The pandemic stopped travel, events, and everything else that did not include streaming television from home. With lottery winners and industry colleagues relying on events, Scientific Games had to adjust quickly.
Coming up with a new event management strategy fell under the purview of Jeanna King, VP, Creative Engagement and Events for the company. As the event world flipped upside down, no one was better suited to meet the challenge.
Winner Event Dilemma
Scientific Games is a leader in producing incredible life-changing winner events. The WAREHOUSE DASH®, $5 MILLION VEGAS CHALLENGE and DEAL OR NO DEAL™ were some of the most anticipated winner events in 2020. Unfortunately, all had to be rescheduled to 2021 because of the global pandemic.
“Many of the winners still wanted to do their trip. We explained we were rescheduling it for their safety. After that, most were kind and understood. Many were thankful that they could still do it,” King said.
Scientific Games was dedicated to providing client lotteries’ winners with the once-in-a-life-time experience they missed in 2020. “The winners were fantastic about it,” she said. “We didn’t do any events in 2020. Winners were calling all the time: ‘Are we doing this? I really want to go.’ We started to feel comfortable with it and did our first event since the pandemic began in July, 2021.”
Soon after that inaugural event, King’s team executed one of the largest lottery events in recent history, the JAMES BOND Lottery Challenge, which included 112 winners from 12 U.S. states vying for a chance to win cash prizes of up to $1 million or more.
Scientific Games is committed to providing a safe environment for the winners. The team provided all the mandated essentials. They made sure winners were social distancing, wearing masks, and supplied with plenty of hand sanitizer. They also staggered winners’ arrivals and changed some contest mechanics to reduce players’ contact with each other.
The extra precautions ensured that the event was a success. “It was great. It was one of the longest events we have done. Everyone got to play, and we had some big prize winners. There was a lot of excitement. I think people were just happy to be out,” King said.
After months of planning, the team rescheduled the other events in 2021, including the Texas Lottery’s $5 MILLION VEGAS CHALLENGE in August, the WAREHOUSE DASH in September, and DEAL OR NO DEAL in October.
It wasn’t just lottery players who were missing in-person connection. The lottery industry was also searching for ways to stay engaged with each other. “Virtual events became critical almost overnight,” King said. “But digital has a lot of positives. Many lottery employees are able to attend events that normally wouldn’t get to go. Scientific Games was able to get information to so many more people,” King said.
Scientific Games created the SG Lottery Experience, a virtual exhibit showcasing its products and services. It was the first firm to showcase a complete digital booth at a lottery eConference during the pandemic. Since then, King’s team continues to evolve the experience.
“Now it is more than a digital trade show booth. We can also use it for new employees and training,” King said. “It is still morphing; eventually, we’ll be able to use it for so many things.”
Despite the positives of virtual events, King is excited to get back to in-person shows. “While this has been great, I think that we have all realized how important true networking is,” King said.
She expects future physical shows to incorporate elements from digital conferences. Future organizers should integrate live streams in the events and get the virtual audience to engage with panels in real-time. “I think it’s kind of expected now that those who have had the opportunity to experience some of this virtual content will want to continue to have access to it. We need to blend the best of both,” she said.
King herself utilized online classes for professional development during the pandemic and received her Certified Meeting Professional certification. She quickly applied her learnings to Scientific Games’ digital event content.
One of the many reasons why King was perfect for taking on the future of Scientific Games lottery events amid a pandemic is because it’s not the first time her world was upended.
“You can’t prepare for your world-changing overnight, but raising a special needs daughter gives me plenty of experience in the unexpected. Everything changed for me the day Caroline was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome,” King said.
Rett Syndrome is a rare genetic mutation affecting brain development in girls. King donates and raises money for Girl Power 2 Cure, a nonprofit organization that provides help to families dealing with Rett Syndrome and supports Rett Syndrome research. Part of her fundraising includes annual participation in Disney’s Princess Run with her family and many Scientific Games colleagues. “We’ve raised money as a family with the support of many, many people in the lottery industry,” King said.
Afterward: In honor of the late Sonia Verdy, SG – Lottery is proud to recognize Jeanna King as its 2021 outstanding female leader.