A prominent debate on cashless transactions and the future of betting’s retail landscape closed day one of SBC’s ‘Betting on Sports Europe – Digital 2020’ conference.

Stewart Darkin, Managing Director of CasinoBeats, opened panel discussions by observing that the general public had simply adjusted to cashless transactions en masse, changing their expectations of retail experiences outright.    

Should gambling and betting venues therefore not embrace consumer changes and simply cater their venues to these visible changing trends – as covid turns cash into an antiquated payment method?  

Wayne Stevenson, CEO of pools technology Low6 and former operations director of independent bookmaker Corbett Sports, interjected against ‘simplistic observations’ being formed on betting shops and their relationships with customers.

“In our industry, there is still a misunderstood view of the betting shop, their environments and why punters will still want to choose to wager with them over their online offering,” Stevenson explained.

“Customer anonymity is a significant factor that cannot be simply transferred online. Many customers will not want a betting transaction to register on their bank statements, particularly if they are applying for a loan or mortgage.”

Furthermore, Stevenson observed that covid had not garnered the ‘first debate on cash going cold’, as the majority of retail bookmakers had upgraded their payment systems in past years “when omni-channel was the buzzword, driving change and with experts stating that there would be one player and one account solution for online-to-retail.”

Andy Wright, Executive General Manager for Tabcorp, agreed with Stevenson’s statement in which he believed that buzzwords and easy narratives underserved the complicated subject matter of servicing betting’s retail customers.

Having led retail projects for Ladbrokes and Stan James, Wright acknowledged that omnichannel ‘buzzword era’ had denied key social, habitual and generational factors as to why punters maintained their cash spending preferences.

However, Wright stated that trends cannot be denied, in which the executive believed that enhancing omni-channel capabilities will return to leadership agendas.

“Omnichannel was used as a nice buzzword, but it now has to deliver a deeper customer connection and experience. Venues have to now deliver a unique digital retail only experience that they can only find in the shops. Retail has always been resilient but it has to learn to adapt to consumers changes, no more than ever,” Wright said.

Whilst UK tier-1 operators will be reevaluating their retail estates and portfolios, Wright stated that “omni-channel and cashless were ‘capex concerns’ for investors, in markets such as the US and Australia.”

 “It’s a fundamental investor concern, as in order to grow in these markets you have to create environments where customers can connect with all of their mobile devices, in order to use your services,” Wright explained.

Addressing ‘cashless innovations’, for retail incumbents, Stanislas Devaux, Head of Payments & iGaming at Hipay, noted that payment technologies had yet to deliver a ‘comprehensive experience’ for customers as ‘cash intricacies simply remain’.  

Furthermore, Devaux underlined the difficulties of building cashless infrastructures for gambling environments, which maintained regulatory and compliance demands on a venue-by-venue basis, which subsequently drive costs up.

Devaux pointed to “regulatory demands in Belgium, where casinos have to assure that their venues carry cash sum equivalents to payout player winnings, if more people are turning to cashless, this presents a significant problem for casino owners”.

Devaux detailed growing compliance demands on in-store KYC and the monitoring and record keeping of transactions: “The regulatory demands that you know your customer across your business, and they are getting tighter on retail too.”

Closing the panel, Stevenson put easy narratives to bed stating: “The million-dollar question is whether if you would go cashless, would you make more money than the competitor down the street. I don’t think many will be brave enough to take that bet just yet.”