Andrea McGeachinChief Commercial Officer at Neosurf, reflects on the SBC Digital Summit and the evolving relationship between banks and the gaming industry.

In the last week of April 2020, a bizarre and brilliant thing happened, a virtual/digital, summit that I not only attended but was part of delivering.

One of the sessions I moderated at was The Banking Crisis session at the Payments track. I was nervous beforehand because I wondered whether the panel and I, would touch on the reality we’re experiencing and discuss the real issues.

No need for nerves though as the panel stepped up and it was a great discussion.

The whole digital summit was fantastic. I had zero aches in the feet, no one had a hang-over, and everyone turned up on time, which was hugely refreshing for a Gaming Show.

The critical issue we highlighted was that businesses in the gambling industry are finding it harder and harder to find banks willing to take their custom.

We asked where companies can turn to for sensible banking and what steps can happen to create cooperative relationships with the traditional banks, referencing the engagement that has been achieved with the new digital banks, several of whom have been made the effort to understand the way the gaming sector works and have successfully adapted to it.

The biggest take out from our discussion was that mainstream banking and the card schemes really need to open their doors and talk to the industry. Failure to do this will see the alternative solutions presented by the digital banks winning through, leaving the more established banks and schemes, at best, peripheral participants in the gaming industry.

The industry itself, though, also has a role to play in being more overt and proactive in promoting the good practices that have been implemented and are now the norm but not fully recognised by many of those outside of the sector.

This is particularly the case on the legal side of the debate, and Tal Itzhak RonChairman and CEO of law firm Tal Ron, Drihem & Co used an angling analogy to trawl the banking sector for those willing to be hooked by the opportunities. ‘It’s the era of the fast fish versus the slow fish now in banking in our industry,’ he said.  ‘The big fish no longer own the space.’

We discussed the burden of regulatory requirements and how the new technologies coming in to improve the customer experience are perceived to conflict with them.

Mickael Marceau, Head of Payments at Kindred, spoke out about this perception and how the gaming industry is too often unfairly portrayed by the banks. He said afterwards, Good to discuss with other professionals about gambling perception within the eCommerce business and how we all need to keep pushing for better recognition for our industry. He called for the banking world to embrace the positive and responsible steps taken by the industry to ‘do the right thing for the games consumers’ both in meeting the industry’s regulatory obligations, whilst at the same time continually striving to improve the user experience.

Mikael from Kindred and Olga Golikova, Head of Billing at Parimatch, emphasised the importance of aligning the payment flow aspirations of consumers with the necessary checks and balances of the payment processors to ensure compliant and safe payments. Both acknowledged that this needs to be a focus for the industry’s user experience and technical experts going forward if the confidence of the banking sector is to be won over.

Without this, Olga believed that the current imbalance between the various schemes’ risk/reward pricings would continue. ‘Whilst the gaming industry has some of the lowest chargebacks across online payments,’ she pointed out, ‘the prices from the card schemes are amongst the highest when compared to other industries.’

Throughout the panel session, Alfredo Lazcano, Chair of the Mexican based law firm Lazcano Samano S.C, was continually pushing a great point. He emphasised that the solution lies with the industry itself. ‘We the industry have to engage and drive the discussion, building the knowledge transparency with the banking world. Working in openness will support better relationships.’

The overwhelming theme from this panel was the need to push both the industry and banking to talk more.

But more than that, the message was clear.

The industry can’t just sit and wait

The gaming industry does want to do things well and invest to get things right in payments. It genuinely looks for a consensus across the full banking and payments ecosystem.

But it will be forced to work with the smarter banking and payments partners if it’s to deliver the best user experiences for the games consumers, whilst at the same time ensuring regulations and responsible customer care are delivered.