It has been a whirlwind two years at Light & Wonder, Inc., the gaming supplier formerly known as Scientific Games Corporation. At the center of that whirlwind has been Siobhan Lane.
Lane arrived at the former Scientific Games in February 2020 after 12 years at Aristocrat, the last two years as senior vice president, marketing and gaming operations. A month later, a former Aristocrat colleague, Matt Wilson, joined the former Scientific Games as chief executive officer of the Gaming Division, brought in by SG Executive Chairman Jamie Odell, who had been CEO of Aristocrat, along with Executive Vice-Chair Toni Korsanos, another Aristocrat alumnus.
It was a baptism by fire for both Lane and Wilson, as within weeks of their arrival, the Covid-19 crisis hit and the industry shut down. It was the first example of how well the former Aristocrat colleagues handled challenging situations.
“We went straight into crisis management of the pandemic,” Lane recalls, “so it was beneficial in that we knew how to work together. We have complementary strengths, which really helped us in that time of crisis to move quickly and with certainty.”
It would help through the monumental changes to come in the subsequent two years as well. Early in 2021, former SG CEO Barry Cottle announced that the company was to divest its lottery and sports betting businesses to concentrate on producing games for omnichannel distribution. Along with this transformation came a rebranding—early this year, the company rebranded as Light & Wonder, forging a new identity as a leading cross-platform global games company.
In August, Cottle left Light & Wonder and Wilson was named interim CEO. In October, the company made the new CEO title permanent, and Lane was named as the new CEO of gaming.
It is a position for which Lane was well-equipped, having been in the thick of Light & Wonder’s transformation.
“We knew coming into the business it was going to be a multi-year effort,” Lane says. “And we set the strategy for the gaming business pretty early on. And then when Jamie and Toni joined the board, we drove the strategy at an enterprise level that included the divestitures of the lottery business and sports business. So we’ve had a pretty clear strategy in the gaming business for a couple of years.”
Those divestitures have cleared Light & Wonder’s path to success as a cross-platform game supplier.
“The old SG had just so much debt on the books they had to think about making an interest payment every quarter, instead of being able to focus on what’s really going to move the needle and grow the company,” says Lane. “Now, with the balance sheet that we have, with all of that debt off the books, we can truly invest. And we know in gaming what makes you successful are the strengths of your products.”
The core of that is game development.
“We consider R&D the engine of our business,” she says, “and we’re hyper-focused on making sure we’re investing in the right product segments, and really optimizing that investment. That’s really been the game changer—being able to focus on gaming, creating great games, creating great products including systems and tables, and then making sure we’re delivering on customer expectations and making them successful.”
That focus doesn’t change what Lane calls the “macroeconomic dynamic” right now, which means inflation, shifts in the labor market, and a pending recession—things she says keeps her and every other industry leader up at night. But she notes that Light & Wonder remains strong because of the great corporate culture that has been created at the top by Odell, herself, Wilson and Korsanos.
“We make sure we reiterate the importance of our teams, that we focus on what we can control,” Lane says. “Now that those divestitures are done, it’s really about having the ability to continue to invest in gaming, which is our largest business unit in Light & Wonder, and continue to invest in making great games and products, and solutions our customers want, and will make them successful.
“Culture certainly starts from the top, but it’s also driven every day from an individual level on our team. We have room to grow, in the industry and in the market, and we have the right team, the right culture, strategy and vision to get us there.”