While trends such as customer adoption of in-play wagering and gambling via mobile draws the industry’s attention, much less scrutiny has been paid to the industrywide trend of operators outsourcing core functions to third parties.
This has seen trading, once crucial to any sportsbook operator, being handled by third-party service providers. Games development is already almost entirely handled by external studios, to the point that it’s more unusual for a B2C business to build games in-house than it is for them not to. It’s less a case of operators de-skilling, and more a case of bringing in efficient and effective ways of doing things, allowing businesses to focus on elements such as marketing and, increasingly, customer protection.
Customer registration could soon become the latest operational element to be outsourced if a new product from Swedish financial technology solutions provider Trustly manages to secure a foothold in markets beyond the Nordics.
Pay N Play, as with any industry innovation, is new way of carrying out an existing task, but while it does what any payment provider has done since the industry’s early days, it does it more efficiently and effectively than before.
A new player goes to a site that’s integrated with the solution. Instead of filling out registration forms, he or she clicks ‘Play now’ and makes a deposit from their online bank account via Trustly. The “secret sauce”, as Trustly’s head of gaming accounts Vasilije Lekovic puts it, is the KYC solution.
“One of the best parts of [the KYC solution] is it uses data that’s already been verified,” Morten Madsen, chief marketing officer of Global Gaming, an early adopter of Pay N Play, says.
“It’s just so much more secure than the player entering it themselves in the traditional way.
“With a traditional set-up, you register, link your credit card, and deposit – the KYC doesn’t happen until the customer withdraws money,” he says. “We do KYC straight away so we don’t have ineligible players, such as minors, gambling.”
Gaming Innovation Group (GIG) chief marketing officer Tim Parker adds that with Trustly already a popular payment solution, Pay N Play has helped consolidate its position as the preferred method for players. It has grown so popular that GIG’s Thrills brand offers Pay N Play as the exclusive method for deposits and withdrawals.
“The best proof of Pay N Play’s success is we now have over 60 operators live,” Lekovic says. “Some are even launching entirely new brands around this concept.”
SHOCK OF THE NEW
With 60 Pay N Play-powered sites launched since the solution went live, uptake has been relatively quick.
Operators using the solution have secured licences from the Malta Gaming Authority, Sweden’s Spelinspektionen and the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, and is set to move into Denmark in the coming months.
A number of operators, including GIG’s Thrills brand, have developed brands around the product. Raketech is working on the roll-out of Rapidi. Madsen, meanwhile, notes that Pay N Play is responsible for “a significant percentage” of Global Gaming revenue.
However, Pay N Play’s spread has not been seamless and Lekovic admits that Trustly has faced challenges in educating regulators about the solution.
“It hasn’t always been smooth sailing,” he says. “But before we launch in any market we first speak to the regulatory authorities. We’re a licensed financial institution so we go through all the correct channels.”
He reveals that when Pay N Play was first presented to the Malta Gaming Authority, the regulator simply didn’t understand it. After all, a solution widely advertised by operators as a ‘no account’ solution – something Trustly is looking to discourage – is unlikely to receive a regulator’s blessing. It was a case of comparing how it allowed operators to onboard players to the same process set out in the island’s gaming regulations.
“The existing [registration process in Malta] has a lot of elements that can be interfered with, but with Pay N Play you could deposit with two-factor identification and have the KYC data coming from the bank – and you cannot easily trick your bank,” Lekovic says.
Even when the solution is licensed, Pay N Play clients still find themselves with a tricky issue of how to present the product to clients. After all, trumpeting an easy registration process will not necessarily draw in the punters as much as special offers or highlighting the games available. Equally, describing the solution as offering ‘no-account’ or ‘noregistration’ gaming is unlikely to be well received by anti-gambling activists and even a significant number of players.
Spelinspektionen general director Camilla Rosenberg has even told iGaming Business that operators have been warned against giving the impression that they can play without registering, which is required under the Swedish Gambling Act.
Global Gaming did initially present its Pay N Play-powered offering as a no-registration or no-account solution, Madsen admits, if only to hammer home the ease of use for customers. However, he says marketing is shifting focus away from the existing no-registration angle, over fears that it could anger regulators.
It’s an issue that hasn’t quite been resolved. The general trend seems to be to develop new brands focusing on the speed of the solution, in Global Gaming’s case with Ninja Casino. It offers a stripped-back gaming experience, with a series of slots, table and live dealer games put front and centre, alongside a boast of being able to process withdrawals in under five minutes. This approach goes as deep as Global’s marketing strategy for the brand, with a focus on offering players an easy way to play rather than bombarding them with offers and promotions.
Such an approach may be effective in newly regulated markets such as Sweden, where new customers will appreciate the simplicity of the sign-up process. However, analysts have noted that Pay N Play has resulted in a high deposit turnover, leading to some hitting their mandatory spending limits quickly.
In established territories, ease of use may not be as attractive to players.
“But you don’t need to target the entire market,” Madsen says, noting that this is something gaming companies tend to forget. “You can be successful and profitable when focusing on a part of the market, and serve that part really well.
“[Pay N Play] is not something that works extremely well in the older demographics because it’s a high-tech product. It will have a higher penetration among ‘digital natives’ who are early adopters of new trends and technology.”
Yet a report by identity verification specialist Jumio, in partnership with iGaming Business, suggests there is a niche for Pay N Play-powered offerings to tap into. Jumio ran a series of operator surveys looking at abandonment rates across a number of igaming brands. Operator feedback suggested that about 16% of customers abandoned the registration process before completing, with 19% of those that completed it failing to make a deposit.
As Pay N Play effectively removes the registration abandonment issue from the equation by completing registration, depositing and customer verification in one step, it presents a solution to this.
PURE OR HYBRID
Lekovic says a lot hinges on how operators use Pay N Play. 19% average industry abandonment rate at registration stage 60 Number of sites powered by Pay N Play 2015 Year Pay N Play launched.
“There are two ways operators can integrate the solution,” he says. “Using the hybrid model, which is the best solution for existing brands that want to enhance their player experience, or the pure model, which is used for the launch of new brands. The hybrid model works well, but it’s the pure implementation we’re seeing the most success with.”
However, Madsen doubts that Pay N Play alone will encourage new demographics to gamble, beyond appealing to certain demographics of existing players. “If you look at all operators in general, you see a relatively uniform offering,” he says.
“If you are a slot player and absolutely in love with Starburst, I don’t think this will change just because of the onboarding solution. We don’t really see anything that differs significantly compared to the rest of the market.
“Most content providers tend to have similar games anyway with some adaptions or exceptions. It’s more about how we communicate to players – that’s obviously different.”
GIG’s Parker disagrees, arguing instead that the preferences of the players that adopt Pay N Play, and the general preferences of the market they are in, will have a bearing on what is offered on the site. “With every one of our brands, the player type dictates the most popular games and their lobby positioning,” he says. “It is important to get this right not only between brands but between the different countries within those brands.”
WORK IN PROGRESS
It could also be argued that Pay N Play is a product that serves a few markets well but will need to be adapted for others. Currently it is widely used in the Nordics.
This isn’t a coincidence: governments there maintain a centralised electronic registry of their citizens, such as Sweden’s Statens personaddressregister (SPAR). This provides a secure and accurate database to ensure players’ identities can be verified.
However, in markets such as the UK, the Netherlands or Germany, no such central registry exists, removing a key element of the KYC solution that ensures the success of Pay N Play. Madsen, for his part, says that Pay N Play’s importance to Global Gaming is linked to the operator’s Nordic focus.
“In the future, depending on which markets we look at, it could just become one part of a wider solution,” he says. “If we solely focused on Pay N Play, it could limit our future growth, but for us it’s obviously [a product] we’ve been using to support us in our current markets,” Madsen says. “In practice, we see it as a tool we can use to onboard customers quickly. If this solution isn’t there in a market we’re interested in, we’ll find an alternative solution to player onboarding and payment processing.”
Lekovic, though, argues that the lack of the central registry in a market does not necessarily close it off to Pay N Play.
“There are similar sources of information [to the national registries] in different territories,” he says. “How Trustly collects the necessary data is partially from the bank, and we’re combining this with the third party provider data.
“So this could be SPAR. But this could also be provided by third party companies, KYC providers, in markets such as the Netherlands or Germany,” he says. “Integration with these companies is an ongoing process which will help us enhance our product.”
Lekovic makes this clear: Pay N Play is constantly being enhanced to ensure it is available to as wide a range of markets as possible – and in as many forms. For example, Trustly is currently working on in-banner Pay N Play.
This takes the Pay N Play technology and integrates it into banner ads. These can be used by operators to redirect punters to betting sites or by affiliates to boost conversion rates. It’s also targeting the retail sector, with a solution recently rolled out in Sweden.
“You have a lot of restaurant casinos or venues with gaming machines [in Sweden], and these guys were struggling to verify or perform KYC on players,” Lekovic explains. “This was not a simple task, which was made harder by an inefficient depositing system.” Trustly has tackled this issue by deploying Pay N Play on gaming machines, allowing players to scan a QR code to deposit from their bank, and set up an account.
“So that again solves [several] different problems: speed of payouts, onboarding and KYC,” Lekovic says. Ultimately this, he says, is part of Trustly’s overarching vision to enhance the importance of payment providers, by providing potentially crucial services to improve the operational elements of gaming operators’ sites.
After all, this has already happened with content. The shift to external trading is well underway. Why not customer registration? “I think we’re going to increasingly see payment providers support operators in more than just processing payments,” Lekovic says.
“That’s very evident from Pay N Play. A payment company is going to become much more than that going forward.” GIG chief marketing officer Tim Parker agrees: “I see this type of payment technology as core to our business both now and in the future,” he says.
Currently Trustly has first-mover advantage with Pay N Play – and has done since the solution launched in 2015 – though Lekovic is under no illusions that, as with any innovation, competitors will release rival products. “There are different companies in the payments space trying in different ways to simplify the registration process – and of course there are, and there will be, companies trying to do something similar.”
However, this could be seen as a validation of Pay N Play as a concept, and as Lekovic says, providing additional impetus for Trustly to continue to enhance and develop the solution. Key to such enhancements and developments succeeding will be showing that the solution can work beyond its core markets. It’s not unheard of; online invoicing service Klarna, for example, has successfully grown beyond the Nordics to establish a foothold in the UK. Whether Pay N Play can follow remains to be seen.