Rollo Redburn, Executive Director, Oklahoma Lottery

How will the world be different when we come out of this crisis - and how will the lottery industry, retailing, consumer shopping and recreational behavior be different? 

I don’t think we really know how it will be different. I listen to various radio personalities and politicians until I’ve had my fill for the day, and I can tell you that I just pray that the world does not become what some of them envision.  I think those of us who think a little more clearly will take a rational approach on future operations. I think we will look at what’s going on now and use our experiences in this situation to help identify processes that can work differently (read -  “better”) than they did before. Some processes may not be as important as we thought earlier; the ROI on some of those may not really be worth it, so maybe we plan functions, events, etc. and spend a little differently than before.

Some things will be eliminated; some will be smartly reduced and some will be enhanced.

·         We may find that not all the positions we had before were all that important to the success we all want for our beneficiaries.

·         We may find that some areas need more attention, more staff and more resources.

·         We will likely find that there are things we did before in certain ways that work better under a different process. Frequent visits may be reduced and replaced with more of a “call when you need us” model or something where we can better monitor when a physical call is needed.

I expect that a lot of people will be spending time and resources trying to recover from the financial hits they’ve taken during this crisis. That will likely impact the number of players, amount players can or will spend, etc.

Really a lot to consider. It may not result in a lot of change, but I think that it will.

What might lottery operators be doing to position ourselves for success in the post-coronavirus world? 

We still exist to provide funding for our beneficiaries. First thing to consider is whether beneficiary operations have changed and does that impact anything that we do?  I think that in most cases, the lotteries do NOT make decisions about where resources/profits go; we are simply tasked with raising as much as we can, given the operating environment we have.  But, beneficiary changes should be considered.

What can lotteries do?

·         Identify supply chain weaknesses and how to strengthen them.

·         Reviewing how we provide services will take place.

·         Make better use of technology, work from home scenarios, “touchless” and continued “social distancing-like” relationships, etc.

·         Eliminate or restructure identified processes.

·         Approval for online/mobile sales and processes is essential.

 

 Lottery has performed better than other sectors in past economic recessions.  How severely will the economic repercussions of coronavirus impact Lottery? 

The Oklahoma Lottery is doing better than anticipated at this point, but certainly not performing as desired. If that continues and is typical around the country, lotteries should come out of this okay, but with a strong need to reacquaint ourselves with our retailers, players, vendors and beneficiaries. In some cases, there may actually be increased pressure on certain lotteries to “ramp it up” and increase sales to a greater level, perhaps opening new sales avenues (more availability of mobile and/or internet sales).

I know there is criticism from the “anti- lottery; anti-gambling; anti-government; anti-anything I don’t support or understand” crowd about continuing to offer lottery tickets in the “social distancing” world. Those are mostly just a typical media response/criticism designed to create conflict or inflame sensibilities; or many are just irrational concerns in my opinion. Citizens that are not prohibited from getting out still have to get out, buy gas, buy groceries and other needed supplies. Lottery products are offered in those establishments and lottery products add no greater risk to players because of their availability than does a pack of cigarettes, loaf of packaged bread, or a coffee to go; particularly if sold from a vending machine (obviously, not all lottery products are sold from vending machines).

Plus, I suspect that being able to continue to play lottery, for whatever reason the player enjoys it, gives them one more way to think about something else for a while. Hopefully, politicians don’t en masse buy into such thinking and select lottery as something to further restrict in the future.

 

What opportunities will emerge in the post-coronavirus world?  For instance, won't people be travelling less, and if so, might that be an opportunity to appeal to locally-grown forms of recreation like Lottery and casino gaming?  For instance, in spite of months of social distancing, can't we expect that humans will quickly return to our natural state as highly social animals?

That’s one of those things that I look forward to witnessing: how the world is “opened” up and how we all react to that.  I think it will be so varied around the country, much less the world, either through when and what various governments allow or through how the populace actually functions. Some will travel less, some will ramp it up to make up for lost time! I plan on a shopping binge at the local lumber/hardware store. Not quite sure what I’m going to be making, but I’ll find something!

Just like the earlier comments about what lotteries will be doing, every individual (well, I’ve seen some YouTube videos of people who aren’t bright enough to be included in these comments) will likely be reconsidering how they do various things; how they function on a day-to-day basis; the kind of social interactions they engage in; what kind of “needed” functions they have to do and how they go about it; what kind of optional or nice-to-have things will be sacrificed and which will be doubled to improve our appreciation of it or make up for having gone without for a while.

 

How might we reinforce and build upon the symbiotic relationship that Lottery has always had with its retail partners?

Hopefully we’ve been doing that to some extent now. Everyone is having to do what we are doing. Most are accepting it with some level of grace and understanding and support. So, not considering those bad actor outliers, adhering to governmental social distancing policies, but still addressing retail issues that must be dealt with on a more-timely basis is necessary. As is communicating more frequently and more clearly and completely.  Making sure we are listening to concerns and ideas that are expressed and handling them appropriately is a must. We just have to keep doing the same when we start to come out of this current environment.

Same thing applies to our major and other vendors.

 

Legislators and regulators will have a lot on their plate over the coming months.  Even so, what can we do to push harder than ever to get approval to make Lottery products available online, i.e. iLottery?  And to push for authorization to invest in new games categories, and new technologies like in-lane sales and cashless transactions?  

This is likely a state-by-state issue on how to handle/push for these changes. For instance, we have 130 (plus or minus any given day) casinos in OK (except they are not operating now). What we do has to take that into consideration. We don’t push a lot. We’ve worked hard to make ourselves available to provide our politicians with information, research and ideas while building up a few better relationships inside the political world. We try NOT to miss any opportunity to suggest how we think things might work better, how we might make more funding for our beneficiary, etc.  That includes mobile, Internet, additional games, etc. But, all that comes as a part of other communications and issues.

 

What are some of the new challenges and obstacles that we will need to adjust to?

We’ll need to consider:

·         Did we lose players in all this? We’ll need to recover or replace them somehow.

·         Did we lose vendors in this? Some may not have survived the crisis.

·          What sort of governmental restrictions will be added that might make our business more difficult? We’ll have to address those.

·         Are there things we need to consider because of employee, retailer or player concerns that we need to address?

·          Will our continuing vendors be doing some things differently?