The booming business opportunity for online gambling merchants

Paul Marcantonio, Head of UK/Western Europe at ECOMMPAY, has suggested that the amount of money consumers over the age of 60 are putting into online gambling is proof that the baby boomer generation can adapt to the new technologies sweeping the market just as well as their millennial counterparts.

Marcantonio spoke about the booming business opportunity – pun intended – provided by this older generation as part of a wider interview on developments in the payments sector, lessons learnt from this summer’s World Cup, and the state of play for payments in Africa, as well as where betting-based operators are lagging behind.

SBC: What are the latest developments in the payments sector?

PM: It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again – this industry isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Rapid innovation is at the heart of payments, reflecting the growing impact of Gen Z and their preference for personalised experiences. Faster deposits and withdrawals, one-click features, and built-in biometrics are just a few of the developments the industry has seen in recent years.

The younger millennials and the older representatives of Gen Z are projected to make up as much as 40% of consumers by the year 2020 (which sounds far away, but is, in fact, less than two years from now). Similar to their predecessors, this youngest consumer generation (age 18-21) is predominantly focused on digital technology and the mobile phone.

Studies have found that 80% would give up television for a day – and 28% would give up friends or money – to keep their mobile phone. This generation demands immediacy, and highly personalised (and relevant) experiences.

Changes in consumer preferences have had a significant impact on payment trends. The quest for speed and convenience has changed the iGaming payments landscape. Just look at the figures – credit cards are down, alternative payment methods are up. But having said that, don’t discount the older generations just yet.

Baby boomers still account for a lucrative portion of the market, with over 60’s spending more than twice the amount on online gambling than 10 years ago, proving their ability to adopt new technologies. Online gambling merchants must address these consumers by adapting their user experience, providing intuitive and straightforward betting processes, and ensuring a quick and efficient payment process.

SBC: What lessons have been learnt from the World Cup?

PM: My opinion has always been that complacency is the biggest enemy facing the payments industry. As I mentioned earlier, the fast-paced environment gives rise to endless innovations, which means that payment service providers and companies working within the payments sphere need to be quick on the uptake and quick to adapt. The World Cup demonstrated the importance of our key pillars of customisation, globalisation and security.

Our sports betting clients have customers located all over the world, so they need 24/7 technical support, a curated selection of regional payment methods, and reliable risk management. The World Cup was a challenge, but we kept pushing ourselves and setting new records.

Transactions were five times higher, we had much more traffic after some operators switched to us or increased their volumes with us – it was hectic, but everyone banded together to ensure clients received the same exceptional level of service as always.

The biggest takeaway from the World Cup is that both parties, both from the payments side and the sports betting operators, must have failsafe mechanisms in place for anything that may, and most likely will, go wrong. Prepare, prepare, prepare! And be quick to react and recalibrate, if the preparations go awry.

SBC: What stage is the African payments market at – can it sustain European ambitions?

PM: It’s actually incredibly innovative in some areas, and has incredible potential. Tackling the problem of a vastly unbanked population, M-Pesa, a mobile phone-based money transfer service, was originally launched in Kenya in 2007. It has since expanded into several other African countries, as well as India and Romania.

M-Pesa not only illustrates how African payments companies are solving regional challenges with innovative technologies, but also how their competitive advantages enable European expansion. M-Pesa entered Romania in 2014 and took on Albania the following year.

However, it must be said that e-Commerce within the region still faces a long way to go before it can compete with other developing markets. Africa is a broad landscape, with multiple markets at varying stages of development, but we’re already actively working to develop and establish payments infrastructure in several countries out of our Mauritius office. Watch this space!

SBC: Where are operators lagging behind other industries?

PM: Some of the key things we’ve picked up on as a payment service provider is that many think the future of iGaming is uncertain. Regulation keeps on getting tougher – operators are under constant scrutiny. The industry’s got to keep adapting and innovating, exploring new markets and new geographies. This can be said of many industries, of course, but when many operators have yet to offer services online, it’s particularly relevant.

A great parallel to draw is video gaming – an industry that has flown under the radar for many years. With the convergence from physical to digital, however, there is more encouragement to make further in-game purchases, which results in younger generations spending more money. The focus on creating a seamless player journey, wherein entertainment and gamification collide, has led to the birth of e-Sports, for example. That user experience can be applied with the same success in traditional sports betting.

Operators must ensure that they can facilitate an omnichannel gaming and checkout experience, as well as customise their offering to the specific geographies and age groups of their target audience. Rather than approaching new business with a one-size-fits-all mentality, we take the time to understand where operators can improve, so each variable of the resulting payment process is individually tailored to address precise client requirements.

Marcantonio was part of an ‘Innovation in Payments’ panel at Betting on Sports, where he spoke alongside Vice President Matthew Harrod, MuchBetter Co-Founder Jens Bader and Chris Smart, Senior Vice President for Global Gaming and FX at emerchantpay.

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