2021 will mark three years since the Supreme Court PASPA repeal paved the way for legalised sports betting in the US. In that time, the sports betting market has progressively advanced and is poised to become bigger than ever before. With US gaming managed at a state level, a patchwork of regulation means brands have to adapt their operations to different frameworks and offerings. Despite these challenges, growth in the market over the past 12 months has been substantial, which seemed unlikely just a few years ago after a long period of uncertainty for the sector. However, several regulatory and market factors have combined to now make this a distinct reality.
Online gaming increased its dominance within the US sports betting market over the course of 2020, with digital channels now representing 88% of total sports betting activity in the US, up from 60% the previous year, with approximately 45% of the US adult audience now living in a state where sports betting is legal. It is now becoming more mainstream, with the National Football League (NFL) allowing teams to sign casino and sportsbook sponsors, while golfers are beginning to wear betting company logos.
In many ways this growth in online sports betting can be connected to the shift online seen across all industries in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is also driven by a growing preference for mobile and in-play gaming as consumers look for improved, more seamless and immersive experiences that mobile gaming can offer.
With this rapid advancement set to continue in the US as states continue to move quickly to update gaming regulations, we can expect to see operators utilising a well-optimised and customer-oriented payments experience to positively impact the perception of prospective new players, while also helping to retain existing customers.
Payments and gambling go hand in hand
Gaming is all about choice. Picking the right team to back. Selecting black or red. Deciding to go with the favourite or the underdog. But before any of those choices can be made, a player needs to choose an operator to place their bet and make their payment.
Despite a lot of competition across the market, once a player has chosen an operator, they tend to remain loyal to their preferred sites or apps. Across the US, players use an average of three to four gambling websites or apps at one time, according to recent research by Worldpay from FIS. This suggests that players keep using providers they like and trust, rather than a different operator or app every time they want to make a bet.
Show me the money
As the US’ relationship with online gaming continues to evolve, the payment experience is becoming even more crucial for consumers and it’s not just about who can provide the best odds. Recent research by Worldpay from FIS shows that 70% of US consumers factor in speed of pay-out when choosing an operator and 23% stated convenience was the top factor when selecting an operator.
This shows that the payments experience can be an opportunity to differentiate in the market and also provide an opportunity to attract new customers. When a prospective new player visits an operator’s site, the first step typically requires the player to make an initial deposit before they’re able to bet. It’s vital the operator provides multiple payment methods so that consumers are able to choose their preferred payment method and will continue on the site. This is no longer just a preference but a necessity.
Around 22% of all US consumers stated that if they can’t find their preferred payment method on a site, they’ll leave and place a bet elsewhere. In the US, both debit and credit cards are the preferred payment method for over half of consumers.
As more states begin to bring in regulation in the US, we can expect to see operators who are already active elsewhere working with their global payments partners to help them expand and enter new markets, using their knowledge of the industry to attract new customers.
The Need for Speed
Faster, agile user experience is crucial across the entire payments journey. When it comes to sports betting, many bets are made against the clock, so it’s vital that deposits can be made efficiently and quickly to help to avoid any risk of missing a bet deadline.
With sports betting becoming mainstream in the US, and 44% of US players using their winnings to place new bets, faster payments are becoming even more crucial. Recent research by Worldpay from FIS found more than a third (41%) of US players chose to only use betting companies that pay out within 30 minutes.
Operators need to ensure they actively promote the speed of pay-out capabilities to stand out above the competition, and those that are doing this, including BetMGM and Bet365, are growing their market share.
Merging the Physical with Digital
2020 was all about digital, and with the uncertainty of the global pandemic being prolonged, behaviour that has been learned over the past 12 months will continue to exist even after normal service has resumed. The next step for the gambling industry is to bring consumers the seamless experiences they have become accustomed to online into physical casinos.
With consumers rapidly moving away from cash payments due to hygiene concerns and a greater acceptance of digital payments, it’s essential for physical casinos to adapt and update. Data from Worldpay by FIS shows that 57% of casino visitors placed digital payments on the casino floor as important post-Covid.
Digital payments are already being seen on the casino floor, with virtual wallets allowing for customers to use their mobile devices to activate slot machines, with the funds tied to a player loyalty account, removing the need for cash.
The move towards digital payments also brings the opportunity to give operators a single view of the customer, whether in a casino or on the website providing an enhanced understanding of player behaviour. This understanding allows operators to provide more tailored or personalised experiences, which can be a competitive differentiator as well as giving the customer a greater choice.
Digitalising deposits also gives operators and customers more control in regard to responsible gambling. Many banks now offer the ability to set spending limits or cooling off periods on their bank accounts for customers, which they are unable to do with cash. From an operations perspective, cash can be an expensive form of payment with the human resource cost of counting cash, security transporting money and bank charges for depositing cash.
Power-Up the Payments Experience
As online gaming legislation and regulation continues to evolve across the US, we are expecting to see the market continue to expand throughout 2021. Sports betting is now mainstream, and more states look set to adopt online sports betting over the course of the year.
This increase in opportunity is opening up countless possibilities for operators. To capitalise on the growth in these new markets, operators need to enable customers to pay how they want while providing a fast pay-out experience. A customer-oriented payments experience will help to provide operators with a positive impact on prospective new players, while also helping to retain existing customers.