Our CCO, Simon Dorsen in an interview with iNTERGAMINGi explains how the payments company thrive off its biggest challenges
Which areas / countries in Europe do you operate in and where are you looking to grow in 2023?
LatAm, Europe and the UK are all important parts of OKTO’s strategic business development plan with each country and culture having its own bespoke localised solution. The speed of change that we are experiencing in Europe and in the UK as well as the really positive response to OKTO is both gratifying and exciting. To be working with established international operator brands which are also widely regarded as being industry trendsetters is a powerful endorsement and a resounding sign of confidence. I have to say this is true across every industry and every region that OKTO is involved in and includes the UK, Spain, Romania, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Cyprus and our home market Greece. Brazil and the LatAm markets in general are also hugely receptive to the OKTO brand and its technology-driven payment solutions. As well as the emerging international markets, we are also focussed on growing our presence, such as France. OKTO is a truly international brand.
igaming in Europe may be growing, but do you believe there are any concerns (legislative / regulatory / in general) in the region that need tackling in your opinion, or potential barriers to growth? And if so, what are they?
The most important concerns relate to two key areas AML and Responsible Gaming: however, we believe that these operating challenges are in fact the catalyst for innovation.
As a payment technology company, we believe in the power of regulation. For OKTO responsible payments power responsible gaming. We also deploy enriched customer data to reduce payment fraud and money laundering. In doing so, we help operators to stem the losses associated with increasing financial issues such as money laundering in digital sectors. We support the shift to a fully digitalised and standardised payments process across the entire gaming industry and we are doing so in collaboration with the regulators.
And while being totally compliant with both payment and gaming authorities is non-negotiable, our focus is on the player. The customer experience and player engagement represent core challenges. The key here is delivering player convenience via solutions that are omni-channel, enabling the user to move funds seamlessly across different verticals and channels.
How is OKTO approaching European countries which are tougher to enter for igaming, such as Germany, or recently opened markets like the Netherlands?
Our solutions are not a case of ‘one size fits all’: instead, each is designed with the latest regional regulations uppermost. We work closely with the local authorities of each and every market that we are involved in with our legal and compliance teams analysing the directives. What this means is that we are well-prepared to meet but also, automate and digitalise the regulatory requirements in markets that are stricter and more demanding such as Germany and the Netherlands. Fundamentally we have set up our solutions in a unified payments platform that’s been built with two foundation stone requirements – compliance and customer experience.
In every one of the regions where OKTO is active we draw on the insight of local teams who provide knowledge and expertise across both gaming and payments taking our business specs from the former and our rulebook from the latter. Our local teams are vital because they understand the cultural and regulatory requirements in each individual market. We have the expertise that’s required to navigate these areas and translate them into secure digital payments for retail and online gaming. We understand the importance of localization and the dedicated local teams ensure the needs of each region are met, using their regional and regulatory expertise to solve specific market complexities. We actively engage with regulators to discuss with them and bring them up to speed about what is available in the payments technology.
There are numerous case study examples that I can mention, to be brief let’s give you an indicative one for Romania – where one of the main regulatory requirements related to the sharing of user information with operators as well as import tax. We meet the requirements of the regulators but also make any required process fully automated and digitalised.
Another good example is in Germany in relation to a new regulation regarding the cash top-up to online gaming accounts. OKTO had the solution in place from day 1, meeting the requirements of regulators quickly and easily.
Cashless payments and digital wallets have boomed in recent years. What are your 2023 predictions for these areas of the payments sector? Any concerns in certain jurisdictions or just more growth / both?
Booming is the correct description as more and more consumers go digital on a daily basis.
Although we haven’t got a crystal ball what we have seen over this past year and what we expect to continue to see throughout 2023 is sustained demand for our omnichannel solutions. The fact that operators using OKTO’s unified platform can enable common payment methods across all channels, touchpoints, and verticals is absolutely key. We empower the convergence of retail and online for a truly hybrid experience, securing interaction between digital and physical consumers with many of the leading operators adopting this solution.
Also, many of our operator partners are seeing OKTO’s wallet solution as an extension of their brand. The branded OKTO wallet solutions connect users with the brand, engage them with the brand and bring smooth digital payments in what is rapidly becoming a digital world.
Embedded finance is also really significant. At OKTO we are focused on offering solutions which improve the customer experience with payments that are almost invisible, removing friction within the purchasing process. APIs play a key role here with easier integration points that have unleashed a new wave of innovation in financial services. As a modern and unified payment platform, OKTO strives to simplify the payments ecosystem, including: merchant onboarding and gaming system integration to enable digital payments into legacy systems, through to payments and banking services, enabling card acquiring, issuing and settlements as well as end-user onboarding within a safe KYC environment. This also means following AML rules and preventing fraud that can be enabled within an operator’s existing site or app or at any retail touchpoint in a fast, easy, and secure way.
OKTO’s Embedded Financial Services including the ‘Wallet As A Service Solution’ can be offered as a fully embedded solution within the operator app or site without the need to rebuild the existing app. Whether it is a retail casino app, a sports betting app, or any igaming app or site, OKTO embeds full payment functionalities inside the existing mobile betting applications requiring minimum effort from the operator.
How is OKTO adopting a player-centric approach as regards monitoring user behaviour / continuing to adapt its processes to extend its reach across Europe?
The OKTO platform is built with RegTech in mind and responds to all of the modern requirements set by regulators, using tools that manage all KYC, AML and Fraud queries. Security is a foundation stone for us as it is for any modern platform in fintech. However, what should be highlighted in the gaming sector is the importance of having a responsible environment which is exactly what we do at OKTO.
We have a commitment to continuous improvement, being proactive, eliminating money laundering, terrorist financing, and price volatility, and instead delivering the complete and safe ‘know your customer’ (KYC) requirements and a responsible gaming toolkit embedded into our solutions. Limit settings based on AML requirements and the provision of safer gambling information are key alongside other RG tools powered by OKTO such as a fully monitored transaction history, responsible gaming with cool-off periods and a P&L calculator.
How do you reflect on OKTO’s work as a whole in 2022? And what have you learned from the year that you will take into 2023?
A lot has been achieved in 2022 and I would point to the fact that OKTO is established as a payments partner of Tier 1 operators in all markets we are involved in with brands such as Entain, Codere, GameWorld, Kaizen, Netbet among many others. We are building on this really strong payment platform and in 2023 we will be growing our presence in existing markets and expanding into new ones. It’s a very exciting time to be part of the OKTO brand.
Where do you expect to be as a company by the end of Q4, 2023? What milestones are you looking to have achieved / what definitive progress are you looking to have made?
Our strategic plan for 2023 is quite simple, it is to open new markets and expand in existing ones.
Another objective or milestone is to continually innovate, launching products that respond to both operators’ and players’ demands while meeting all the compliance requirements of international regulators. We will achieve this by investing in technology and investing in the super-talented OKTO team which continues to develop and grow.
Our partners such as our recently announced agreement with Light & Wonder are also hugely significant. Such partnerships amplify our mission to empower new and traditional entertainment businesses around the world in order to embrace the value of digitalisation and innovation.
What operators does OKTO work with and how is the company helping them to streamline their payment processes?
Our portfolio of partnerships represents a fantastic sign of confidence in OKTO from brands that are not only established as leading European and global operators but are also widely recognised as industry trendsetters.
The UK brands of the Gauselmann Group were the first adopters of our cashless solution and the first in Europe to launch instant cashless payments directly onto gaming machines in order to meet their customers’ demands.
On the omnichannel side, Codere undertook an extensive due diligence process when choosing OKTO and our omnichannel partnership is a testament to the effectiveness of the award-winning technology and compliance that lies behind our solution.
Gameworld, a leader in the entertainment space in Romania, rolled out the OKTO cashless solution in its high-end gaming hall – the largest gambling hall in South-East Europe – as part of its strategy to strengthen its leading position in the local market by constantly coming up with innovative actions in Romania and offering their customers the best entertainment experience and options to play, simply and easily.
Kaizen was the first to have ‘phygital’ payment experiences with OKTO.CASH via our partnership and our cooperation is based on a shared belief that a digitised, seamless, and secure payment experience forms an integral part of a player’s overall experience.
Does OKTO have any new products or services in the pipeline? If so, please tell us about them.
Stay tuned! We have selected ICE as a platform to launch all of our innovations and trust me something big is coming! So, my message to the international industry is to visit the OKTO booth S8-210 at ICE and discover the unlimited capabilities of a unified platform and the multiple solutions that our payments platform powers.