Among the multitude of adaptations individuals have had to implement into daily life worldwide during recent weeks and months, one change has been the digital shift in payments that has largely rendered physical cash as an afterthought.
Much has been written of the accelerating pace of uptake regarding card and contactless payments, with speed, safety and security often pinpointed a key trio of attributes responsible, with adaption to the coronavirus crisis also playing a part in the exponential growth.
Simon Dorsen, director of gaming at Okto Group, continues on a theme set earlier in the year and a belief that this year could well see a further shift in a digital age where operators reap the rewards of the latest payments technology.
CasinoBeats: At the start of the year in an interview with yourself we published an article posing the question “Is 2020 the year of the cashless revolution?” We’re now over five months on and much has happened, what update/s would you have regarding this?
Simon Dorsen: I made a really bold prediction five months ago that 2020 is the year that cash is no longer king and today I am going to double down on that statement. Payment preferences are heavily driven by consumer habits and the coronavirus pandemic is having a major impact here, strengthening or drastically changing long-held habits towards cashless payments.
According to all recent reports and metrics, COVID-19 is impacting cash as its use has fallen significantly and people make a long-term switch to digital and mobile payment methods.
This is largely driven by governments and retailers across the world, encouraging cashless payments. This shift should not be underestimated, as cashless transactions become the norm and rapidly impact niche industries such as ours.
Our industry must acknowledge this consumer preference shift that is affecting even the older and more traditional player demographics. I strongly believe that the new ‘norm,’ whatever that is, includes a strong player cashless preference and it will be evident as soon as operators open their doors again.
Casinos and sports betting operators should respond fast to the changing retail gaming and betting marketplace to reap the rewards. We’re here to support our operator partners, providing them with a flexible cashless solution that requires minimal effort from the operator side and no up-front capex and enabling a safe transactional experience the player demands.
CB: What effect has the current health crisis had on yourselves?
SD: This is much more than a global health crisis. It’s a human, economic and social crisis and affects all segments of the population. But, we are very optimistic, our employees are more passionate than ever to perfect our solutions and get them to market.
Businesses and communities in many regions, including Greece, have shown a more proactive and altruistic response in the face of crisis – actions which could help to react to market changes. This is exactly what we are doing. We have the sense that ‘we’re all in this together’ and our goal is to face the challenges along with our operator partners.
CB: The long term COVID-19 impacts on the gaming industry is understandably a hot topic of conversation, what do you believe the lasting effect will be?
SD: The current conditions are by no means great, but COVID-19 will not last forever. Eventually, regions and business will prevail and things will be restored.
Naturally, we are seeing that players’ habits are shifting and social distancing measures are already in place. It seems also that these conditions are poised to accelerate or intensify many economic trends that were already underway, with huge implications of their own.
Cashless society is one of these trends that the crisis jump stepped. We have made further large steps towards a cashless society in just a few months, what might have taken over a decade under normal conditions.
What is important for now is to understand that we face a new reality and determine what course of actions needs to be taken. Okto is well-prepared and ready to consult and help operators, providing them with solutions for this new reality.
CB: What benefits could be felt by those operators that embrace a ‘cashless revolution’? Is cash still king for gaming operators?
SD: There are several advantages to being embraced in the cashless revolution. First, operators should cover social responsibility and keep both players and employees safe. Opting for cashless payment is a sure bet.
For us here at Okto ‘cashless’ as a phrase means a full end to end experience for both the player and the operator, having also in mind that our solutions are open-loop and universal. A few buzz words here but its seems to be a necessity lately. Let me explain and give some insights.
Operators are familiar with traditional cashless solutions that reduce or substituting cash within the gaming venue, but with these, the imperative issue remains unsolved, as cash is still being deposited and paid out before and after the gaming session. Okto.Wallet solves exactly that issue. We are able to cover cashless demand within the venue while also we replace the cash deposit and payout with end-to-end instant digital transactions, removing or reducing cash handling in the venue.
When it comes to open-loop, the key benefit of Okto.Wallet is that players have the freedom to use it as they wish, not just within the gaming venue. Therefore, players obviously veer towards an app that is compatible, paying money anywhere and everywhere!
This last point possibly sounds counter-intuitive to some gaming operators, however, the feedback I receive from the majority of operators when presenting the Okto.Wallet universal usability is overwhelmingly positive.
There is also the cost reduction, which will matter even more now. By providing an entirely paperless experience and reducing cash holding needs, operators can generate savings on operational and cash management overheads.
Adding here also the continuing dominance of the digital age. Not only is it more relevant to the demands of today’s player and gives players frictionless, safe, fast, more instant access to gaming funds, payouts, improving and increasing gameplay, but also attracts younger audiences.
I’m betting that the world that emerges from the crisis will be transformed, yes, but for better.