Francesco Crudo, our Corporate Development & Regulatory Affairs Director in Italy, joins Pressgiochi for an insightful discussion. Francesco delves into OKTO’s progress and goals in the Italian market for 2023. As a leading payment operator in the gaming and entertainment industry, OKTO has been making significant strides in Italy, tailoring its solutions to meet the specific needs of this dynamic market. Francesco will provide us with valuable insights into OKTO’s expansion efforts, the impact of their team’s expertise, the changing landscape of consumer habits, best practices from other European countries, and the innovative payment solutions OKTO has developed for Italy.
How are OKTO’s activities progressing in Italy and what are the goals you want to achieve in 2023?
OKTO’s activities in Italy are progressing remarkably well. We have experienced significant growth and success in establishing ourselves as a leading payment operator in the region with solutions designed specifically for the gaming & entertainment industry. Our focus for 2023 is to further expand our market presence and consolidate our position as the go-to payment solution for gaming operators in the region. We aim to further forge strong partnerships with key players in the market, enhance our product offerings, always being focused on local nuances, and continue delivering exceptional payment services to our clients in the region.
In addition, our values are manifested through voluntary adherence to sector bodies in the field of payments and the positive reception we are having.
You have expanded the Italian team by welcoming highly qualified professionals, that have experience in both the payment and gaming sectors. How is their work going to expand the business in the region?
The addition of highly qualified professionals with deep expertise in both the payment and gaming sectors has been instrumental in driving our business expansion in Italy. Their valuable insights and industry knowledge allow us to better understand the specific needs and challenges of the Italian market whether that be from the operator’s side and the gaming authorities where we are taking our business specs or from payment regulation where we are taking our rulebook.
With their expertise, we can further tailor our payment solutions to meet the unique requirements of our operator partners in the region, ensuring seamless transactions, compliance with regulations, and superior user experience. This expansion of our team enables us to provide top-notch payment services, stay at the forefront of payments and build stronger relationships with our clients, ultimately driving growth for our operator partners.
The Italian market is highly regulated, especially when it comes to the gaming sector. However, online growth continues, and analysts believe that this will increase business opportunities for digital payment systems. What is your specific experience in Italy and what growth expectations do you have?
Navigating the highly regulated Italian market has been a challenge, but it has also presented us with significant innovation and ultimately growth opportunities. We have invested considerable time and resources to understand and comply with the regulatory framework specific to the gaming sector in Italy. As a result, we have built well-designed payment solutions, adopting all the necessary compliance measures and we are here to expand further our commitment to operating within legal boundaries.
In terms of growth expectations, we are optimistic about the future. The continued growth of online gaming in Italy presents tremendous business opportunities for digital payment systems like OKTO. By offering compliant, secure, seamless, and user-friendly payment solutions tailored to the needs of Italian players, we anticipate substantial growth in our user base and transaction volume in the coming years.
But what differentiates OKTO from other payment providers is its omnichannel nature. The company offers solutions that are omnichannel, linking the physical and digital world, and creating phygital payment experiences. In addition, OKTO has revolutionized since it begins the retail gaming & entertainment landscape by introducing digital payments in the land-based sector via its mobile-first OKTO.WALLET solution.
How are consumer habits in Italy changing in terms of using cards and wallets?
Consumer habits in Italy are undergoing a significant shift when it comes to payment methods. We have observed a gradual transition from traditional payment methods, such as cash and physical cards, to more digital and contactless options. Italians are increasingly adopting mobile wallets and contactless payment solutions, driven by factors like convenience, speed, and enhanced security. Mobile payments continue to play a vital role as app-based commerce sees a significant rise. The recent roll-out of 5G triggers one more step-change in this respect. This latest development will secure better mobile reliability and ultra-low latency in transactions, promoting further real-time transactions also in retail. Instant mobile payments are and will continue to be a major trend in the payment industry, simply since instant payment takes on the characteristic of cash like the immediate settlement but what is more exciting is the scope for innovation in fraud prevention and security.
There is a wide range of benefits that are not limited just to transaction safety and speed. The imperative is to have a deep understanding of customers’ payment preferences and offer payment methods adjusted not only to each region’s needs and demands but also, to different audiences within the same region. In Italy similar to our approach in any region we are active we know that to effectively reach the audience, you need a local approach, that can offer customers next-gen mobile-first payment solutions to support all the ways consumers expect to pay through their smartphone, whether that be through mobile wallet or via an e-voucher cash-based payment method.
Of course, we understand that cash remains at a high level and not supporting cash-based payment methods in this market will be a major challenge for any business. This is why we have carefully designed solutions that support what we call Cash2Digital.
Looking at the use of digital payment systems in the gaming sector, what best practices from other European countries could be replicated in Italy?
Other European countries have shown success in implementing certain best practices that could be replicated in Italy’s gaming sector. A notable example is the promotion of responsible gambling through payment services that can support a complete responsible gambling toolkit such as the one of OKTO with robust age verification via a secure KYC environment, self-exclusion, limits, P&L calculator, fully monitored transaction history and embedded gaming helplines. We are implementing similar initiatives in Italy that would foster a safer gaming environment and enhance consumer trust.
Furthermore, optimizing user experience by streamlining the payment process, offering diverse payment options, and ensuring secure transactions is another best practice that we are following. Emphasizing transparency in transaction fees and providing clear and concise payment-related information to users also contributes to a positive gaming experience.
In terms of gaming and payment regulations, a great reference is what we have recently seen in Germany and the innovation the region introduced last year as a push for responsible and identified gaming, making this available via the introduction of a payments account as a prerequisite.
As an international payment operator, OKTO has made a significant investment in the Italian market. What payment solutions have you specifically developed for Italy?
At OKTO, we have developed a range of innovative payment solutions tailored specifically for the gaming & entertainment sector while going beyond, we’ve localised them for the Italian market. We understand the importance of catering to the retail and online worlds in the gaming industry. To address this, OKTO offers omnichannel payment solutions that converge both retail and online channels. This allows gaming operators to provide a consistent and streamlined payment experience for their customers, whether they are playing in-store or online. By integrating our payment solutions across these channels, operators can enhance user satisfaction and drive customer loyalty, introducing at the same time phygital payment experiences.
One of our flagship offerings is our OKTO.WALLET solution, part of our cashless gaming vertical. For Italy specifically, we’ve deep-dived into the nuances of the market and designed a variation of our wallet solution that responds to the needs of specific segments of players and operators in a compliant and secure way. Our OKTO PVR service meets the demands of players that enjoy the online experience but still prefer to transact offline in the physical world and respond perfectly to regulatory quests, anticipating future rules.
Player gaming experiences are continuously changing, and now it’s important for operators to offer omnichannel payment solutions that converge the retail and online worlds. On this front, Okto offers OKTO.WALLET, a solution that covers various verticals… Despite the challenges faced by the land-based market, retail betting maintains its strength, thanks in part to the presence of recharge points. For these establishments, you offer Okto Pvr: what is it about?
Despite the challenges faced by the land-based market, retail betting maintains its strength, and its presence as recharge points helps in this direction. For these establishments, we offer OKTO PVR, a specialized payment solution. OKTO PVR enables players to conveniently top up their gaming accounts using cash at retail locations equipped with recharge points. This solution bridges the gap between the digital and physical worlds, allowing players to easily access their funds and enjoy uninterrupted gaming experiences.
With regards to our OKTO.WALLET, is a comprehensive omnichannel solution that covers all verticals and channels in the gaming industry, enabling the linking of retail & online channels of the merchants. OKTO.WALLET provides gamers with a secure and convenient digital wallet that enables seamless transactions across multiple gaming platforms and beyond. It’s also offered as a white-label solution, enabling our operator partner to design their own branded wallet according to their brand’s ID. Our solution helps operators to attract more customers while engaging more positively with the ones they already have. On top of that, via the branded solution we enable merchants to unlock new lines of revenue and improve customers’ experience.
Finally, your other flagship product, OKTO.CASH, allows users to top up their gaming accounts with cash in real-time. What are the strengths of this product?
OKTO.CASH is a game-changer in the industry. We’ve seen the positive node in all regions where the method has been launched, including Romania, Greece, and Cyprus.
It allows users to top up their online gaming accounts with cash in real time, supporting an always-growing network of points of sales. This product is particularly designed for users who prefer all the benefits of online gaming but use cash for their transactions. OKTO.CASH ensures instant and secure cash2digital deposits via an extensive network of physical points.
We offer a fully immersed mobile on-premise experience that allows users to top up their online gaming and merchant account directly from any physical point-of-sale in real-time, while never leaving the merchant’s mobile app or site as the solutions are embedded in the operator’s app/site. We streamline Users’ Experience with the fastest payment method, and this is made through our proprietary technology that can be fully integrated into any merchant’s mobile gaming application or website. OKTO delivers all components, including Paycode/GS1 specifications, and store location services, which merchants can add to their website or app as a native flow. In addition, depending on the specific legislation of the country, or territory – we tailor the solution to provide a fully compliant service without reducing the quality, offering the seamless experience users crave for.