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European Lotteries Adapting to a Post-corona World

Niji Narayan

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European Lotteries Adapting to a Post-corona World
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The lottery executives and industry experts in Europe have met together via an online webinar “Lotteries in COVID-19 Lockdown” to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the lottery sector, the consequences for a post-corona world and the importance of continuing to fund good causes during a pandemic.

The webinar was organised by VIXIO GamblingCompliance in association with The European Lotteries (EL), together with representatives of two of EL Members the SAZKA Group and Veikkaus Oy. The webinar has gathered over 250 participants.

During the webinar, EL Secretary General Arjan van ‘t Veer outlined the situation for lotteries during the lockdown. In their immediate response to the outbreak, the vast majority of EL Members have already taken a series of priority actions to protect players and lottery employees, retailers and providers’ staff. The most common steps included remote working, travel restrictions and regular communication with the players and relevant stakeholders.

On the operational side, Mr. van ‘t Veer noted: ‘‘I have seen many EL Members take necessary continuity measure to make sure operations can continue. In the first days of the lockdown, there was a tremendous drop in sales, as retailers closed their doors and draws were postponed or cancelled. Early on, Members that operate slot machines, EGMs or casinos took their responsibility to close, in order to reduce large public gatherings. As the lockdown spread across Europe, more POSs were closed (some up to 100%) and sports betting took a major hit.’’

However, it is not all bad news. Mr. van ‘t Veer added, ‘‘Over the last few weeks some EL members have reported stable sales. Online games are performing better than expected, scratch cards are doing well, and many lottery campaigns are now focused on good causes to support the health sector and vulnerable people, such as funding for medical equipment or the delivery of daily essential supplies to care homes. Since the Easter break, there has been a positive impact on the sales of (draw based) games. There is still a long way to go but light is at the end of the tunnel. Some POSs are re-opening and Members are reporting preparations to get back to (full) business when possible.’’

Moderated by Andrew Gellatly, Head of Global Research at VIXIO, the discussions moved on to national situations and how lotteries can learn to co-exist with the virus.

Robert Chvatal, CEO of the Sazka a.s. and Sazka Group highlighted the observed “north-south divide,” i.e. differences in impact on lottery business between southern and northern regions of Europe, where for example in the southern countries with very small share of on-line lottery sales and 100% POS closures, the business was hit very hard by the crisis and in opposite, in the northern and central European countries, where the on-line share is much higher and retail was closed only partly, the business impact was much smaller.

“Many lotteries have seen a significant increase in online sales share, due to the retail channel limitations and customers’ willingness to have a chance to continue to play. Fortunately, this is even supported by high jackpots of both, local Lotto games and Eurojackpot/ Euromillions, attracting even occasional players to participate. This is something that lotteries will need to adjust to support, for example, their elderly customers concerned about going to their usual retailer with advice on how to play online. Some of them will probably remain the online customers, benefiting from convenience of on-line channel, which will partially increase the future on-line channel share. Nevertheless, plenty of the players will revert back to play in retail, especially those needing the social contact connected with the play. I believe that the lotteries biggest challenge will be to re-open fully the retail channel, respecting all hygienic rules to protect both customers and retailers, and ramp-up the retail channel performance as soon as possible to start to generate good causes contributions on the pre-corona level,” Chvatal noted.

On monitoring changes in the behaviour of players, Sami Kauhanen, SVP of Betting at Veikkaus Oy highlighted that “in Finland casinos, VLTs and slot machines closed in March, while the retails network remained open and continued to operate more or less ‘normally.’ There has been a slight increase for online casinos, but not to the extent that they are seen as a replace to suspended games such as slot machines. On offshore operators, there are not major changes during the lockdown. There is a traditional loss of the market share for online casinos and betting from these operators, regardless of the crisis.”

On sports betting Mr. Kauhanen added, “Live sport betting is a big thing in our country and with the cancellation of sport events, many are turning towards betting on horse-racing, often with new players who cannot currently bet on their favourite live sport, like football. Virtual betting and e-sports are not so popular in Finland.”

An audience poll was conducted during the webinar on what changes there will be in lottery player behaviour in the post-corona era. Most participants said players would revert to their existing retail/online preferences, followed closely by players staying online and retail lotteries becoming less relevant.

 

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Entain Appoints Jette Nygaard-Andersen as its New CEO

Niji Narayan

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Entain Appoints Jette Nygaard-Andersen as its New CEO
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Entain plc has appointed Jette Nygaard-Andersen as its Chief Executive Officer with immediate effect. Jette is currently an independent non-executive director of Entain.

Shay Segev, the outgoing CEO, will remain available to Jette, the Board and management until July 8, to facilitate an orderly transition.

In addition, Rob Wood, Entain’s CFO, will have the role of Deputy CEO added to his current role with immediate effect, and Sandeep Tiku, Entain’s Chief Operating Officer, will be appointed to the Board later in the year.

Barry Gibson, Chairman of Entain, said: “We are extremely fortunate to have such an outstanding candidate and readymade CEO in Jette. She is already deeply immersed in Entain’s strategy, and clearly shares our ambition to be the world-leader in sports betting and gaming entertainment.

“Jette and I have been immensely impressed by Rob. He is extremely well regarded internally and externally, and the additional responsibilities will enable him to further develop his operational skills as well as overseeing a key tenet of our growth ambitions through M&A.

“Sandeep has been integral to the development of Entain’s unique proprietary technology platform, which is a source of significant competitive advantage. His appointment not only reflects his contribution to the success of Entain but is also aligned with our aim to have a broader range of experiences and inputs on the Board.”

Jette Nygaard-Andersen said: “I am very excited to have the opportunity of continuing the extraordinary momentum that Entain has in its existing markets, as well as helping it enter new regulated markets and reach new audiences. I am delighted that Rob has agreed to take on broader responsibilities and that the importance of our proprietary technology is recognised through Sandeep’s appointment to the Board. I am deeply wedded to Entain’s commitment to providing industry-leading levels of player protection, and to its philosophy that the most sustainable business in our industry will be the most successful business in our industry. I cannot wait to get started.”

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Dutch Gambling Regulator Imposes €600,000 Fine on Virtual Coin Gaming

Niji Narayan

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Dutch Gambling Regulator Imposes €600,000 Fine on Virtual Coin Gaming
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Dutch gambling regulator Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has issued a fine of EUR 500,000 against the Curacao-licensed operator Virtual Coin Gaming (VCG) and a separate EUR 100,000 fine against an unnamed employee of the company for creating online games that the authority deemed to be games of chance.

VCG offered games via the websites www.futgalaxy.nl and nl.futgamer.com, which included online betting for football, hockey, and US sports, a FUT jackpot and game packs. Its online games were based on FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT), a card game that is part of the EA Sports FIFA video game franchise, in which players earned credits in the FUT video game either by purchasing these credits directly on www.futgalaxy.nl and nl.futgamer.com or by exchanging virtual currency earned in the EA Sports video game FIFA.

These game packs were a simulation of loot boxes found in the FUT-based FIFA video games in which players had the option to purchase six different packs with values ranging from 5000 to 100,000 credits. Highly rated soccer players were randomly added to the packs. Since the Dutch Betting and Gaming Act does not issue licenses for internet gaming, online games of chance are forbidden in the Netherlands.

Since 2018, in response to research that revealed a link between loot box games and gambling addiction, the KSA has focused on loot boxes, particularly in-game packs in FIFA video games.

The KSA pointed out that online games of chance violate the Betting and Gaming Act. According to the KSA, it was clear that this was a case of an unlicensed operator that specifically target Dutch consumers through the use of the Dutch language, the .nl domain extension and the use of the Dutch payment system iDEAL.

The KSA deemed the VCG game packs to be games of chance. Research carried out by the KSA in January 2019, bolstered by announcements on the websites themselves, revealed that participants generally are not able to predominantly influence their chances of receiving prizes from VCG loot boxes. The KSA also referred to a decision of the court The Hague of 15 October 2020 regarding Electronic Arts, which ruled that in-game packs (i.e. loot boxes) inside FIFA video games constituted games of chance.

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Vermantia Signs Content Deal with Caspian Tech

Niji Narayan

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Vermantia Signs Content Deal with Caspian Tech
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Vermantia, a leader in omni-channel content solutions, has extended its partnership with Azerbaijan’s state-licensed operator, Topaz.

The deal sees Caspian Tech provided with premium live racing betting content from the supplier’s market-leading Ultimate Live Greyhound Channel via its integration into the Vermantia CONNECT platform. On Caspian Tech’s behalf, Vermantia will set-up, and operate the bespoke satellite channel across its 500-strong Topaz branded shop estate.

“Caspian Tech represents a very important partner for us and I would like nothing more than to see us expanding our collaboration together. Topaz customers are now able to enjoy top quality live racing content, complete with high-definition pictures, a powerful bet acceptance system and a full data service,” Spyros Stavropoulos, Commercial Director at Vermantia, said.

“CONNECT has proven to be a game-changer in other markets already, combining the highest picture quality with genuine low-latency in a cost-effective solution that allows the operator to choose exactly what content they need,” Spyros Stavropoulos added.

“Our partnership with Vermantia meets both our quest for a trusted partner with an international content distribution experience and our goal to offer fast-paced and exciting betting products to our customers,” Mustafa Onder, Deputy Technical Director at Caspian Tech, said.

“We are very excited to be launching an upgraded service which we believe will prove to be an immediate hit, and no doubt enhance our retail offering with exciting action-packed betting opportunities,” Mustafa Onder added.

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