Matt Wilson was appointed the CEO of the gaming division of Scientific Games in 2020, right before the pandemic. He explains how the name change from Scientific Games to Light & Wonder Inc. was accomplished and why. He talks about the structure of the company and how it is now laser-focused on creating great games. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros just days after the name change was announced at the Light & Wonder headquarters in Las Vegas. (See video below)
GGB: The new name is almost a direct opposite of the previous name. How did that happen?
Matt Wilson: Well, it was almost our intention to do that. We’re saying we’re out of the laboratory and into a world where we create great games. There was nothing really scientific about the way we created games. Game designers have these brilliant ideas. They’re creative, and there’s no science involved.
What was the driving force behind the rebranding?
So much has changed here in the last two years. I started in March 2020, walked straight into the pandemic, and it’s been a roller coaster ever since for everyone, for every part of the industry, for every supplier and operator. Probably the biggest thing was we had a new chairman and a new vice chair come in at the middle of last year, Jamie O’Dell and Toni Korsanos. And they initiated a strategic review of the business. One of the big challenges that we had was that we came together through acquisition, and with that came a heavy debt burden.
What did you find?
We looked at all the assets in the portfolio. We had a very diverse portfolio across all the gaming segments. The strategy was wherever a player wanted to place a bet, we wanted to be there to facilitate that, whether that was a scratch lottery ticket or a sports wager or a slot machine or a table game product—we wanted to run the full gamut.
But we made the bold decision to divest lottery and sports, and we thought that those two businesses would be very good as stand-alone organizations. The core competency of the lottery business is building scratch lottery tickets, and distributing those into retail locations all around the world. That couldn’t be more different from building a Willy Wonka slot machine with animations and sounds and graphics. So we sold the business, and with that went the brand, because the brand had a whole lot of equity with those lottery customers. That left us in a position where we had to rebrand out of necessity.
Did you have a list of names that you were considering?
The last thing we wanted to do was have a bunch of executives in a board room coming up with names that they thought were cool to rename the company. So we went through a stakeholder-led process. We did a lot of surveys and engagement with employees. It’s largely an employee-facing brand. That was the primary focus for us, but we also interviewed customers, and asked them what’s important to them. And obviously, great games are important to them.
Then we engaged a company called Lexicon. Their whole business is built around naming companies. They came up with 2,700 names, and we started to whittle them down. Obviously, one of the key things is trademarking. We came up with a lot of great names that ultimately couldn’t be trademarked, so it’s a small universe of names that are applicable. We just narrowed them down through natural selection and we ended up with Light & Wonder, which I think everyone will warm to over time.
With sports betting and lottery gone, how does it change the corporate structure?
The things that are left in the portfolio now are businesses that actually really fit together and belong together, and in a very competitive world, that’s what you need. You need a flywheel where all these businesses actually fit together, belong together and can add to each other. So what’s left is the land-based gaming business, which I run. Then we have the social casino business, SciPlay, that’s all about building great games, deploying them in a social format. And then you have the iGaming business, which is all about slot games for real money.