OLG chief gaming officer: Competitive market has been good for us

October 30, 2023 9:12 PM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
October 30, 2023 9:12 PM

According to the just-released Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation annual report (2022-2023), digital-gaming proceeds increased by CA$158 (US$114) million over the prior year to CA$669 (US$483) million in fiscal 2022-23. That sets another record and demonstrates strong growth within a new highly competitive environment. Monthly average player count rose by 22 percent in fiscal 2022-23 compared to the prior year.

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Overall, OLG’s land-based gaming and digital gaming lines of business collectively achieved record-setting proceeds in FY 2022-23 exceeding $9 billion, an increase of $2.1 billion, or 29 percent. The continued growth of the digital business and the recovery of land-based casino gaming and charitable gaming after pandemic closures were the big reasons.

CDC Gaming Reports spoke with OLG’s chief gaming officer Dave Pridmore about the annual report.

Focusing on digital growth as summarized in the annual report, how has a regulated competitive market helped benefit the growth of OLG’s digital offerings?

The newly regulated and competitive market has challenged OLG to think different and push the boundaries of possibilities, not just with our product offerings, but also by optimizing our teams and establishing more efficient processes to help our speed to market.

The open market leveled the playing field for us. We went from being the only regulated operator in the province to one of many, which all had to adhere to the same rules. This is good for OLG and good for the customer. It means that the right protections are in place for all customers across the board, with a keen focus on responsible gambling, and from a marketing standpoint, ensuring transparency, to ensure customers who are not gamblers are not pushed into a space they may not be comfortable with.

When you look at the OLG Sports business specifically, this product line is one that has grown significantly since market opened and continues to grow.

Unique to this Ontario market, we ‘re the only platform that offers sports bettors with a way to place their bets online with PROLINE+ and in-store with the PROLINE retail offering.

With the competition continuing to grow, we need to continue to ensure that our players get the product they want and are able to use it the way they want it, whether online, in-store, or in one of our land-based gaming casinos.

What can you point your finger at as a reason for the dramatic increase in digital growth?

I think there are a few key reasons that we’ve continued to see growth within our business: strategic focuses, the leveled the playing field, and our people.

To start, from a strategic-focus standpoint, we knew going into the market open that we had a strong battle ahead of us, where we went from competing with grey market operators to Tier 1 operators, who play only in regulated markets.

Knowing that, we had a key focus on specific areas of growth that would leverage our differentiation in the market – the trust in the OLG brand which has been around for over 30 years.

Instead of huge media buys where we saw costs skyrocket, we focused on other more efficient channels. Our promotions strategy looked at key segments that we wanted to retain or grow and our games strategy focused on quality over quantity.

In terms of the leveled-out playing field, we knew that OLG would be able to differentiate based on our responsible- gambling program, PlaySmart, and a responsible promotion strategy with attainable wager requirements.

And last but not least, the OLG team is really what has supported our sustained growth. We made some significant structural and process changes to prepare for the market open and the fruits of our labor have paid off with high performing passionate OLGers.  They know that when OLG does well, that directly benefits the people of Ontario, because 100 percent of profits are reinvested back into the province.

How much have the relationships with sports leagues – NHL, NFL, MLSE – impacted your digital growth? With those established, what are your marketing strategy priorities through the rest of the year and into 2024 to help further grow your digital business?

Partnerships with leagues and organizations, such as the NHL, NFL, NBA, and MLSE, have given us opportunities to directly communicate with our players and prospective players in a much more tactical and meaningful way. For example, we can speak directly with the audience by activating in spaces where we can age-gate and regulate who consumes our experiences.

Our exclusive partnership with Real Sports Bar in Toronto is a great example of this. When we activate in that space, our brand ambassadors can safeguard that they’re interacting with of-age sports fans who express interest in learning more about what PROLINE+ has to offer.

These relationships with the leagues and teams have opened new doors to regulated marketing opportunities in an environment specific to those interested in sports.

Moving forward as we net out 2023 and shift into 2024, our marketing strategy isn’t about focusing in on mass-media brand awareness. Ontario knows want PROLINE+ is. Key for us is that we continue to focus on leveraging our partnerships, both with the leagues and with our land-based gaming partners (the casino operators) and affiliates, to ensure we’re engaging the right players, in the right way, with the right message. We want to keep fun in the game and do it in a responsible manner.

David also spoke on the Gaming News Canada podcast last week, where he discussed additional details on OLG’s annual report.