Malta-based lottery provider Helio Gaming is gearing up for another busy period after a hectic first quarter in 2019. SBC caught up with CEO Richard Mifsud (pictured) to see what’s happening in the world of lotteries, and how other operators are getting in on the act.
SBC: Can you give us a quick summary of where the world of lotteries is at and how things have changed in recent times?
RM: For many years, lottery was seen as the ugly duckling of the gambling world, particularly when it came to innovation. Despite being a huge industry, and probably the most common form of wagering on the planet, it was beginning to wither on the vine.
It was concentrated in the hands of very few, often state-run, operators, and primarily retail-focused, with an ageing demographic. Whilst other sectors embraced online, and mobile in particular, it wasn’t really making that transition. In truth, this was mostly because the majority of lotteries were sitting in a very comfortable and protected position as state monopolies.
The advent of betting on lotteries has really shaken that up. There is a new-found desire to reach out to a newer, younger demographic with an improved product that chimes with modern consumer habits and is far more relevant to today’s casual gambler.
These customers are looking for life-changing entertainment. This opportunity for growth is what we at Helio Gaming spotted and has been helping operators new and old with for a while now.
SBC: How is the product evolving to cope with this new demand?
RM: Players want far more regularity and accessibility when it comes to lottery, just like they get through other gaming verticals such as sportsbook and casino. The days of waiting for a weekly draw are well and truly over. We have a number of different lottery draws available in the Hero family of games, and our betting on international lotteries is very popular.
We will shortly add a new dimension by broadcasting live lottery draws from our studios here in Malta that bring a unique interactive and visual excitement to the process. It is probably too early to compare the two as equals, but we are hopeful that this product will have a similar effect to what live dealer had to casino. Every operator now has this, with many deriving very good revenues from live dealer.
We are very excited about taking our equivalent live product and are very confident that it will be well-received by players. As with all of our products, the beauty of live lottery for operators is that it is fully customisable so they can really take ownership and brand as they wish. This addition has positioned Helio Gaming in a very particular spot where we are the only lottery provider in the industry with a truly complete lottery portfolio.
SBC: Do you expect established operators to cash in on this opportunity, or will it be embraced by other operators who are not currently in the sector?
RM: The beauty of modern lottery products is that any operator can take advantage. State lotteries have been bolstering their offering with casino, but with a more nuanced and varied selection of lottery products they can engage their existing audience far more, as well as attracting new customers.
But casino and sportsbooks can also set up their own lottery tab to attract new customers who might not ordinarily seek out their site. It is also a hugely attractive product to cross-sell to existing customers in between sports bets or casino sessions.
Then there’s affiliates. You can probably count on one hand the number of traditional lotteries that have affiliate deals in place. The simple reason is that these businesses can’t afford to use affiliates, given the small margins on tickets.
There is a great opportunity for affiliates to get involved on the ground floor. We would love to speak to more of them about how we can work together as this is great untapped opportunity, particularly as we come up with games that are also attractive to affiliates.
SBC: Where in particular are you seeing growth?
RM: The simple answer is everywhere! But I’d say that for us in particular, we’re looking at Asia and Africa. We were out in Manila last month attending various conferences and there was a lot of interest. We’ve also been very active in a number of different African companies. We already have clients live across the continent, but there are a number of other operators in countries who could really benefit from modern lottery products.
We’re used to hearing about the successful sportsbooks and casinos, but outside of the big state lotteries there is very little being done to bring exciting, high frequency draws to the consumer.
We are in the process of launching our first products in South Africa with a well-known sportsbook there and we are on the cusp of announcing an exciting deal with an existing operator in Nigeria. The small stake, big win opportunities that lottery presents really resonate in emerging markets.
SBC: What has Helio Gaming got in the pipeline for the year ahead?
RM: Live lottery will be launched very shortly, and we will be announcing more operator deals in the coming months. It would be interesting to see where we as a company and the industry as a whole will be in a years’ time.
There was a report recently about lottery presenting a real opportunity for growth on mobile, and I firmly believe that we are about to ride the crest of a wave. If anyone wants to find out more about the role we can play, we’ll be at iGB Live in Amsterdam and would be happy to meet up.