When she assumed CEO duties at The Health Lottery earlier this year, Lebby Eyres underscored to Lottery Daily that a relaunch of the Northern & Shell Group’s society lottery brand was the key objective for 2023.
Two months later, in the aftermath of the Gambling Act review White Paper publication, Eyres spoke to SBC Media to offer her viewpoints on the proposals, potential impacts for the lottery sector, and to explain The Health Lottery’s strategy moving forward.
Content still the key
Central to Eyres’ plans for The Health Lottery has been editorial-style content, and the White Paper release has made no dents in these plans.
The CEO explained: “We’ll be boosting our safer gambling content on our website and as part of our relaunch. Hopefully when people see the website relaunched in August they’ll find it easier to access content around safer gambling.
“The Gamstop clickable links and logos are already on the website and will be even more obvious after our relaunch, as our safer gambling page will be accessible on the top bar of the menu. We’re very clearly giving advice, and have designed the website to showcase this more clearly.
“There are also suggestions in the White Paper around marketing and communication with customers and that is something we will be keeping an eye on with our redesign.”
Effective communication with customers in general is at the forefront of The Health Lottery’s agenda as the relaunch is rolled out, Eyres added.
She noted that a wide-ranging proposal of the White Paper with relevance to lotteries has addressed communication with subscribing customers and those with direct debits.
“People are often shy about communicating with Direct Debit customers, but we want to be in touch as they’re the loyal customers, the ones that keep coming back,” she said.
“We’ve just had a fantastic run of Direct Debit winners who have won jackpots twice. We want to make our direct debit customers feel special and we welcome any changes that will require keeping in touch with them on a more regular basis.”
Expanding her views on marketing and customer engagement, Eyres welcomed the recommendations on sports sponsorship, which will see a new Code of Conduct adopted for partnerships between betting firms and sports clubs.
Although there has been no mention of society lotteries, the National Lottery will not be subject to the White Paper’s sports sponsorship proposals, but Eyres did shed light on how The Health Lottery will approach these caveats.
She continued: “It is very much in the realm of us having influencers, such as aligning ourselves with a sporting celebrity associated with good health. We’d have to be careful to avoid someone associated with youth culture, such as a Lioness.”
As a health-focused society lottery, regardless of White Paper judgements the Health Lottery remains focused on its core objectives, Eyres explained – addressing mental health, social isolation, and bringing communities together.
Pointing to the group’s fundraising focus and the work of People’s Health Trust, its funding body, to address long-term causes of health inequality, she emphasised that the firm is ‘definitely a market leader in social responsibility’.
“I would definitely hope for us to be one of the market leaders!” she said. ”We’ll have to wait and see what Allwyn are doing when they take on the National Lottery. We have to embrace these changes. No one who runs a gambling company wants to think about people coming to harm because of their products.
“We need robust systems to address problem gambling, so that people who are worried know that they can get help and can speak to somebody. I take that responsibility incredibly seriously, and it would be brilliant if The Health Lottery could be seen as a market leader in that.”
Lotteries post-White Paper – a space for all
Overall, the White Paper has not addressed lotteries as extensively as betting and casino products, but Eyres shared a viewpoint expressed by multiple stakeholders that reform must find a balance between protecting vulnerable consumers and ensuring gambling remains a free choice.
Reflecting that the White Paper has achieved this objective, she remarked: “Ultimately playing the lottery is about having fun and having a flutter, it’s a small part of our weekly or everyday ritual.
“We’re a feelgood lottery, in the sense you have a flutter, have fun and are supporting a good cause at the same time, and that will stay at the heart of everything we do.”
The main aim of the White Paper, Eyres reflected, was to address sports betting and casino companies, and ‘tighten the rules around these’. Lottery has therefore fallen out of the government’s spotlight, to an extent.
“Lottery is on the softer side of gambling, but we do also have instant win products, so it’s important for us that we take responsibility,” she said.
“Age limits were important. In terms of online play we have our age verification in place. We take that seriously, and there is a lot in the White Paper of gambling companies using tech in a positive way, and we will be doing that. We’re using more sophisticated ways to keep track of age verification and problem gamblers.”
The sector has not been entirely untouched by reform, however, with the White Paper proposing some ‘umbrella’ regulations – namely, setting the age limit for all lotteries at 18 and regulating ‘prize draw’ competitions in the same manner as lotteries.
Notably, the review identified prize draw contests – such as OMAZE, the American fundraising body which has been active in the UK since 2020 – as competitors to lotteries and their good cause remits.
Eyres remarked: “It’s a positive thing for society lotteries because ultimately we’re operating for and raising money for good causes.
“We’re governed in terms of the size of the jackpot we can have and in terms of ticket sales, and the minimum amount of money we must give to good causes. It’s right that prize draws may be subjected to the same rules.”
In Eyres view, perhaps one of the most positive benefits to the lottery sector posed by the White Paper is the ushering in of a level playing field between the National Lottery, society lotteries and prize draws.
She added: “Society lottery as a whole is a growing market and there is room for them to grow, and the National Lottery.
“There is room for companies like OMAZE to grow, but what is important is we protect the good causes and charitable funding, and that we have absolute clarity on behalf of the player, so they know how much is going to charity from sales. The problem is that they are currently not regulated by the Gambling Commision and therefore not subject to the same rules as lotteries.”
“We are in the cost of living crisis, and we have seen that charitable giving is being affected. We can see with the National Lottery and The Health Lottery, as well as with single cause lotteries, that they are an efficient way to raise money for good causes.”
Meanwhile, on age limits and verifications, Eyres again welcomed the DCMS proposal on setting a general lottery age limit of 18, observing that The Health Lottery had prompted this measure with its own policies.
On top of this, The Health Lottery has also been evaluating ‘more sophisticated ways to keep track of age verification and problem gamblers’, in line with the White Paper’s recommendation that the industry should adopt more technological solutions.
As lotteries progress within a new regulatory landscape, Eyres reiterated that the products have a ‘unique’ place in gambling, with customers typically spending low amounts of between £8-£10 a month.
Even the firm’s Quick Win instant win game is played in a similar manner to ticket products, she explained, showcasing that the lottery ‘represents that safer part of gambling’, although the CEO stressed that The Health Lottery continues to take its responsibilities ‘extremely seriously.
The CEO remarked: “What’s key and what needs to be addressed with the specifications around 18-24s, is that it’s very different to how it used to be, as everyone now has a telephone in their hand, and the risk does go up.
“We welcome the fact that there are going to be increased controls put in place for 18 to 24 year olds. It’s a vulnerable time making that transition from being a teenager to an adult, you may be getting your first paycheck and feel the temptation to spend more than you can afford.”
An argument repeated throughout the review by gambling stakeholders is that regulation must find the correct balance between protecting the vulnerable and ensuring the practice remains a free choice – Eyres concluded that, in the case of lotteries, the White Paper has achieved this balance.