Few things feel better than the rush of a winning streak — money bet on a football or baseball team, or a sporting event, that turns into a pile of dough after a victory or beating the spread. But that excitement can quickly deflate if the winning gambler then must wait for his or her winnings.
That’s where reloadable cards and instant access to funds come in — especially as the worlds of payments and commerce move further toward the goal of frictionless transactions and sports betting in the U.S. goes online.
Among the biggest trends in payments for 2019 is instant access to wages, disbursements and other payments for workers and other consumers. And now that trend has come to sports betting, which was recently legalized thanks to a May decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a new PYMNTS interview, Tom Cregan, CEO and managing director at EML,discusses the place of instant payments in the changing gambling ecosystem.
Instant Funds Appeal
Some gamblers do, in fact, get instant payouts of their winnings, often in cash. That’s because physical casinos want those gamblers to keep playing — the odds always favor the house, of course — or, at the least, buy meals, drinks or other products and services that boost the casino’s bottom line.
But that’s not the case for online gambling, said Cregan, who noted, “It can sometimes take two or three days” for those winnings to get into gamblers’ accounts. That means the overall gambling experience “won’t necessarily be an engaged experienced” from the consumer’s point of view, given the gap between the action and the win, and the result, or payout. That can cause annoyance for regular gamblers or those bettors who are loyal, or want to be loyal, to an online gambling company.
A person with such instant access is more likely to keep betting, or at least keep spending that money, with the online gambling company. In fact, Cregan said he imagines that in the near future, the reloadable card could be tied to merchant rewards and loyalty features. For instance, a “gambling company could partner with restaurant chains,” enabling gamblers to use funds from the cards for meals and beverages.
Providing such cards also moves states that have legalized online sports betting closer to payment models offered in European countries that already have sports betting. In the U.K. and other parts of Europe, Cregan said, gamblers are typically offered “10 to 20 or more different means of getting funds in and out of accounts. It’s quite sophisticated.”
Real-time payments can appeal to such consumers because, in part, they replicate the experience of cash, especially regarding the speed of transactions. And such payments serve a larger goal of payments and commerce: removing friction from transactions and the overall consumer experience.
In fact, that’s pushing companies like casino site 888.com to invest in automated authentication processes, according to Russell Medley, 888’s director of fraud and risk management, as described in a recent PYMNTS report that focuses on gambling payments.
“If there are more hurdles that we put in their way or more things that might prevent them or delay them from playing, it creates a drop-off,” Medley said. “So, it needs to be an immediate thing, and that’s where we need to be able to get people to go through our processes as quickly as we can behind the scenes, with minimal intrusion.”
The stakes are high. According to PYMNTS research, the online gambling industry alone is anticipated to be worth more than $81 billion by 2022.
Of course, for use of friction-free payment methods to spread, more states will have to legalize sports betting. According to one sports betting tracker, which is current as of late November, eight states have fully legalized sports betting, with two more on the verge of doing so and another 21 moving toward legalization.
But even as more states legalize sports betting, there is no guarantee that gamblers will move en masse to reloadable cards. Based on experiences in other countries, there will be “early adopters” and then a relatively slow-moving adoption curve, Cregan said. “There wasn’t a Big Bang adoption curve,” he said. “It just takes time.”
But over time — including in the coming 12 months — there will certainly be more movement in general toward offering more real-time and instant payment offerings to various types of consumers, not just gamblers.
Further evidence of that came right before Christmas when Earnin — which facilitates real-time payroll payments — announced it raised $125 million in equity financing. The company said that its app allows people to be paid “the minute they leave work” and stated in the release that its installed base includes employees working for 50,000 employers from all 50 states and across 15 million hours of work done weekly.
Back in the world of sports betting, the payments and commerce ecosystem is still developing, with 2019 promising to bring significant moves. Already, MGM and other big casino players are trying to get a jump on this new landscape — and it seems likely that the desire for instant access to funds will become a bigger force among gamblers and betting providers.