In the past, strict regulations banning online casinos, along with an unfair culture of stone betting services, meant that most South Africans never considered connecting to the Internet.
It wasn’t until eight years later that Tasoulla and her business partner, her husband, planned to change that. The pair saw an opportunity for a fast, dynamic betting product outside the established sports betting market that could be played from the comfort of people at home.
But they know they have to be brave enough to win the heart and mind of their skeptical customer base.
“We thought we should turn the industry upside down because the stone business would never be possible in South Africa. They only offer traditional sports betting – betting on games like football, “recalls Tasoulla Hadjigeorgiou.
This country is very good to us, so we need a good reward.
“What we did was look at the legislation, which clearly said we could bet on anything. When LottoStar was born.” When LottoStar entered the market, it offered customers online betting with a solid chance of live international lottery results – something they had never done before.
As a licensed bookmaker, it can offer users lucrative payouts in games that take place several times a day and payouts to winners almost immediately. The company quickly expanded its portfolio to focus on the live performance of traditional casino games such as blackjack, poker and roulette.
“We are evolving very fast. The market has shaken us a bit in the sense that we are aggressive advertisers. Our campaigns have been big and we have gone very fast. Compared to traditional sports laws, we have gone completely into the marketplace,” he added. Tasoulla said. As you begin to come across something, defending public misconceptions about the legitimacy of online betting can be a more difficult task. It took LottoStar many years to gain the trust of South African consumers.
“One of our great strategies is to educate the public and build trust. We are trying to convey that we are legal and safe – that the money you save with us is safe,” he said.
“We even said that if you win the bet today, you will get your money tomorrow, so people feel they can’t wait seven or eight days.” That strategy pays off. LottoStar took in €1.7 billion in bets last year. Today in South Africa, Tasoulla says the LottoStar brand is synonymous with trust.
“At the same time as we were building a business, we were also building a brand. Eight years later, I am very proud to say that people confuse us with the national lottery. They actually think we are the national lottery,” she laughs. Powered by people
Needless to say, in 2024, the online betting environment will be very different. Today, there are more than 30 online bookmakers in the country, each offering their own unique products as they try to win their own piece of the lucrative market.
The gambling industry is strongly dominated by men and even 70% of my peers are women. The women are all but one of my department heads.
This was a trend that intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. As online bookmakers thrive under the blockade, traditional sports bookmakers are forced to take advantage of new offers to find new sources of revenue, bringing most of them online and into the instant LottoStar competition.
No one will face the challenge, Tasoulla said, this competition is what drives LottoStar to further growth and innovation. “Our competitors are chasing us right now. There’s a lot of people we’re offering right now, so we’re really focused on improving our client retention and satisfaction,” he said.
“A betting customer always jumps. That is why we focus on selling new products. This is a lot of attention for us, because when we launch a new product, we know that some will be three to four months later. ”
In an industry that is constantly evolving, one of the reasons why LottoStar can stay one step ahead of the competition is its healthy experimental culture. Tasoulla believes that a workplace where employees are encouraged to express their views and accept mistakes is essential for a new, vibrant business.
“The most important lesson I learned has also become the motto of the company: try everything once. We believe you never know if something will work or not unless it is tested. “Sometimes what seems like the most obvious idea doesn’t work and those ideas that are long can shock us and work well,” he said.
“We have something in this field where we all have a brand in an idea that doesn’t work so well. Of course it works both ways, but what’s the reason you don’t know it if you don’t try it.”
One of the many initial challenges LottoStar faced in becoming a market pioneer was the slow and difficult investment of resources in building the workforce from the beginning. However, it separates society from its ability to attract the right talent and focus on building a workplace that supports creative thinking.
“The gambling industry is heavily dominated by men and even 70% of my peers are women. “All but one of my department heads are women,” Tasoulla pointed out proudly.
“We have some of the most skilled and creative minds in the industry, and enabling my employees to license everything they do creates an environment for growth and is always out of the box.
“I have an open door policy that primarily creates a culture of openness and my employees can express any idea or opinion they can. What can start when someone’s idea certainly grows with the contribution and creativity of everyone.”
For the stars
Not only due to its agile craftsmanship and new products, LottoStar is different from the competition. Since its inception, social responsibility has become an integral part of building community trust and resisting long-standing taboos regarding the gambling industry. According to Tasoulla, philanthropy is part of LottoStar DNA.
“Our customers know that if you bet and play with us at LottoStar, your money will return to the company and return to people in need,” he said.
LottoStar regularly works with major radio partners on on-air campaigns and charitable events that attract large donations that also go to various charities, non-profits and community building projects.
In the short to medium term, it intends to build on its legacy of social responsibility through The Star Foundation, a non-profit partnership between LottoStar and various radio stations, established to manage and formalize the company’s philanthropic efforts.
This year, the Foundation funded only 11 different projects with ZAR 14,500,000 (EUR 839,000). “Gaming has a stigma, but people behind the scenes don’t see that most gaming companies also have a social responsibility that they take seriously. Everyone makes assumptions, but a lot of good things have happened in the background,” Tasoulla said.
“That’s why we decided to start The Star Foundation. It’s a big deal for us and for everyone. Everyone here spends their time making it happen.” This country is very good to us, so we need a good reward. “