Hansjörg Höltkemeier talks about his two terms as president of The European Lotteries
Hansjörg Höltkemeier recently completed his mission as president of The European Lotteries, which lasted two terms. In an interview with us, he talks about what he has managed to do during this time, as well as about his new position as honorary president at EL.
What is the importance of lotteries and their proper operation to society as a whole?
Beside the pure amount of money, generated for good causes – in Europe between 20 and 30 bn. EUR every year- the way of operating is important and differentiating us from competitive offers. Transparency, responsibility, and player protection are our core values ahead of generating profits while operators in other fields of gaming and gambling go for profit first and thereby fulfill more or less the conditions of there license in case of player protection. A clear indicator for this other thinking is the ongoing fight of those operators against the rules and regulations within their licenses.
How does EL work to develop sports and culture in Europe?
There are three different layers of support. First of all, EL guides its members to allow them to fulfill their obligations and to stay competitive e.g. with seminars and other forms of exchange best practices. Second, EL guides regulations and supports every approach, that enables lotteries to stay with their values and to be competitive at the same time. And last but not least El supports directly initiatives in sports and culture, that share our values but are not attractive enough for professional sponsoring by gambling companies. Overall, EL is a natural and valuable partner of sports and culture in Europe.
What is the importance of transparency for European Lotteries and what steps are being taken to ensure transparency in operations?
As mentioned before, transparency is one of the most important values in our sector. Millions of players invest a relatively small amount of money while big wins can be claimed, and it is a complex challenge to handle the transactions properly. Beside clear rules by regulation, EL supports e.g. the certification of its members and of their suppliers by third parties to guarantee transparency.
What are the biggest challenges facing the lottery industry in Europe and EL itself in the coming years?
A change of player behavior already meets new alternatives in gaming and gambling. The former clear differentiation between legal lotteries and illegal alternatives fails more and more through new licenses and different conditions for regulation. It is therefore challenging to position lotteries with their approach in a competitive environment, that forces profit first without loosing our values. Lotteries are adopting new technologies and – where regulated – new offers and they are very successful in doing so, but they will never “cross the line” and start profit first. From a player’s perspective, this might look like the weaker offer, e.g. with lower bonuses and payouts and it will be a big challenge to stay in the relevant mindset of the player as the preferred operator.
EL quickly decided to express its support for Ukraine and suspend Russian and Belarusian members. What action has EL taken on the issue yet?
Our values lead us to this step at the very beginning of the war in Ukraine. As an association, we are not able to directly go further steps as we are “just” a collection of members and need to fulfil our duties from their mandates. But EL gave additional hints and options e.g. in proposing to suspend bets with Russian and Belarussian participation or participating in activities to support our two members from Ukraine. Last but not least, we are in preparation to support the re-building of Ukranian lottery-activities after the end of the war.
What were your goals for your four terms as EL president and have they been met?
First of all: It was an honor to serve as President for four terms/ eight years and I am proud of what we achieved but also looking forward to the next terms under our new President Romana Girandon. I wish her all luck to realize her great ideas and will support it from heart and by hand.
Looking back, the biggest challenge in 2015 was the changing regulation all over Europe. Lotteries faced the threat of a licensing system to lose their role as a value based institution for the benefit of society. Today, the lotteries are still in their classical role and even facing new challenges, they are successful in this.
A second target over the year was the activation of our association and its members. It was easy to join forces as long as we shared the same regulation model, but it needed and needs more interaction and exchange, the more divers the model and the regulation are. I guess that we made lots of progress over the last years, but it is not on me to rate the result.
A third and totally unexpected challenge was the Covid-Pandemic. We had to change our program at shorthand and did successfully. Until today, EL´s activities are based on personal contact but supported by hybrid technologies.
There were for sure a lot more things to be mentioned after eight years but we shouldn´t look back but to the future.
What are your plans as member of the ExCom now?
As a member of the newly elected Executive Committee since Sibenik in early June this year, I will clearly support, whatever new challenges will come up and be driven by the Presidency. Personally, I will try to have a closer look on our partners and suppliers, as they are more and more important to reach our goals.