s not possible to have marketing campaigns of ”red” games (casino games, sports betting, horse betting etc.), but it’s allowed to give product information about those games and sometimes it’s difficult to explain the difference between marketing and product information.

It’s good that people understand better the risks of gambling and are aware of gambling problems. I think that regulator should set up guidelines for gambling operators and supervise those rules. Marketing should be one part of those guidelines (rules). I don’t believe that total ban of gambling marketing would be the best solution. The better one would be something like we have in alcohol business where companies are allowed to market ”not so dangerous” products but not at all those heavy ones.

I have said many times before that companies should know and understand their customers as well as possible. That’s the key issue also in marketing. If you know your customers’ main motivations for gambling, you could make better marketing for them. It’s totally different what kind of messages you should give for ”jackpot dreamers” than for people who is looking for entertainment. It’s another question should it be possible to market those entertaining casino games at all…

Sport is the most important reason for gambling for big group of customers. Of course some of them are dreaming to get big money from sports games and some of them are looking for entertainment by watching sports, but I would say that sport is specific reason to play money games. There are at least two quite separate groups inside sports betting customers. Sports punters are keen on gambling and they are trying to utilize their knowledge of sports to earn money. I think that there is no need to have any marketing actions for that group. The other group is much bigger one and it’s sports fans. For them sports at itself is more important than gambling, which is just ”extra feature” to get more excitement from sports.

What kind of marketing we should do for those sports fans? I don’t like ”buy now”- or ”win 1M€”-style marketing adds and especially in sports games area they are ineffective ones. If you would like to reach sports fans, you should concentrate on sports and try to offer them chance for insight. I think that me and my friends managed to do that in ”good old days” when we published for example ad which was copy of famous painting God’s Hand by Michelangelo and we added blue&white stripes and number 10 to that arm. It’s important that customer would get good feeling when he/she is watching those ads. You should also try to offer that same feeling when they are playing your games. If you manage to do that, you could have good but responsible gambling business.

We discussed also about the possibilities of social media, digital channel and retail network, but those ideas will be the theme of my next blog…

Kiitos ja näkemiin!

Kaikki loppuu aikanaan, ei ainakaan tää, ei ainakaan tää… Tiesin, että tämä päivä koittaa joskus, mutta yllättävän kauan siihen on mennyt. Olen työvuosieni aikana ollut useaan otteeseen head huntereiden juttusilla lähinnä uteliaisuuttani. Vajaat kymmenen vuotta sitten eräs head huntereista totesi minulle, että he kutsuivat minut keskusteluun pitkän harkinnan jälkeen, koska on tunnettu tosiasia, ettei se Vähänen sieltä Veikkauksesta minnekään lähde. No, nyt lähtee!

Olen saanut tehdä yli 28 vuotta töitä suomalaisissa rahapeliyhtiöissä isojen ja mielenkiintoisten haasteiden parissa. Noihin vuosiin mahtuu upeita osaavia ammattilaisia, jotka varmasti menestyisivät ja ovat itse asiassa menestyneet muillakin aloilla ja toisissa yhtiöissä. Mielestäni on täysin väärä käsitys, että monopoliyhtiössä ei tarvitse tehdä mitään ja rahaa tulee ”ovista ja ikkunoista” tekemättä mitään.

Minulla ei ole tarvetta puolustella tai arvostella Veikkausta yhtään mistään. Olen vain aidosti sitä mieltä, että pääsääntöisesti yhtiö on toiminut hienosti. Kaikille sattuu virheitä, vaikka ei pitäisi, mutta se on inhimillistä. Kaikista asioista en ole ollut, enkä ole, samaa mieltä, mutta ei kukaan voi aina saada tahtoansa läpi. Joskus tämän asian ymmärtäminen ja hyväksyminen on vaikeaa ja niin se ollut välillä ollut minullekin.

Uskon edelleen olevani yksi Suomen parhaista rahapelialan asiantuntijoista. Tunnen rahapelitoiminnan lisäksi myös rahapelijärjestelmät paitsi Suomessa niin myös monissa muissa maissa. Koen, ettei tälle osaamiselleni enää ole ollut Veikkauksessa todellista tarvetta. Olen ajautunut tilanteeseen, jossa arvostukseni yhtiön ulkopuolella on merkittävästi korkeampi kuin täällä kotikentällä. Ihminen yleensä kaipaa arvostusta ja sitä minun nyt pitää yrittää etsiä muualta.

En ole vielä toistaiseksi tehnyt lopullisia päätöksiä, mitä tapahtuu seuraavaksi. Todennäköistä on, että heittäydyn yrittäjän maailmaan, jossa pääsen toivottavasti tekemään asioita, joita oikeasti osaan ja joista nautin. Rahapeli- ja urheilumaailmat ovat minun kotikenttiäni ja niistä en luovu jatkossakaan.

Kiitos ja kumarrus kaikille nykyisille ja entisille työkavereilleni ja yhteistyökumppaneille. Rahapeliasioissa saa olla jatkossakin yhteydessä. Nähdään myös raveissa!

Terveisin

”rahapeliguru”-Jari