Traditionally a state-operated area of pan-European gambling, the lottery sector has seen an influx of private companies taking over national lottery contracts and the good causes funding responsibilities that come with them.
For Romana Girandon, newly elected President of the European Lotteries (EL) and CEO of Loterija Slovenije, sustainability and ethical standards should be the focal point for any business regardless of its ownership.
SBC: Can you give us a breakdown of your background in the lottery sector and
your work with EL so far?
Romana Girandon: I first started working for Loterija Slovenije in 2010. Three years later I was appointed
as the company’s CEO. I’ve been a member of The European Lotteries Executive Committee since 2019, while I was also chairing EL Sustainability and Responsible Gaming working group.
In 2021, I was elected one of the two association’s vice presidents. As one of the smallest lotteries in Europe, I’m proud of our reputation and support in the international arena as well as the chance to co-shape the development of our sector in Europe.
SBC: What are the underlying advantages National Lottery operators have over
private competitors, both in the lottery and betting/casino spaces?
RG: As I said, EL members are very different, also in ownership. What brings us together, is to do good for the benefit of society. All EL members operate only in those jurisdictions in which they are licensed.
All put the public benefit first. In my opinion, much more important than any company’s ownership, are its ethical standards on one hand and demanding regulatory environment that protects the consumer and the interests of society on another.
If every gambling operator, by contributing substantial public fees and ensuring they do not cause harm while generating income, were to allocate a significant portion of their earnings towards benefiting society, their ownership structure would become irrelevant.
SBC: In markets such as Sweden and the Netherlands, it is debated whether state lotteries should offer other gambling services. What is your take on this ongoing conflict?
RG: We don’t take sides in national debates unless specifically asked. Personally, I think all services connected to lotteries or gambling should in the first place be conducted according to the highest ethical standards, with a very clear positive effect on society.
Meaning reducing social harm to the lowest while maximally funding public good. As long as this is so, it is not the most important whether lotteries or someone else is offering these services.
SBC: All European states face a cost-of-living crisis… Can lottery maintain its position as a people’s product as consumers tighten their spending?
RG: Lotteries function on the principle of having many players spending small amounts of
money. Of course, in difficult economic times, it’s not easy for people to spend even a
small amount of money.
Still, research in my country shows that people play the lottery also because they know they are contributing to publicly important good causes while not putting their health at risk.
Even in the worst economic circumstances, we have an important cause, so we will do our best to keep up being interesting and affordable for people even if they have less to spend overall.
SBC: What will be the defining principles of the EL strategy under your leadership?
RG: Embracing our diversity, we will continue to develop our common values of responsibility, sustainability and integrity. We will be focusing on our purpose and act for the benefit of society in the broadest sense.
SBC: Given your background in ESG, can we expect environmental policies and
causes to become a key focus of the EL?
RG: Yes, sustainability is and will be EL’s focus further on. Not because of my background but because being here for the public benefit is in our, EL’s, DNA. EL stands for a sound and sustainable model for the benefit of society. We all know that risky forms of gambling can do harm to people and cause a lot of social costs.
I believe that any type of gambling should be operated in an ethical way, caring about peoples’ well-being and benefiting the public good. That’s why EL supports lower-risk games and services that can be fun and safe at the same time, reducing social harm to the lowest.
SBC: As president, do you see it as an issue that certain lotteries have failed to
launch a digital product?
RG: I’m not certain what you have in mind. EL is bringing together a very diverse international community. We are 70 organisations of different types, sizes, ownerships, regions and cultures.
And regulation of lotteries and other games is, offline and online, different in all the jurisdictions where EL’s Members operate. Therefore, it is not only impossible to know every Members’ game portfolio, but would also be unfair to comment.