Hans Erland Ringsvold began his journey at Norsk Tipping 7 years ago as an Enterprise Architect, and through continued demonstration of leadership, insight and strategic thinking, he has proven himself an asset to the organization. Today, Hans Erland is the Head of Gaming Operations.
Tell us about your journey into this industry. Where did you come from and how did you get here?
My career began with consulting for an IT company. It was as you could imagine- a young and flexible, innovative company. It was surprising to some that I then decided to move to a 140-year-old family owned bricks and mortar shipping company supplying global international value chain. The goal was to gain a completely different experience and that I did, particularly because of the global footprint with employees in Malaysia and the responsibility to establish new service functions in India replacing wide-spread operations.
My next venture was to a Solar/Renewable Energy company. There I was invited to oversee the corporate IT infrastructure/architecture for our factories in the USA and Norway, but most importantly the new factory that was built in Singapore. This was a huge transition, from branch, to mechanics, to LEAN-production, to competencies. Our eldest daughter had been in school for a year when we decided to return to Hamar after 17 years in Oslo with quite a lot of travelling. When we decided to move back the intention for me was to commute to Oslo.
However, an opportunity with Norsk Tipping presented itself. At that time, I would consider myself more of a gamer than a gambler, but I was very intrigued by a well-known brand and accepted the position. This was not only a totally new industry for me, but new business drivers, and the idea of giving money back to beneficiaries and focus on corporate responsibility was completely foreign. Also understanding the gambling industry, the margins we work with, the political aspects (the balancing act of responsible gaming and attractive offering), was all completely new.
But there are also quite a few common denominators which I had extensive experience with like digitalization, making use of new technology and driving change and innovation.
Since becoming Head of Gaming Operations, you oversee the day-to-day operations as well as facilitate the continuous improvement of the Lottery, Casino, Bingo, Sports betting, Scratch Cards and VLT. Tell us about what that has been like? What challenges are unique to each of these segments?
Each of these segments is truly different in how they operate, their market position and how we manage them. There is no one-size-fits all approach in our quest to make them all successful.
Our Sport operation has 25 employees and maintains an attractive Sportbook offering, with both the number of objects and the depth of each sport. This is a complex operation combining automated processes and unique competencies on selected Sports, facilitated by very skilled employees. We need new technology to facilitate this efficiently and doing that “while at full speed” is quite challenging. We combine day-to-day shift operation with new sports like eSport and simultaneously work on strategies for leveraging possibilities like automization, while also finding ways to utilize our competencies to differentiate ourselves from the unregulated market. Our focus is to channel customers back from the unregulated market, focusing on emerging sports like eSports, and getting technology to work to our advantage.
Our lottery operation is a small team and from a product perspective, it’s a simpler mature operation and well established. However, from a marketing standpoint, it’s a huge operation that requires a ton of effort to attract new players. We’ve been very successful revitalizing our brand and have had great success with market campaigns that appeals to the masses. As it’s not my responsibility I will call these efforts nothing short of genius. Our diversified portfolio of draw-based games and varying prize pools have resulted in a good player base from Lotto to the massive jackpots like EuroJackpot.
Our VLT business has challenged us in that the number of retailers has been decreasing in recent years. We are renewing the brand and perception, hopefully making it more attractive to retailers and players alike. It’s a tremendous task to win, but we’re confident in our team and the power of the vendor network we have.
Our Scratch-offering is also challenged by distribution, but our brand is well known, we have a great portfolio and the audience is definitely fitting our ambition of reaching out to the broader masses of the population.
What innovative initiatives is Norsk Tipping working on?
We actually closed down our first iGaming initiative last week, but we have of course worked on a replacement for over a year giving us better games from a multitude of suppliers and are now nicely set for further growth and attractiveness. The goal is to build the most competitive and attractive portfolio for our players, while being extremely user friendly. We do this by using various vendors so that we can offer the best possible games, while working internally to keep the user interface reflecting Norsk Tipping’s brand and making the experience to be a seamless one.
What would you say are the biggest challenges the industry faces?
Responsible gaming, or CSR if you want, is a big one. It is very easy to capitalize on high rollers, rather than focusing on the broader market which will be more sustainable over time and which correlates well with Norsk Tippings’ values. There seem to be more companies/vendors focusing on the high-end market, particularly when it comes to innovation, which is challenging for us when we look to them for new innovations. It’s harder to find products to suit this sustainable market when high-rollers is what you aim for.
Regulation on a higher level than national regulation also seems needed, e.g. on EU-level. Borderless distribution of games allows for unregulated companies to take a huge market share, even in countries where limitations are in place. There needs to be more regulatory instruments in place to mitigate this issue.
I would also say a challenge and goal for the industry is to change the perception of the industry, not only to attract new players but to get more talent working for us. We need to demonstrate that we are embracers of innovation, so that innovative people will want to join us. Also, the industry is very male driven, and that needs to change. I think the most successful businesses are ones with a diverse workforce.
What challenges are unique to Norsk Tipping that you’re currently addressing?
From a strategic perspective- we’ve have a few battles to win. Serving the position as a monopoly, we need to make sure that it’s the best way to regulate the industry in Norway. It’s easy to capitalize on the wrong parts of your customer base and regulation through licenses seems to be one step behind an ever-changing industry.
Digitalization- we want to be the best company in Norway for a digital customer experience, not a small mission. We also want to be part of the innovation in our physical distribution network, together with our partners, making sure our offerings are attractive and accessible for the players.
We would like to thank Hans Erland for sharing his insights on his career, his role and the direction of Norsk Tipping.