In the lead-up to this year’s ICE Totally Gaming, Declan Harkin, senior vice president and chief operating officer for IGT International, discusses trading for the group’s core lottery division in 2016 and provides a rundown of what will be on display at this year’s London gaming showcase.
Totally Gaming: How was business for IGT’s Lottery division in 2016? What were your key highlights during the year?
Declan Harkin: 2016 was another excellent year for IGT’s Lottery division. From the rollout of our Aurora business platform internationally and handling of 80 per cent of all transactions from the record-breaking $1.6bn Powerball Jackpot in the US to the launch of Gemini Touch – the first wide-scale deployment of touchscreen vending machines in our industry – our customers have continued to put their faith in our ability, experience and leadership.
That’s a great testament to our ‘Customer First’ strategy, our promise to deliver on our commitments and constant endeavour to bring the best products and business solutions to the lottery industry. We are delighted that so many of our customers around the globe chose to renew and extend their contracts in 2017. In the end, how our customers feel about us speaks more than anything.
TG: The integration of GTECH and IGT is now complete. Could you provide details of how the integration process went for the respective companies? What was your strategy when merging the two businesses?
DH: By merging the world’s number one lottery operator with the number one gaming company, we created the leading end-to-end global gaming company. IGT has the world’s best-selling games and cutting-edge technology across its lottery, gaming machine and interactive businesses.
One of our main objectives was to be able to better address the changing needs of the lottery, gaming and online gaming communities. With rapid adoption of new technologies, a ‘mobile first’ world, shifting consumer interests and demands, and the blurring of lines between traditional lottery businesses and commercial gaming, we wanted to leverage our expertise, resources and talent to allow our customers to take full advantage of new opportunities.
IGT has the people, solutions offerings, industry-leading R&D investments and deep knowledge and insights necessary to support and drive growth for its customers and the industry as a whole.
TG: How would you assess the Interactive Lottery sector as we head into 2017? What have been the key developments in this segment over recent months?
DH: We have made many advancements that will drive our iLottery business into 2017 and beyond. First is the development of a single platform, IGT Command, for all our players, channels and game segments.
Everything a customer does, regardless of channel, will be easily captured in the platform, consolidated in reporting and made available for analysis and business optimisation. The system captures and manages player and play information, whether a player is playing a game in a casino or on a mobile device – enabling much more intelligent marketing and business management.
Next, we have completed a series of major updates to our mobile iLottery product offering. As you know, mobile technology and norms change very fast, so it is imperative to remain on the forefront of these changes and update mobile apps and products on a constant basis. Our new applications incorporate many new features to enhance the user experience, bringing exciting new play dynamics and optimising back end operations.
A third major development addresses the convergence of retail and interactive lottery experiences. PlaySpot is a ‘local’ solution that enables digital gaming for specific retail and larger physical gaming environments, from lottery points of sale and sports venues to casinos.
This solution uses regulator grade geolocation tools and Bluetooth technology to keep digital gaming within the approved physical space. PlaySpot offers players the ability to purchase vouchers at a retailer to play digitally, without the need to register the play into a player account. We also offer the choice of a mobile wallet to make purchases and claim many of the rewards normally paid at retail.
TG: Please could you explain the benefits of IGT’s Lottery Growth Partners? How has business been for the team over the past 12 months?
DH: Our mission is simple: we want to be the growth partner for lotteries around the world using a Customer First attitude. We don’t just sell terminals and games, we partner with our customers to identify profit opportunities across the entire lottery value chain.
The team consists of best-in-class lottery professionals from across the globe assembled to advise lotteries on all aspects of portfolio and game product development, distribution, retail operations and consumer marketing to responsibly optimise revenue and enhance lottery profits.
IGT’s scale and depth of understanding and commitment has produced sustainable, responsible growth for our many customers around the world, including for the world’s largest lottery, Lottomatica in Italy.
TG: What are the primary challenges currently facing the global lottery sector, and how is IGT helping operators to overcome these hurdles?
DH: One of the key topics being discussed in our industry is Big Data. Today in the lottery industry, we already generate Big Data and have the tools and means to do the primary analysis. What’s important, though, is what you do with the analysis and how you move from data and knowledge to insight and then relevant actions.
Consumers now expect companies to add value to the data they provide, and will reward the companies that do this well with their loyalty and spend. Today, whether we realise it or not, predictive analytics and the early precursors to full Artificial Intelligence (AI) are built into the devices we are using for search and overall personal life management.
A big part of our collective futures will be defining and building the AI solution elements that will work for the lottery industry and ensuring we are appropriately positioned in such a ‘Predictive world’. At IGT, we are working at the forefront of these developments to ensure that the lottery sector remains highly relevant.
TG: What should visitors to ICE 2017 be looking out for from IGT’s Lottery division?
DH: First and foremost, look out for our people who will be delighted and passionate to tell you all about the products and solutions we have and the capabilities and knowledge to support them. Look out for Quasar, our latest video lottery terminal offering, and, of course, our full suite of interactive solutions, including iLottery, which will be on display.
As mentioned earlier, we will be demonstrating our state-of-the-art backend solution, IGT Command, our latest mobile apps with extensive play features, and a vast array of content that delivers an entertaining and compelling proposition for players. We will also be showing PlaySpot, our innovative point-of-sale solution that allows the player to use their own mobile phone to play interactive games on a geographic premise (for both casinos and lotteries). All this and much, much more. We very much look forward to seeing you there.
Totally Gaming says: The global gaming industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace – and the lottery sector is certainly no exception. As the merger between IGT and GTECH approaches its two-year anniversary, the group has maintained a strong focus on developing the next generation of ‘Customer First’ lottery solutions. This includes new developments in the fast-growing mobile and online channels to the latest touchscreen vending terminals and a new range of backend capabilities, all of which can be seen first-hand at this year’s ICE Totally Gaming.