Rob Peché began his association with the industry working as an engineer on Brighton Palace Pier. Following a career path that has involved senior positions with organisations including Inspired, SG Gaming, William Hill and Gala Coral he joined OKTO at the beginning of the year. His challenge is to grow the brand’s market-leading status across the UK gaming ecosystem. Rob Peché sits with Coinslot journalist and outlines all about digital payments in the retail gaming & leisure industry, the local approach that should be followed, and how a payments technology-led approach plays a fundamental part in the digitalisation of the industry.
You’ve spent a long time working at a senior level in the gaming industry and you joined OKTO at the beginning of the year; what did you know about the brand and what are your first impressions?
It was a great beginning to 2022 for me personally as I started the next chapter in my career as Country Manager heading-up the OKTO office in the UK. I have to say that from my first contact with OKTO I’ve been impressed by the culture and the passion of the team as well as the commitment to safer gaming which is part of every conversation.
When my appointment was confirmed through the trade press, I received dozens of really positive messages from colleagues and associates within the industry congratulating me on securing such an exciting job working with what’s rightly regarded as being one of the most progressive brands in the digital payments space. I’ve been fortunate enough to have held senior managerial positions with some of the best-known gaming industry brands including Inspired, SG Gaming, William Hill, Gala Coral and never forgetting where I started my industry career which was on Brighton Palace Pier and with Luxury Leisure.
OKTO is consistently setting the pace in cashless digital payments both in the UK and throughout Europe and was the first company in Europe to transfer digital funds in and out of gaming machines on a large scale and in a secure and compliant way. So clearly, I could not pass up the opportunity to join a brand powered by world class and proprietary technology! In terms of my remit and vision, it is to help drive the transformation of the UK gaming, leisure, and entertainment industries via digital payments. We can be found on a market-leading number of machines in a large number of locations and both metrics are growing daily alongside the acceptance by the end-users. It’s a very exciting point in my career!
OKTO recently joined bacta: (a) what was the rationale? (b) what do you hope to gain from being a member? (c) how does it complement your existing membership of the Gambling Business Group?
Rather than being an arms-length technology provider OKTO’s approach is to immerse itself in all of the markets where it is active. The UK is one of the most important jurisdictions in Europe and one in which the brand has rapidly achieved considerable success partnering with leading names including Regal, Inspired and Bob Rudd as well as MERKUR Bingo and MERKUR Slots.
Our membership of bacta demonstrates our ongoing commitment to work with the local industry in order to bring the best payment experiences to users, as well as underlining the focus that we have on working in well-regulated markets. We are pleased to be on board, and we look forward to driving innovation with leaders of the gaming industry in the UK, whilst fostering responsible gaming and meeting the requirements set out by industry regulators. We are pleased to be able to bring our knowledge and expertise to the bacta table and in the process highlight our commitment to provide safe, secure, and responsible payment solutions in the gaming, leisure and entertainment industries. Being a member of both the Gambling Business Group and now bacta, places OKTO where we want to be which is at the centre of all of the key discussions and debates surrounding payments in the UK gaming industry as we focus on growing our market share across the AGC, Bingo, Casino, LBO, Pub and Bars sectors.
OKTO will have its own presence at EAG in March – what do you want to achieve from exhibiting at what is the most important trade show dedicated to the UK industry?
The partnerships with leading operators in the UK, my appointment, joining bacta, deepening our position within the Gambling Business Group and having our own presence at EAG, are all part of our commitment to work with and be an active contributor to the domestic industry. For both myself and the OKTO brand it’s very important that we imbed ourselves in the industry.
At EAG we will be demonstrating all the energy, the drive, the passion, the mission and the vision that’s synonymous with the OKTO brand in order to achieve our key objective which is to be the architects of digitalisation in what is arguably Europe’s most important entertainment, leisure and gaming market. For the last 15-months the company has been involved in an intensive programme of meetings, product demonstrations and productive senior level discussions with a wide range of UK game creators, operators and retailers across all the gaming sectors and the response has been phenomenal. Our team led by CCO Simon Dorsen has been able to demonstrate how the OKTO solution enables consumers to deposit and withdraw funds on gaming machines in a safe, seamless and secure way using a licensed, omni-channel, open-loop mobile payment app.
What’s clear is that operators are now taking a progressive and integrated approach to the retailing of entertainment: digitalisation and digital payments are a fundamental part of this, and the OKTO cashless app is fully aligned with this strategy as well as the industry’s commitment to safer gaming. The app provides both venues and players with a safer gambling tool-box including a profit and loss calculator, age verification, time-out periods, the ability to set gaming limits as well as access to helplines for the small proportion of UK players that experience problems associated with their gambling. OKTO digital wallet delivers the optimum digitalised customer journey which is why it is widely accepted by operators and users alike.
What features of the OKTO.WALLET connect most with the UK industry?
The key point is that OKTO is a wallet and not simply a payments facilitator. This means there are a multitude of features including its omni-channel status, the fact that it is licensed and that it works across the entire gaming ecosystem including online. Beyond the gaming ecosystem, it also has the ability to be integrated into ordering apps. It also provides an OKTO Mastercard linked with the OKTO app, enabling use anywhere on the high-street and online, where Mastercard is accepted. Significantly, OKTO is fully aligned with all gaming regulators modern requirements in terms of providing responsible gaming undertakings. This includes cool-off periods and limit setting, a fully monitored transaction history and proper supervision of self-service facilities. OKTO is as much a world class digital payment method as it is a strategic tool helping operators to remain compliant and socially responsible.
OKTO takes the compliance and regulatory rulebooks from the payment side which means that all KYC and AML checks and controls including transaction monitoring tools are built into our wallet, our platform and our app. In addition, we take our business specs from the gaming industry, as our users, are also players. All of our digital operations, AML and compliance teams collaborate with our community management and CRM teams to make sure the usage of these tools remain a positive experience for the user as well as being recognised by the authorities as being both safe and regulated. From a personal perspective I believe one of the many stand-out features is the ability to transfer funds in real-time. OKTO enables real-time transactions not only directly on gaming machines, but it also gives the ability for users to top-up their OKTO wallet and withdraw via card and instant bank transfer literally in 1-2 seconds. I recently demonstrated this to a potential partner who was blown away by the transfer speed which of course makes the customer experience far more enjoyable. Another talk-about feature is the store locator function available within the app and it’s really impressive to see how the network is growing on a daily basis. Delivering the highest standards and a safe user experience that protects players are non-negotiable for us which is why we are really enjoying the trust shown in OKTO by major pub organisations, including Greene King, Marston’s, Mitchells & Butlers, Stonegate, Punch and Joseph Holt as the OKTO solution expands across their networks.
Would you describe OKTO as a technology-led brand?
Absolutely! In order to be a real driver of innovation and growth, technology needs to be at the heart of the business. We shouldn’t forget that the tech giants of today have been some of the most innovative companies of their generation. A handful of industry leaders such as AliPay and Amazon are fast joining the ranks by reinventing their core business around data and digital and what distinguishes these companies is that their technology allows them to move faster, be more flexible, and to do so at greater scale. This enables them to be drivers of continuous innovation.
At OKTO we view innovation and technology as being part of our business culture – it’s what we all do on a daily basis. You can never stop innovating and simply standing still or maintaining the status quo is not an option, which is why the team is made up of people who not only have payments and gaming running through their veins but who are also passionate and curious.
OKTO has now expanded in a number of key jurisdictions: how are OKTO services customised for different countries and regulatory climates and what’s the brand’s vision for the UK?
The OKTO brand is expanding internationally, securing high profile agreements, and delivering payments solutions to omni-channel gaming, leisure, and entertainment industries in major regulated markets including Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, and of course the UK.
As an international brand we obviously think global, but we act local. Localisation is key and by working extremely closely with our partners we ensure that we are able to address the regulations that are in place as well as the specific needs of users. Our objective, irrespective of geography is to make the end-users’ experience, secure, fast, safe, frictionless and enjoyable. We take local culture and habits into account with payment preferences differing significantly from one country to another.
In terms of the brand vision for the UK – it’s to ensure that we listen to the market, listen to what consumers want, always be sensitive to the needs of the regulatory bodies and harness the huge technological capabilities and expertise that exists within the OKTO family. By doing so we will deliver the very best payments experience to partners and users alike.