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IN-DEPTH 16 January 2018
Online payments - removing friction and fraud
Udo Mueller, CEO of paysafecard, shares his thoughts on developments in safety, security and speed in the online payment industry
By Gambling Insider

The ongoing process of commerce digitisation is the catalyst for an accelerating shift in financial consumption habits. Moving from traditional payment formats to new, digitally-enabled platforms and mechanisms has become inevitable. This move is creating new business models and transforming user expectations and behaviour.

Providing seamless and convenient online payment solutions that address the needs of players and online gaming providers will be one of the major drivers of the payments market. Finding ways to add value through products and technologies and to make payments more secure, convenient, frictionless and even enjoyable for consumers and businesses is the way to move forward. When doing so, some key aspects have to be considered:

UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS

Providing services for both players and businesses requires a thorough understanding of what the two sides want from each other. Only by understanding the pain points between the two sides can a tailored product that adds value be provided. It is about building up a relevant user interface between the consumer and the business and it is about finding ways where value can be added.

Players want solutions and services that offer convenience and peace of mind. They are looking for an easy and fast payment solution and don´t want to experience a lengthy payment process disturbing their enjoyment.

Online gaming operators look for secure payment solutions that provide an efficient flow of money, allow them to smoothly distribute winnings and to return funds to the players, enabling them to attract new customers.

BRIDGING THE GAP

The gaming world is no longer simply either online or offline. The lines between online and bricks and mortar are being blurred. The same is valid for the lines between consumers that want to pay in cash and consumers that want to buy goods and services online, as cash remains an essential part of billions of consumers’ lives.

Offering an established prepaid payment method such as Paysafe’s paysafecard that builds a bridge between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar, or cash and online purchasing, is good for players since it provides them with a convenient way to use cash for their online payments. It is an advantage for gaming merchants - they can offer another convenient payment option to serve customers, and generate extra business. And it is also essential for the bricks and mortar shops because they cannot only generate new customers, increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, but they can also earn money in what is actually a classic e-commerce process.

GOING MOBILE

Using a mobile device to pay from anywhere in a store or at online merchants is no longer reserved only for the tech-savvy early adopters, it’s the new normal for both merchants and customers – making the 2.1 billion smartphone users globally another main driver for shifting to mobile transactions and alternative payment methods.

However, a mobile-connected world comes with certain expectations. Paying via a mobile device should be as quick and convenient as ordering a pizza. This starts with a great browsing experience, and ends with a secure and frictionless checkout process, that allows the consumer to complete the transaction using their preferred payment method.

SECURITY FIRST

Paying safely online is of major importance to customers as well as businesses. The secure and efficient flow of money from player to operator and back again is strictly governed by far-reaching protocols and directives, to which iGaming payments solution providers need to respond in a highly effective manner to become more relevant to the merchants.

Online payment solutions need to meet the highest security standards to protect both players and businesses against fraud. It is very important to give both consumers and businesses the tools, the comfort, the techniques and the technology to know that their transactions are going to be safe.

KEEPING IT SIMPLE AND ENJOYABLE

Online payment solutions must be easy and safe to use for the players and simple to integrate for businesses. Consumers look for a safe, simple and convenient checkout experience through value-added apps and services that may even put a smile on their face. Businesses require a straightforward implementation process that allows them to activate all countries and currencies in a simple and fast way and allows a smooth flow of money
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IN-DEPTH 11 October 2019
Landing on a monopoly

Matthew Enderby asks who benefits from a monopoly-driven gambling market and if there is any point in maintaining one.

It can appear anti-capitalist, like the government wants total control. Players are ushered to a single, often state-run operator, and only one supplier is contracted to provide the platform, making the gambling market seemingly easier to manage. But does that hold true? When monopolistic gambling markets are enforced, who is the winner? Do the players benefit from what is meant to be a safer environment? Will the public perception of gambling be more positive than in an open market?

To answer these results-based questions, the motivations behind a monopoly-driven market need to be looked at first. The initial question is always: Why? A few quick answers spring to mind. It might be testing out gambling and observing how its country responds once the option to have a bet is made legal and available. With only one operator in place, player protection seems like a reasonable motivator.

It would be easier to keep track of addiction and factors leading to problem gambling as all the data, theoretically, could be accessed in one location. The main motivator however, is revenue. With the market dominated by a single legal operator, all of the country’s gambling revenue will flow through it and to the government. But for this to be effective, there cannot be any offshore operators present.

The Swedish gambling market was opened up at the start of the year, and private companies were free to apply for a license. The reasoning for this, according to state-run operator Svenska Spel, was to achieve fair market conditions and bring order. Life before the update in legislation was not entirely different to what it is today. Despite being closed to private companies, Patrik Hofbauer, CEO of Svenksa Spel, says the previous market was only a monopoly on paper.

He tells Gambling Insider: “Around 90% to 95% of the companies now operating with licenses in the Swedish market have been here for more than 10 years, so we are already used to competition.”

Offshore operators were present in Sweden for more than 10 years. They did not pay tax and found ways to navigate around the law. Up until the start of the year, there were three legal operators. Svenksa Spel handled betting, ATG specified in horseracing, and Postkodlotteriet managed the lotteries.

A MediaVision study from October showed 60% of Swedes aged between 18 and 74 had a registered account at the end of June 2018; a 12% rise year-on-year. Roughly 58% of these accounts were with one of the three state-run operators.

On the surface, this seems like a success story for the monopolistic market, but where are the rest of them registered? Nearly half of Sweden’s gamblers, 42%, were registered with international operators. These companies held no Swedish license or authority to offer a service in the country.

What’s worse, where the monopoly is concerned, is 60% of all new accounts registered within the 12 months leading up to 30 June were with these businesses. With so many players setting up with unregistered companies, the idea of a monopoly making gambling safer, with upheld regulation, is incorrect.

Now the market has gone through its changes and levelled out, Hofbauer finds order is in place and player protection has improved. He says: “We now have a level playing field for gambling operators, increased revenues for the state, and clear rules to protect customers against excessive gambling thanks to stronger and better consumer protection. It has ultimately benefitted the Swedish customers, which is the biggest win.”

The move away from a monopolistic approach has not exactly produced a goldmine for other operators, and certainly not for Svenksa Spel. A look at its first quarter results shows a 6% year-on-year decline in revenue to SEK 2.05bn ($197.4m). Its land-based operations, Casino Cosmopol & Vegas, fell 17% to SEK416m, while lottery dropped 6% to SEK 1.1bn. It reported SEK 544m in revenue from sport and casino, a 4% increase. Operating profit for the quarter decreased 55% to SEK 519m. Svenska Spel paid SEK 401m in gaming taxes for the quarter.

While it won’t be impressed with revenue for Q1, the operator stressed one of the biggest challenges in the transition was launching three new products. Hofbauer says: “Business wise, it is positive that we now can offer our customers products like online casino and horseracing, and also offer more competitive pricing."

Improved pricing is another reason Swedish customers will be happy with the change in legislation. So who exactly has been benefitting in the monopolistic structure besides state operators making easy tax revenue? Suppliers might have the most to gain from a monopolistic market. Being selected by the government to provide technology solutions for its online or land-based operations signifies trust. Suppliers will have to earn that trust by proving their platforms can generate the most revenue for the government’s operator.

The appeal behind branding in this case is also undeniable and the opportunity for a supplier to be the leading face is not one to be missed. Building brand recognition in a country where you are the only brand is obviously much easier. The competition exists, but only through unlicensed companies that will not want to attract further attention to their operations in that specific location.

In April, Kambi extended its contract with Bulgaria’s National Lottery JSC, parent company of the Moldovan National Lottery, to supply online and retail sportsbook. The operator is expected to enter Moldova in the summer, where a monopoly is in place.

Kambi CCO Max Meltzer spoke exclusively to Gambling Insider after the deal and said: “From a technological standpoint and user experience, it will be like going into an ATG shop in Sweden right now. We are really excited to say this is not a monopolistic situation where players will get a bad experience from a bad solution."

The sports betting supplier was keen to emphasise that players in this monopoly would not be neglected as a result of the structure set out by the government and it would supply the same level of technology as it would to any market across the world. Only time will tell if Moldova’s bettors do receive this standard of solutions. But what we do know is, with a lack of legal competition for market share, the Moldovan National Lottery will not be pushing its supplier as much as it would have in an open market, to develop niche solutions.

The evidence is stacked against monopolies and it is clear governments still using them are doing so in a misguided attempt to stay in total control and generate state revenue. The irony is the complete opposite is true. More state tax is made in the open market and players are being protected better when operators are acting under approved licenses. Drop the monopoly, it’s good for nobody.

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