I’ve been in Orlando this week at the NASPL Professional Development Seminar. It’s an annual working conference where representatives from many North American (and beyond!) lotteries get together to discuss issues of the day at a hands-on level. The gathering includes managers and directors from a number of disciplines – accounting, audit, distribution, IT, legal, marketing, product management, sales, security and video lottery. They share experiences, ideas and goals – an information-sharing environment unique in the gaming industry.
One of the main areas of interest at this year’s event, it has been in the recent past, is how lotteries will be represented on the Internet and the challenges and opportunities they face to get there. With last December’s DOJ opinion seemingly clearing the way for U.S. lotteries to offer their products via the Web, state governments continue to formulate policy and strategy. Some are embracing the opportunity, such as Delaware, which recently passed a sweeping expanded gaming law that has Lottery-run, Internet-based play as its centerpiece, including casino games. The Illinois Lottery has been selling Mega Millions and Lotto tickets online since late March, a legislatively-mandated test of the technology and revenue potential. But others have no intentions of going down this path, at least for the foreseeable future.
And of course, the Internet is no longer limited to PC or laptop access points. In fact, there is exponential growth in the worldwide use of smartphones and tablets, as consumers use Internet connections and apps as a way of staying constantly connected, with the world at their fingertips 24/7.
There is a great deal on interest in how lotteries can use these technologies. Many already have apps for the latest news, winning numbers, promotions and even other goodies such as for-fun games. But the real future lies in giving consumers the ability to purchase tickets via mobile devices – to bring the games to the players for the ultimate in convenience.
While government policy will dictate that future for lotteries, it’s something the horse racing industry is already embracing. From Orlando I’m headed to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for Friday’s opening of the highly-anticipated summer Thoroughbred meet. With record purses fueled by video gaming terminals at Aqueduct, this year’s daily programs will be more lucrative than ever.
And the fans will be treated to something new – free wi-fi throughout the track with access to United Tote’s FastBet Mobile, a wagering app for mobile devices. Players simply obtain NYRA Cash Cards, load them with funds, and access the FastBet page to make their bets. Track officials also want racing fans to share their experiences with their friends online through social networks. NYRA is confident that it is providing enough wi-fi power to satisfy the demands of the tens of thousands in attendance each day – the advanced network has some 50 indoor and outdoor wireless access points.
There’s no doubt about it – we have become a world of convenience, where consumers run their world from the palms of their hands. Anything else is rapidly losing relevance. To borrow a phrase from a past era, “be there or be square.”