Here’s the figurative sound of sweet financial music:
“Ching” signaled the early January launch of New York state mobile betting, which routinely cleared $600 million wagered in the first couple of days.
“Ching” marked the debut of Louisiana in the final week of January.
That’s two new states, bookending just one month, to mark just the sports section of the overall online casino gaming market. More states are expected to unfurl online gaming this year.
These developments, coupled with several states that launched online gaming last year, continue a golden era for companies providing payment options to players.
Not since the nationwide spread of gaming itself three decades ago has this level of opportunity swept over an entire gambling industry, or even one sector. A harvest has come for companies that anticipated this development years ago. Their seed planting, marked by investments and product enhancement, came to fruition.
IGT has excelled both in the land-based and mobile realms. The adoption of cashless in the land-based casino sector steadily accelerates via growing acceptance from operators and regulators.
IGT’s product rollouts embrace the trend.
“We’re in the midst of deploying full-service cashless via our IGTPay and Resort Wallet solutions at some of the most innovative casinos in the U.S., including Indigo Sky in Oklahoma and all three Agua Caliente properties in California,” says Ryan Reddy, IGT’s senior vice president of global product management, VLT systems, payments and poker.
“In Nevada, we’ve recently completed a successful field trial and gained regulatory approval for our entire suite of products for cashless land-based wagering.”
The Covid-19 pandemic drove a renewed surge of interest in cashless due to the perceived safety benefits, Reddy asserts. Expanding sectors like sports betting and iGaming in the U.S. increase the need for digital payments processing in these verticals.
“As the sector evolves, we’re forging strong alliances with stand-alone payment gateway providers to give our customers a true end-to-end offering tailored to our industry,” Reddy indicates. “We’ve announced partnerships with Global Payments and Sightline to include their funding solutions into our Resort Wallet with IGTPay solution, which helps ensure we’re offering the industry’s widest range of external funding sources to IGTPay users.
“In addition, we recently partnered with Marker Trax to enable players to create safe and secure casino markers on their personal mobile device and to fund an IGT-enabled Cashless Wagering Account.”
IGTPay is the company’s proprietary turnkey payments processing gateway, integrated across the systems and platforms in each of the company’s verticals. It’s a mature and field-proven full-service solution that’s securely processed a high volume of payments internationally since 2013, and since 2018 in the U.S.
The product is available as an optional feature of its award-winning Resort Wallet module for the IGT Advantage casino management system in the land-based gaming environment, and through its PlayCommand platform for the iGaming and iLottery verticals, he says.
It also integrates with the company’s PlaySports platform in the mobile sports betting space. Operators leveraging the IGTPay feature through IGT systems or platforms can offer their players the option to fund their Cashless Wagering Accounts directly using their personal mobile devices.
For land-based operators, this eliminates players’ need to handle cash or visit a casino cage, ATM or kiosk, he says.
With Resort Wallet and IGTPay, players can securely transfer funds to and from their Cashless Wagering Account from a range of external payment sources such as bank accounts, credit and debit cards, or Sightline Play+ prepaid accounts. Funds in the PIN-protected Cashless Wagering Account can be seamlessly transferred to and from a slot game with a simple tap of a smartphone.
“Unlike IGTPay, stand-alone payment gateways don’t always offer players access to the complete range of payment options, including e-wallets, credit/debit cards, and bank accounts,” Reddy says. “Players might also have to take multiple steps to sign in to a third-party wallet, whereas with IGTPay, players access their Cashless Wagering Accounts in a convenient single step.
“We know from experience that effective cashless wagering solutions can unlock greater liquidity for the operator, so turnkey deployment and ease of adoption are paramount.”
IGT’s in-house Payment Services can help clients across all wagering verticals set up and operate a cashless program leveraging IGTPay, according to Reddy.
“The service comprises an experienced team that lives and breathes gaming funding—we understand gaming operators’ and players’ unique needs like no other payment gateway supplier in this space,” Reddy says. “We can manage the external funding function from end to end, provide vendor management, funds management, risk management, and player support services, saving operators from the hassle and distraction of running an ongoing external funding service by themselves.”
The VIP Lineup
Global Payments greets the burgeoning industry sector with an array of products and services. “We, along with other industry experts, can only see iGaming continuing to grow year-over-year for the near future,” says Christopher Justice, president of Global Payments Gaming Solutions.
“Gaming and sports betting have also seen more acceptance across the country, and the demand for iGaming reflects the rising demand from gamers to place bets in more locations, resulting in more states making iGaming legal.”
Meeting that demand, the ability of technology to provide services in a completely digital, intuitive and concierge-like environment has transformed the way all industries view the customer experience, he indicates.
“As the iGaming sector continues to grow, we’ve seen operators place a greater emphasis on enhancing the user experience,” he says. “To succeed in this space, operators must create a seamless gaming experience for patrons at every touchpoint.”
Global Payments’ solutions leverage an omnichannel approach to create a quicker and safer onboarding experience for patrons, he asserts. One of its major products is VIP Mobility.
Users can enroll within five minutes because the online operator connects their TITO systems directly into a bank’s existing AML controls, making it simple to set up an account. Once enrolled, Global Payments’ iGaming solutions provide patrons with unparalleled convenience and functionality.
The VIP Lightspeed platform connects online and brick-and-mortar gaming experiences, making account funding easy. Additionally, the VIP Preferred e-check network enables patrons to gamble at more than 400 land-based and interactive gaming sites without having to re-register their account. With Global Payments’ iGaming solutions, operators can tap the tools needed to overcome the traditional challenges associated with funding and disbursements in iGaming.
“VIP Preferred is Global Payments’ decades-old, industry-standard e-check and ACH network, and serves as the foundation for our current innovations,” says Justice. “VIP Preferred connects online and brick-and-mortar experiences through the VIP Mobility app. Global Payments launched VIP Mobility in 2021 and we’ve seen great traction with the app. As patrons continue to use VIP Mobility, their level of trust in the app, as well as transaction volumes, continue to grow.”
By harnessing the flexibility and ease of Global Payments’ industry-leading VIP Preferred account network, plus functions like eCheck and Choice4 deferred settlement, patrons can directly transfer funds from their VIP Preferred balance to their favorite game.
As the only omnichannel funding solution in the market, VIP Mobility delivers a seamless funding experience to patrons across all mobile and online devices, Justice says. Global Payments provides patrons with several benefits, including higher limits, lower fees, and around-the-clock customer support.
The company has released an enhanced version of its Partner Assist Program with Engaged Nation. The program creates a way for operators to engage directly with consumers, ultimately building patron loyalty. The Partner Assist Program drives awareness and adoption of Global Payments’ VIP Preferred product suite, ultimately boosting transactions on the casino floor and increasing operators’ return on investment.
Leighton Webb, vice president and general manager, iGaming & sports betting for PayNearMe, believes the iGaming sector hits a new age ripe for innovation.
“We call this new era Payments 3.0, which is a technological approach that to whatever extent possible makes the payment experience frictionless,” he says. “Legacy payment systems focus on the transaction, which leaves operators with a disjointed view of the player’s journey and an experience that stacks on friction for the player. With evolving player expectations, fast-tracked from this rapid innovation in payments, operators will need a next-level approach. They need to use data as a foundation for delivering the easiest player experience possible.”
Webb believes the biggest area of growth in this sector is sheer market size. “Entering the year, I expected gaming would see increased adoption, but the rate at which states have been able to pass regulation and launch—for example, in Arizona and Louisiana—has been surprising,” he indicates. “An interesting output of this rapid pace is a broader acceptance of iGaming and sports betting throughout the U.S., particularly by household names such as Disney getting into the space.”
Webb considers the growth in the iGaming and sports betting space similar to the late ’90s, “when we saw a heavy adoption from dial-up to broadband gaming consoles, which became the next generation to what we’re all used to, and the market began to develop more online platforms with new technology and allowed for more interactions between consumers.”
The company’s hottest product in this space is MoneyLine, which simplifies end-to-end money movement for iGaming and sports betting operators. In short, the platform makes it easy for players to make deposits and payouts, he asserts.
The platform consolidates the most popular deposit and payout methods in the industry into a single platform with a consistent look and feel. This improves the player experience dramatically as it increases their trust in the product.
For the operator, it means a simplified integration with one vendor to manage their money movement needs, which gets them to market faster and reduces their overall cost by reducing complexity and lowering cost per acquisition.
With proprietary SmartLink technology, operators can offer their players the simplest and fastest way to make a deposit. Operators can deliver a customized link, through a variety of channels, based on the player’s past payment preferences, that brings them directly into a deposit flow to complete a two-tap deposit.
Speed of deposits is a challenge for many; MoneyLine speeds the process by allowing the operator to use data to automate decisioning in the approval process.
Finally, the company has built technology to bridge the gap between online and offline. “Our cash-at-cage feature allows players to load and receive cash easily out their online accounts at a brick-and-mortar casino,” Webb says.
“If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that the gaming industry is not slowing down and neither are payments. PayNearMe is uniquely positioned to help operators get to market quickly and reliably because we sit at the intersection of these two highly regulated markets.”
Play+ Rolls On
Sightline Payments was among the first companies to process payments for iGaming, starting with the 2013 launches of New Jersey’s online casino market and Nevada’s online poker market, according to Jonathan Michaels, Sightline’s senior vice president, strategic development and government affairs.
A few years later, the market is blossoming.
“It was a record year in 2021 thanks to a major jurisdiction launch in Michigan and the continued maturation of markets like New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” he indicates. “Sightline’s Play+ allowed players with Covid concerns to conveniently fund and withdraw from their gaming accounts from the comfort of their homes. Our products bridge the gap between iGaming and mobile sports betting platforms, benefiting both players and operators, creating stronger retention.
“In 2022, we expect continued growth, particularly within nascent markets like Connecticut. However, states are legalizing iGaming at a dramatically slower rate than sports betting. There is a real opportunity for the industry to collaborate with legislators to unlock new online casino markets.”
Sightline’s flagship Play+ product is a prepaid solution that allows consumers to easily transfer funds to and from their wagering account through Sightline’s propriety network. It has more than 1.5 million account holders in the U.S. across more than 70 partners in the online gaming, sports betting, lottery and horse racing industries.
Customers can fund their white-label Play+ card and easily transfer funds to and from their wagering account via Sightline’s proprietary network. This significantly reduces the time it takes for withdrawals to post to a customer’s account.
Michaels adds that debit card providers are far more accepting of gaming transactions now than in years past. In 2017, only 50 percent of debit transactions for sports betting and iGaming were accepted. Today, that figure stands at 95 percent.
“This rapid change has shifted users’ focus from who will process their money to how fast they can access their money,” he says. “Multiple studies, including from Paysafe and the American Gaming Association, show that quick payouts are a top factor for which sportsbook consumers choose. Play+ meets that demand by enabling customers to withdraw their money quickly and securely.”
Throughout the industry, by whatever payment method and innovation they produce, top companies echo a similar theme regarding the payment-processing realm: it’s a great time to be a player.
There are two components regarding the rapid ascent of iGaming.
One is the payment processing. The other concerns security.
George Connors, senior vice president of gaming solutions for Fiserv, touts his company’s presence in both areas.
Fiserv has enabled payments for online gaming since November 2013 when iGaming went live in New Jersey, he says. The 2018 repeal of the federal U.S. sports betting ban created another dimension of the company in this space.
“We’ve worked to support online operators with our payment processing technology, security and fraud mitigation solutions, and have shared our expertise to help others navigate the regulatory landscape,” he indicates. “In doing so, we are committed to enabling the gaming industry to operate efficiently, provide players a secure payments environment, and position online gaming for future growth.
“Fiserv is well-known in the gaming industry for our card acquiring and ACH warranty solutions, capabilities which have become ‘table stakes,’” he says. “However, the areas that really excite us—and a focus for our innovation—is how we can now augment payment processing with digital capabilities that allow businesses to operate more efficiently.”
A few examples include:
Authorization Optimization: Using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help the operator improve authorization rates of card-based transactions. This is done via proactive management of a merchant’s card on-file database, which helps securely update new payment information, without customer intervention. Limiting card declines not only improves authorization rates, but has a positive impact on the player experience.
Least Cost Routing: Debit card transactions can be routed via multiple debit networks, and each debit network has a different fee structure to process a payment. Using technology to efficiently route each individual card transaction via the optimal payment network creates an immediate cost reduction for an operator.
Turning Payment Data into Insights: As players increasingly make more card-based transactions, Fiserv can help operators use their payments data to understand more about their mix of players—such as the operator’s share of wallet compared to competitors.
On the flip side, Fiserv is diligent in the security area, Connors says.
“As online gaming continues to develop and mature, so do the bad actors that are figuring out how to game the system,” he says. “Emerging digital opportunities create gaps that can be exploited to negatively impact online gaming operations.
“How businesses mitigate all types of fraud —including payment fraud, promotion fraud, account takeover fraud, and synthetic ID Fraud, to name a few—on an ongoing basis will be pivotal as iGaming continues to grow in the years ahead.”
Connors says a distinct advantage Fiserv has as a large firm is the infrastructure and resources to handle the challenges fraud presents. Fiserv has internal teams dedicated to fighting financial crime, who work with clients and partners to address their risk levels.
These teams have built intelligent solutions that help operators with AML, KYC, behavioral analytics, device fingerprinting, geolocation and other fraud mitigation tools. These teams and capabilities are trusted not only in the gaming industry, but by some of the world’s largest merchants and financial institutions across the globe, he says.