Andria Evripidou, speaking ahead of next week’s CasinoBeats Summit shares her views on some of the challenges facing igaming firms as they seek out services from banks who are often wary of the industry.
Picture this common scenario. An entrepreneur has developed an exciting idea for a new online casino business. They’ve figured out their margins, created a marketing campaign, have a proof of concept up and running and even got licensed by the local regulator. Now, all they need is a bank account. But this is where they run into problems.
Time after time, they are turned away by banks who tell them they do not cater to high-risk businesses such as theirs. This sort of scenario continues to be the reality for many igaming businesses and their wider ecosystem around the world. Banks and payment service providers are – often for legitimate reasons – wary of working with the industry.
However, through innovations in technology, many of the perceived risks associated with the igaming industry can now be mitigated – and should make getting access to banking easier too. So, why is it that tailored banking services to this industry are still so few and far inbetween? Why do banking providers see online gaming firms as ‘high risk’?
Opening a business bank account for an igaming company can often be a deeply frustrating experience for entrepreneurs. Even if their business has the most stringent security processes in place, they’re still viewed as ‘risky’. There are a number of reasons why banks in many countries are reluctant to provide services to igaming companies:
Fraud and money laundering concerns
Since online casinos and sportsbooks can be used by criminals and terrorists for nefarious purposes, many banks are afraid of being held responsible for processing these payments. Most igaming firms have strict anti-money laundering and know your customer processes in place, yet the perception of risk remains (historically attributed to the heavy cash involvement with this industry – no longer true for online gaming providers) . More recently, the actions of a small number of unscrupulous companies, unfortunately, continues to damage the reputation of the entire industry.
A chargeback is when a customer disputes a payment they made to a company and demands the money be returned. To service those chargeback requests, banks have to bear the costs of disputes and relevant administrative input. Within the igaming community, chargebacks are more likely either by fraudsters or players who don’t fully understand the rules of the games they are playing and are expecting to be paid more for their winnings. In both cases, this raises the total cost of doing business for banks.
Compliance issues and international finance
Most igaming businesses operate internationally, with websites allowing gamers to log in and play from around the world. This, however, can introduce risks for banks. For instance, if an online gaming business does not conduct its KYC checks properly, it could accept a customer from a jurisdiction where it is illegal to gamble online. This, in turn, could put the bank at risk of penalties in that country.
Complex entity structures
The international nature of these businesses, many times translates to a more complex entity structure with various sides of the business being incorporated and operating across different geographical jurisdictions. In turn, this makes it harder and more resource intensive for banks and other financial institutions alike, to monitor the business activities of the entire group.
Technology can help us overcome most igaming finance challenges
Traditional banking technology and infrastructure was simply not built to monitor and manage the kinds of transactions that take place on igaming websites. What’s more, online gambling and betting are also relatively new industries, and so many banks lack in-house expertise or understanding of the sector.
The good news is that as igaming has risen in popularity in recent years, there has been a corresponding growth in investment into solutions that can address the kinds of challenges described above.
For example, technology is now available which can remotely perform KYC and AML checks efficiently and at scale. There is also a wider pool of expert personnel that can support the compliance functions of these financial institutions by sharing their gaming expertise. Similarly, new methods of monitoring for chargebacks and tracking user behaviour on igaming websites makes it much easier to identify and reject fraudulent claims.
We are also starting to see the emergence of banking services which are better suited to the needs of international igaming businesses. For example, igaming firms can now access multi-currency accounts to send and receive funds from customers and subsidiaries based in other countries – which makes running a business far smoother.
Making banking accessible for igaming companies
Opening a bank account for an igaming company is still a relatively challenging task for entrepreneurs in many parts of the world today. This is, to an extent, a good thing. It is absolutely right that igaming firms face more stringent checks when opening bank accounts than, say, someone who needs a merchant account for their cafe. However, technology now exists to tackle many of the risks associated with igaming, so the process should really be smoother than it currently is.
By making a collective, coordinated and collaborative effort across both the banking and igaming sectors, we can continue developing solutions that will make opening a business bank account for igaming firms less of a struggle – all without compromising on safety and security. And that will be good news for both igaming entrepreneurs and banking providers.
At Xace, we’re working to make it easier for igaming entrepreneurs to access the kinds of banking services they need. Visit our website to learn more or click HERE to book a meeting with us at next week’s CasinoBeats Summit.