Nacho Frade, our Country Manager for Spain reveals the highlights of the Expo Congreso Andaluz, the needs and demands that operators expressed during the show and discusses the shift towards cashless payments that regulators follow with Sector del Juego.
You recently participated in the 9th edition of the Expo Congreso Andaluz sobre el Juego. How has 2021 been so far for OKTO? What were your highlights from the Expo and what were the needs and demands that operators expressed during the show?
While technology and virtual events have meant we have been able to share knowledge and discuss key industry points, sadly they cannot replace the experience of networking or learning in person. Conferences create the perfect environment to connect with industry peers, through shared experiences and we are glad that we returned to face-to-face events.
Expo Congreso Andaluz was well-organised with really good participation, providing a safe environment for all conference attendees, through COVID-safe plans and procedures. We were excited to be showcasing the unrivalled capabilities of our OKTO cashless solution with Jackpot Systems; all proven to enhance the player experience and boost operator revenue.
Spanish land-based operators were all there and through our discussion with them, they are all aligned with the Cashless Imperative and the fact that the time is now. What we can offer them is exactly what their players are asking for – whether that be for casinos, arcades or betting shops, we’re here to give them the cashless experience that they need to get ahead, securing quick access to the market.
With our advanced technology and unique range of features, operators can see why we’re not only able to provide a payment system that is simple, fast and easy to use, but moves cashless operations from the traditional closed-loop model to an open-loop solution. This offers an added value for today’s users given the convenience, safety and security it delivers.
2021 was a trying time for businesses all over the world, and to successfully onboard an impressive roster of new clients, and consistently grow our workforce gives us a sense of pride and the drive to accelerate our continued journey towards global success while continuing the improvement of the overall user experience and wallet functionalities.
Are retail gaming operators now more aware of the cashless necessity than before the pandemic struck?
Not only gaming operators but also gaming regulators are now getting into the digital world faster than you would think. COVID-19 also played a role in speeding up the transition to cashless transactions as operators looked to reduce the use of items that could be touched by multiple patrons as health and safety operating guidelines were put into place by gaming regulators.
But, it’s not only about hygiene. Players are more tech-savvy than ever, they have become more aware of digital and mobile-first during the pandemic and they crave a better and faster experience. They expect digital experiences in the retail landscape to be smooth, fast, immersive, and secure, and for players, the gaming floor should follow suit as anything less will simply not satisfy them.
Following OKTO.WALLET homologation from the Spanish authorities in Murcia and Galicia, we can see that more and more regions in Spain are following suit and have homologated the OKTO cashless solution. What part does payment digitalisation play in the gaming landscape and how does it contribute to responsible gaming practices?
Our OKTO.WALLET solution received the regulatory green light in Spain in seven communities with more to follow shortly. We are glad that we are the first payment provider to receive homologation to offer digital, cashless payments directly on gaming machines in Spain through our partnership with Jackpot System.
Targeted and proportionate regulation strengthens confidence in electronic payments and enforces financial inclusion. Initiatives such as rapid dispute resolution mechanisms, licensing and homologation schemes are highly effective in boosting the uptake of cashless solutions.
A strong and proactive regulator is essential. For example, the US regulator made a big push after 9/11 to enforce an electronic check exchange standard. If the regulator does not make this kind of effort (for example, in real-time payments), everything takes longer.
Spain follows the proactive approach, and we are working closely with the local authorities to reinforce our commitment to bring to the Spanish people a secure, licensed, seamless cashless payment solution across any physical touchpoint and beyond. The gaming industry is heavily regulated, where the expectations for compliance, data protection, and social responsibility are higher than any other mainstream consumer market.
Hand in hand with the demand for digitalisation also comes the important element of responsible gaming and identification of gaming activity. We can see on a global scale the regulators’ drive for identified, cashless and responsible gaming.
The important factor of full and proper supervision of self-service facilities in terms of safe gambling, money laundering, and age verification is a must and the extra element that our OKTO.WALLET solution provides is exactly this. This is a major factor that we emphasize here at OKTO and give more insight is the security side of payments, both online and in-store. It’s on the notion of security, compliance and frauds. We have to be responsible for this for both the merchants and the consumers, providing payments solutions in a convenient, compliant way through a future-proof model without fraud or legal issues. This is why we developed a full range of responsible gaming tools that are available within the app to further enhance player protection – from a strict age-verification process, self-exclusion, betting limits and profit and loss calculator tools.
OKTO has now expanded in several regions. How are OKTO services customised for different countries and regulatory climates?
OKTO drives payment innovation and services for several brands across various industries and countries. This year has seen us sign our cashless payment method with several leading betting and gaming operators in Spain, Romania, UK, Cyprus, Italy and our home market Greece.
There is a great demand for the OKTO.WALLET having completed multiple integrations with numerous leading partner providers across Europe. And the key here is that for us it’s also imperative to localise the payment experiences, it’s crucial to adapt to different geographies to be successful. It’s pretty clear that understanding the local market including regulations, economics, and cultural differences is essential not only to drive local success but to bring to users the experience that they crave. We take local habits into account as customer payment preference may differ quite drastically from one country or region to another.
In Spain, consumers are driving the cashless engagement, and we’re currently seeing a widespread change in their behaviour propelling the desire and demand for a cashless society forward – including those who were previously sceptical of going cashless, especially in the high street.
In an era where omnichannel is such a go-to industry buzzword, how does OKTO cater for that demand?
In this era of interconnectedness and digitalisation, players are expecting to experience a seamless flow of information, communication and operations, no matter the channel, so retailers need to develop and implement strategies that permit bettors to do so in order to compete. The same applies to payments.
OKTO wallet is the true omni-channel wallet in Europe, being the first wallet capable of transferring funds directly onto gaming machines or any other type of gaming/betting terminal. As an omni-channel mobile payment platform allows users to interact across all touchpoints in the betting operators’ or casinos’ gaming venues, as well as online, covering the entire gaming ecosystem.
The mobile wallet supports an easy, mobile onboarding in 5’ (KYC) while the users have the ability to fund their account with multiple sources for free, such as instant bank transfer, card-in and wire transfer. In addition, users can send and receive money from their friends for free as well as even split bills with them in real-time, pay their utility bills, or share a bet through the bet group function. Also, the OKTO app makes users life sweeter through rewards and loyalty schemes.
It’s also open-loop as I mentioned, giving players the freedom to move and use their funds as they wish instantly, as a universal wallet it also has applications beyond gaming, consumers are able to make transactions anywhere and everywhere with the OKTO virtual and physical prepaid Mastercard, linked to the user’s account, in all retail and online stores where Mastercard is accepted.