As revenue improves, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries wants to try their luck at online gaming expansion

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries plans to roll the dice to expand its online gambling presence as Crown Corporation’s revenues rise after a year of pandemic shutdowns.

On a law committee hearing Tuesday where he presented the company’s report for fiscal year 2020-21, President and CEO Manny Atwal said its financial situation is improving.

In the fiscal year 2021-22 so far, liquor sales have increased, cannabis revenues had to double because dozens of new stores have opened, and casino profits are rising because these venues have been open most of the year, he said.

The company’s net income is expected to hit $ 570 million for the fiscal year ending in March, Atwal estimated, a notable increase from $ 425 million in 2020-21, but still down from the pre-pandemic $ 606 million reported in 2019-20.

One way Liquor & Lotteries hopes to recover financially is with the continued growth of online gaming.

It expects revenue of $ 50- $ 60 million this fiscal year alone through, its online gaming platform.

Despite the significant growth, Manitoba’s commitment is facing competition from international players.

Atwal called PlayNow Manitoba’s only legal gaming site, but added “we also understand that many of our customers moved to illegal or gray market sites.”

Liquor & Lotteries estimates that the total gaming market in Manitoba is worth $ 75 million to $ 150 million in annual revenue.

Game site needs exposure: CEO

PlayNow could take a larger share of this market with a stronger brand awareness, he said.

“I know this group has heard about it, but I’m pretty sure most of you do not know much about it,” Atwal told the committee, which has members from the ruling Progressive Conservatives as well as the NDP and the Liberals. .

“That’s our challenge – we need to get the Manitobans to know more about it.”

As for liquor, Atwal suspects that Manitobans “are essentially at pre-pandemic consumption levels,” saying the panic purchase of the early pandemic is behind us.

The consumer trend of visiting liquor stores less frequently, however, buying more products continues. Liquor & Lotteries also sees more people turning to “refreshing beverages” – such as hard seltzer products – rather than beer and wine.

Controlled entrances in many of the Liquor Marts provinces have reduced the number of thefts and robberies in the store, says MLL CEO Manny Atwal. (Angela Johnston / CBC)

Customers also spend more per. product.

“Instead of spending $ 20 on a bottle of liquor, they spend $ 23 on a bottle of liquor,” Atwal said.

Sales of spirits reached $ 886 million in the fiscal year 2020-21, an increase of 11 percent from the previous year.

Meanwhile, cannabis revenues rose from $ 51.5 million in 2019-20 to $ 80.2 million in the last fiscal year.

Atwal expects a similar increase for 2021-22 because the number of cannabis stores could double in a year from around 70 to 140 locations. Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority in Manitoba currently lists 135 stores on its website.

Manitoba’s cannabis market is starting to approach market saturation, Atwal said, with that point probably somewhere between 170 and 200 stores.

Liquor store thefts, robberies plunge

The company’s chief also said the thousands of thefts that Manitoba liquor stores experienced in 2019 are past new security measures.

He reported a 98 percent drop in thefts and a nearly 100 percent drop in robberies after controlled entrances were installed at all Liquor Mart locations in Winnipeg and in some rural communities.

Following public calls to add security measures in several locations, controlled entrances were installed at Liquor March in Flin Flon and The Pas, and will soon be added in Thompson, Atwal said.

For its employees, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries will make homework a permanent measure, even after the pandemic subsides, Atwal said.

He said Liquor & Lotteries’ hybrid working model will allow corporate staff to work off-site and on-site in the long run, and will also let the company sell some real estate, such as the old distribution center on Buffalo Place in Winnipeg.

“This will allow us to divest more properties, achieve one-time income benefits, plus reduce long-term occupancy costs and thereby improve the profitability of the province.”

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