Keith Galea, Helio Gaming: Making lottery products more accessible to players

Having successfully shaken up the lottery sector, betting on lottery providers have been met with several regulatory roadblocks over the last few years, particularly in mainstream markets.

Yet Helio Gaming, which counts the concept as just one part of its flexible gaming engine, was well prepared for such an eventuality. 

The Malta-based provider is targeting Africa and Asia as part of its revised growth strategy for 2020, mixing betting on lotteries with innovative RNG games and live lottery draws, as well as hybrid products based on the attractiveness of lotteries but built using the “engagement of other kinds of games and verticals”.

We caught up with Keith Galea, promoted from COO to CEO in November of last year, for all the details.

SBC: As a company, how will you reflect on 2019?

KG: 2019 has been an interesting and evolving year, as the company has gone from a focus on building the product to forming partnerships with strong platforms and putting more focus on the commercial aspects of the business. 

The changes in the overall regulatory regimes in Europe have proven that Europe is quickly becoming a crowded market in need of diversification, which lottery can bring. Another point is that our strategy to include emerging markets was the correct one.

SBC: Have you identified Asia and Africa as the key growth regions for 2020?

KG: Over the past year we’ve launched various operators and partners that focus in these regions, and we’re also seeing a shift from online operators currently operating in Europe that are hedging their bets by expanding and opening brands in these regions. 

So what I can say is that Asia and Africa are regions that are attracting various operators, so naturally we are there to offer the right lottery product for these markets.

SBC: On a more general level, what is the state of play for the lottery sector? 

KG: The retail lottery sector has been seeing a decline in sales, as millennials find that there is a lack of innovation and the experience of lottery is not up to scratch in the new world where everything from purchasing milk to purchasing a car can be done online and delivered to your door with a few easy clicks. 

This creates a scenario where the appeal of lottery is still present, however millennials are not willing to “invest” the time to go and purchase tickets that the previous generation are willing to do. This can also be seen in the brick-and-mortar banking sector, where if given the choice, most millennials prefer to just bank online without ever stepping foot in a bank. 

I think that 2020 for the lottery will see different innovations where products are made more accessible to players with more modern notifications and engagement.

SBC: How has the regulatory pushback on betting on lotteries impacted your business?

KG: The push-back has impacted in some aspect that certain parts of the games need to be more clear on what players are betting on, and also in some markets, some of our product portfolio cannot be offered. 

However, we were ready with our strategy, as apart from mainstream markets our focus on emerging markets and having products ready for them has proven successful.

SBC: What is the next big thing to hit the lottery market?

KG: Hybrid products that are by nature based on the attractiveness of lotteries, but the engagement of other kinds of games and verticals.

SBC: What are the company’s plans for 2020 in terms of product?

KG: We are continuously expanding our delivery of products through various channels and devices, from online betting to USSD betting and other mobile devices that can bridge both retail and online, offering a more engaging and inclusive way of offering and informing players on lottery products and outcomes. 

We have already started creating and offering some products for millennials, and we intend to continue expanding our portfolio to target this demographic, as they are the present.

SBC: And finally, what does your promotion to CEO mean for your day-to-day activity?

KG: A lot of work! Joking apart, stepping into the day-to-day role of a young and dynamic company such as Helio has been a challenging but equally rewarding experience. 

Dealing with various partners, suppliers and attracting new business is what takes up most of my time, so I am also lucky to have a driven and experienced team that will collectively help us to achieve our goals for 2020.

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