Focus on PayNearMe: Online payment problems carry heavy costs for operators, research finds

December 19, 2023 8:00 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
December 19, 2023 8:00 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports

Roadblocks that frustrate players trying to deposit or withdraw money in online gambling accounts can raise operators’ costs and drive customers away, a study found.

Common obstacles include a limited number of funding sources or withdrawal options, transactions that take days, and operators’ lack of transparency about the process, said the study conducted in July and August by Betting Hero. Operators take multiple hits to their bottom line when the user experience doesn’t meet expectations: the immediate expense of providing employees to help frustrated players solve their problems and the loss of potential long-term customers as soon as their costly promotional offers expire.

In addition, the maturation of the online sports-betting and casino market means players expect their total gambling experience to be as easy as summoning an Uber ride, paying at Starbucks, or ordering from Amazon, said Leighton Webb, vice president and general manager of iGaming and Sports Betting for payments processor PayNearMe, which commissioned the study.

“Gambling is inherently complex, and because those complexities are so significant for players, there’s substantial room for improvement,” he said. Providing the range of deposit and withdrawal options that players demand “would lead directly to more efficiency, lower acquisition costs, and greater lifetime value,” he added.

The Betting Hero survey of 231 iGaming bettors with an average age of 30 in Ohio, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey found that 29 percent reported issues with depositing or withdrawing money within their betting apps. Of those, 23 percent left the betting site and never returned. Sixty percent of players who experienced payment issues said they would be likely to switch to a competing app if it promised faster withdrawals.

“Winning long-term player loyalty requires quick and easy money movement, particularly with younger players,” PayNearMe’s analysis of the results said. “These digital natives have grown up familiar with e-commerce and digital payments and tend to be quick to reject a brand when they have a negative experience.”

Webb said operators might offer several ways of funding an online betting account – bank transfer, debit card, Venmo, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and the like – but not allow all those options for withdrawal, sometimes forcing customers to wait for their winnings.

“Any business, whether it’s gaming, e-commerce, or another consumer-facing business, is focused on how to acquire customers for less and maximize their lifetime value,” he said. “Reducing friction on the payments front is going to reduce your customer acquisition cost. And when people have a positive experience on the disbursement side, that’s going to maximize or increase their lifetime value.” Webb said operators spend between $3 and $6 on each customer support inquiry. That’s on top of player acquisition costs of several hundred dollars each.

He added that other gaming industry studies have shown only 35 percent to 40 percent of people who download a gaming account application continue past the KYC segment, and only 25 percent of those make a deposit. “Those are huge drop-offs,” he said.

He added that operators can reduce players’ problems and increase their own success by ensuring more customer-friendly transactions.

“Gaming is unique in that the moving of money – depositing, withdrawing, winning – is central to the gameplay,” Webb said. “It’s part of the product, especially with things like in-game betting. Can they put money in their account quickly and easily? Is the response time fast so they don’t miss the next play?”

Not all withdrawal requests can be fulfilled immediately, such as those requiring a manual review. “It’s not a technical limitation, per se; it’s a process limitation.” Webb said. “Communicating that clearly with the player still needs to be addressed.”

PayNearMe cited better communication as a key takeaway from the research. “Setting clear expectations upfront can help operators avoid player payment issues. For instance, if a promotional bonus comes with wagering requirements before players can cash out, make that clear in the offer details. Clear communications for offers, sign-up and payment processes are essential to increase player retention and trust.”

Even then, operators can’t “set it and forget it,” Webb said. “It takes continual effort and focus to see what works and what doesn’t work, so you’re continually improving the process.”