Our venture into online gaming is relatively new. It started in December 2010 with the best-known casino games, such as poker, blackjack and roulette, and slot machine-type games. In the spring of 2012, sports lotteries were added to the offer, followed in August by our most popular lotteries (Lotto Max, Lotto 6/49, etc). Online bingo will also join the mix eventually.
To some extent, we are still at phase one of this new initiative. So far, our online portfolio basically consists of a string of products that players are already familiar with. The mid-term goal, however, is not to replicate what is readily available in our lottery distribution or in our casinos, but rather to make a creative use of the internet to appeal to a new generation of players with original games that will offer a social, interactive, or competitive component.
Where else do you see the greatest opportunities for growth for Loto- Québec?
New technologies also have a great potential for our brick and mortar lottery network, and this is true for every line of business Loto-Québec manages. The launch of 'flash games' featured on the customer screen when someone buys a Lotto Poker or Sprinto ticket is a good example, as well as the group play feature available at retailers, in which every member gets its own ticket which can be redeemed any time he pleases. Furthermore, our 1,800 Loto-Express units are a wireless solution that allows the customer to buy lotteries at the lane of their choice in multi-lane stores.
Furthermore, the video lottery subsidiary will replace current machines—and the telecommunications central—between March and August 2013. Produced by IGT and Spielo, these VLTs will offer fine and entertaining games while reminding customers to play responsibly at all times.
Casino de Montréal is currently undergoing a renovation. What can players expect?
An enchanting overall entertainment experience including a topflight mix of games in much improved facilities, meaning more room between slot machines, refurbished quarters for high rollers, and a spectacular multimedia environment. It will also include four top-notch restaurants located on the same floor, which will accommodate customers quicker; a unique entrance leading the way to an impressive hub; great customer service, which has been the trademark of our casinos; and a multi-faceted cabaret for all kinds of shows and events.
Are there unique challenges and/or advantages to delivering charitable gaming in Québec? How are these being addressed?
One of the main challenges is to provide non-profit organizations with much-needed funding for their good causes. Since bingo is the game of choice for NPOs, Loto-Québec has been involved in two ways: Since 1997 with network bingo, a twice-a-day 20-minute game played in dozens of bingo halls across the province; and with Kinzo, a quick game (3 minutes) available throughout the day in a dozen different halls. Loto-Québec’s involvement in these games has translated into a $135 million payment to NPOs over the past 15 years. The Kinzo program, launched two years ago, holds promise as it appeals to a younger clientele and also allows people to eat and drink in a pleasant atmosphere. We will open more Kinzo halls in the coming year.
What’s next for gaming in Québec?
Throughout its 42-year existence, Loto-Québec has benefitted in several ways from innovation, and we think its importance will be even greater in the future. Our industry is facing a major challenge linked to its future growth, and today’s maturity could possibly turn into decline if we fail to attract new players. As well, the monopoly (in terms of lottery and casino management) which has allowed Loto-Québec to thrive is seriously challenged. These days, we face very stiff international competition for online gaming. The landscape has changed dramatically; the player does not seem care that much whether he is playing legally or illegally, so it’s becoming a whole new ball game. It is too soon to tell what the next generation of gaming products will be, but one thing is sure: Our teams of product developers are hard at work to define them and to make them happen.
However, Loto-Québec will continue, as it plans for the future, ensure that it continues to incorporate responsible gaming into all its initiatives. We are very proud of the fact that Loto-Québec was the first lottery operator to achieve the WLA’s Level 4 responsible gaming certification, and also the first to have been recertified at this level. The proper balance between our commercial and social responsibilities must be maintained. This is in Loto- Québec’s DNA.