Connie Laverty O'Connor
Senior Vice President & Chief Customer Officer of GTECH S.p.A.
The word “mentor” originates from ancient Greece. Mentor was a trusted friend of Odysseus, the legendary Greek king and hero of Homer’s Odyssey. He was charged with the responsibility of advising, counseling, and tutoring Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. From that beginning, “mentorship” has come to mean the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, information, guidance, and wisdom for the purpose of helping recipients in their careers and professional development.
The Rebecca Hargrove Award for Mentorship was conceived to put the spotlight on the importance of developing the next generation of lottery industry leaders. Last year, the inaugural award was given to Ms. Rebecca Hargrove herself, the CEO of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation and Senior Vice President of the World Lottery Association, in whose name the award was launched and who has long been known for her devotion to developing new leaders to serve and sustain the lottery industry.
Now, in that very spirit, it is our privilege to honor the tremendous contributions of Connie Laverty O’Connor, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer of GTECH S.p.A., and a figure viewed with great esteem across the industry. Few other individuals have had a more positive impact on the U.S. lottery industry, and Connie, having served in a variety of influential roles, is always pushing us to be the very best we can be, driving for innovation and most of all, results that benefit good causes.
“Connie Laverty O’Connor is a whirlwind, a dynamo. She brings an unrivaled passion and energy to all she undertakes,” said Rebecca Hargrove about this year’s honoree. “And with her signature style, she has incalculably benefited our industry in so many ways. Still, her most long-lasting influence will likely be the way in which she has inspired and mentored a legion of followers to serve and grow lotteries everywhere. It has long been my honor to call Connie and [her husband] Patrick friends, and I know she is the perfect recipient of this award. All of us are thankful for her contributions to the lottery industry and the legacy she will leave behind.”
This is a very special award because it recognizes the generous spirit and tremendous efforts of people who genuinely care about others and invest their own time in helping them succeed. A commitment to mentoring is an effort that too often goes unrewarded, yet it makes such a meaningful difference to the success of talented young people, the industry in which they work and the many good causes that benefit from government lotteries.
A native of Kanturk (Co. Cork), Ireland, Connie Laverty O’Connor immigrated to the U.S. as a young woman to earn her college degree and seek employment. She began her career as a Grade 3 Clerk at the New York Lottery. From that humble beginning, she worked her way up through various departments, until she found her true niche in sales and product marketing. It is a testament to her intelligence, unflagging energy, and determination that her final 14 years with the Lottery were in the role of Director of Marketing & Sales. Under her leadership, from 1990 to 2004, overall traditional (non-VLT) lottery sales tripled, from $2.058 billion to more than $6 billion, and instant ticket sales increased from $200 million to more than $3 billion. That was a period of dynamic change in the lottery industry, and the largest lottery in the U.S. evolved its retailer relations, portfolio management, and game design in major ways.
Connie moved on to serve a two-year term as Chief Operating Officer of the Georgia Lottery Corporation, and in 2006, she brought her extensive experience and passion for the industry to GTECH Corporation. During her initial role as Chief Marketing Officer, she collaborated closely with U.S. lotteries and the vendor community to establish the cross-selling of Powerball and Mega Millions tickets in lottery jurisdictions across the United States. The cross-selling of Mega Millions and Powerball proceeded to usher in a new era for multi-jurisdictional games, innovation, progress, and sales for U.S. lotteries.
Connie next spent 20 months as the transitional CEO of Northstar Lottery Group, the private manager of the Illinois Lottery. During that time, Connie led the teams responsible for 15 months of record-breaking sales and profits. After a brief pause to catch her breath, Connie then headed off to the Hoosier State to spend 18 months as the transitional CEO of GTECH Indiana, leading the organization in the successful delivery of Integrated Services to the Hoosier Lottery.
Connie currently serves as SVP, Chief Customer Officer, leading strategic customer initiatives for GTECH. In addition to acting as a key channel of communication for GTECH’s customers, Connie is also responsible for overseeing multi-jurisdictional initiatives, and retail expansion and optimization strategies designed to increase revenue growth for GTECH customers.
“Connie’s enthusiasm for the possibilities within the world of lottery is contagious. Her generosity of time, wisdom, and spirit in developing the next generation of leaders is invaluable not only to GTECH, but to the industry as a whole,” said Jaymin Patel, President & CEO, GTECH Americas.
In September 2010, Connie was inducted into the PGRI Lottery Industry Hall of Fame. The Lottery Industry Hall of Fame was founded by the Public Gaming Research Institute in 2005 as a means of honoring those who have done the most to make the lottery industry the great success that it is today. Former inductees nominate and vote on the final recipients, and membership is reserved for lottery professionals who have promoted excellence and integrity throughout their careers.
The ceremony to present the Rebecca Hargrove Mentorship Award to Connie Laverty O’Connor will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 10, at the PGRI Lottery Expo Conference in Miami, and will be attended by over 200 industry leaders. ■
The inauguration of the new Rebecca Paul Mentorship Award honors its namesake.
The lottery industry is truly special. Likewise, success in guiding such an enterprise requires a unique brand of leadership skills. These are market-driven businesses with all the complex challenges that exist in the commercial world. Most lotteries generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues, and in many cases exceed a billion dollars. The executive management of lotteries is accountable to the jurisdictional gaming commission, board of directors, or other governing body. In addition to that, and in addition to the obligation to fulfill its commercial and financial obligations, lottery executives are accountable to a dizzying array of political constituencies, to the player community, to the retail channel, to the media, and ultimately to the larger general public.
Accountability in the lottery world is not limited to producing strong sales and operating within the applicable regulatory framework. The successful Lottery must set the highest standards of integrity in every single aspect of its business. The modern lottery has done just that. Indeed, the industry has raised the bar to unprecedented levels. Built on a platform of unequivocal commitment to both ethical standards and financial performance, the lottery industry has shown remarkable growth, featuring the development of best practices, the application of sound corporate values, and the emergence of key leadership at critical times. But lotteries are expected to live up to—and exceed! — these high standards that have now come to define the industry. And rightfully so. That’s why high-quality performance of executive responsibilities is vital to the continued success of the lottery industry. To succeed, this unique industry requires the continued development of leaders with that singular combination of skills and character, acumen and judgment necessary to navigate the myriad
challenges of the lottery business. And the generous spirit to give back to the community and this industry.
We as an industry need to recognize and honor those who so graciously share their experiences and successful strategies and work to mentor the next generation of lottery industry leaders. Our future depends on the quality of the emerging leadership we develop, and towards that end we need to honor and reward a culture of mentoring this next-gen leadership.
Rebecca Hargrove began her lottery career in 1985 as director of the Illinois Lottery, and later went on to start the Florida Lottery, and then the Georgia Lottery Corp. Recognizing the need for an experienced and talented leader to start their lottery, in September 2003 the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation recruited Ms. Hargrove to be the Tennessee Lottery's fi rst president and CEO. Once there she launched ticket sales in record time and has since led the Tennessee Lottery to nine consecutive years of sales growth, thought to be an industry record. What is certain is that hundreds of thousands of students and others have benefi ted from the good causes she has dedicated her life to serving.
Hers is a career that spans 28-years (and with the most impactful years still to come!), includes three lottery start-ups, service in all the different offices of the national industry association (NASPL) including president, service in all the different offices of the multi-state lottery association (MUSL) including president and chair of the Powerball Group, a pivotal role in the founding of the Mega Millions consortium in 1996, the current role of executive vice-president of the World Lottery Association (WLA), past president of AILE which is the predecessor to the WLA, and awards and accolades too numerous to mention. Simply put, she is a legend in the Lottery industry.
It was in my first interview with Rebecca that I asked her to describe her proudest accomplishment. In light of all that she had achieved, her answer surprised me. Now that I know her better, her answer should have been expected. Without hesitation, Rebecca said that she was most proud of helping to nurture and develop the careers of many talented people with whom she had the privilege of working with over the years, and in so doing, help to sustain the lottery industry as well as advancing the careers of her colleagues and protégés. A review of the rosters of lotteries in the States and abroad quickly shows the impact of her mentorship. Similarly, an industry conference would not be the same without the opportunity to hear from Rebecca on a subject of current importance. It has become clear to me that her genuine love of people, her heart-felt and even selfless concern for the well-being of those around her and those that depend upon her, is one of the keys to her own success. It is my hope that Rebecca’s success can serve as a role model and inspiration for everyone who is in the position to help others grow and succeed and expand their influence and impact on the lottery industry. Much more will be expected of the next generation of lottery industry leaders. We need the dedicated efforts of mentors like Rebecca Hargrove now more than ever, and that is why we are so pleased and proud to christen this award that honors mentorship. May its future recipients serve the industry as well as its namesake. ■