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How payments are driving growth in Ontario’s expanded iGaming market

For the Canadian Gaming Summit this week in Toronto, Zak Cutler, President of Global Gaming at Paysafe, reflects on the expanded Ontario online sports-betting market and argues that a localized and diversified payment stack is essential for customer acquisition and retention.

A couple of months ago Ontario celebrated the first anniversary of expanding its online sports betting and casino market to include private operators. The broader market has gotten off to an impressive start, with $1.4bn CAD in total gaming revenue from launch on April 4th, 2022, through to end-March 2023, according to iGaming Ontario.

Given the potential on the table in Ontario, it’s no surprise that the province has quickly become highly competitive, with operators locked in a fierce battle with their rivals over customer acquisition and – just as importantly – retention.

When it comes to converting players into customers of their iGaming brands, operators need to acknowledge that payments are a critical factor that bettors consider when deciding where to play.

According to our latest ‘All the ways players pay’ iGaming payments research, over a third of players (35%) in Ontario say that quick and easy payouts are a key criterion for choosing where to wager. Furthermore, streamlined payouts are second only in importance to being a brand that bettors can trust (39%) and ahead of all other factors, including good promotional offers (31%) and odds (27%).

If operators are to acquire and retain players at scale and continue to generate growth across the wider market, they need to prioritize payments and ensure their payment stacks are fully localized to meet and exceed player expectations in Ontario.

The ways Ontarian players like to pay

According to our research, the top payment preference for Ontario sports bettors is Interac e-Transfer® – the Canadian interbank network solution that allows players to deposit using their Canadian bank account.

Four out of ten players (39%) listed Interac as their go-to option for depositing, ahead of credit cards (36%), which traditionally dominate Canadian e-commerce, and debit cards (34%). The usage of credit and debit cards will likely rise over the coming months and years as the market matures.

Alternative payment methods’ (APMs) popularity is lower but still significant, with 15% using digital wallets and one in ten using online cash or eCash to deposit and withdraw.

Digital wallet usage in Ontario will likely catch up with other markets such as the U.S., where 32% of players now prefer wagering with a wallet. This growth is also leading payment providers to tailor their digital wallets to better serve the iGaming space, including supporting instant deposits direct from players’ bank accounts and seamless payouts.

Transactional speed and security

Digital wallets are arguably becoming more popular because they meet player preferences for fast and secure deposits and withdrawals, something operators in Ontario need to provide. This is because almost half (46%) of Ontarian players say that quick and easy payouts are an important factor they consider when deciding which of their sports betting accounts to place a bet with.

Providing transactional security is also a must. More than four in ten Ontarian players say this is what they care about most when depositing into a sports-betting account. This is followed by the speed of the withdrawal (30%) and the ease of making a deposit or cashing out (26%).

Digital wallets provide security and seamless transactions, especially when deposits are instant. Security also tends to be higher than with other payment options as the player doesn’t provide financial information directly to the brand to make or receive the payment.

What happens if players have a bad experience?

Player preferences in Ontario will inevitably change as the market matures, but one thing will remain the same: if players do not receive the payment journey they are seeking, they will simply wager elsewhere.

According to our research, 72% of Ontarians said the payment experience they receive is an important factor in their decision to continue to wager with a sportsbook. And almost as many – 64% – said they would flat-out not return to a sportsbook because of a bad payment experience.

For many, a bad experience includes concerns about the security of the transaction, their preferred payment method not being available, and being required to provide too much financial information to the operator.

Operators can ensure these factors are not an issue for their players by offering a comprehensive selection of payment options, including the traditional payments methods of credit and debit cards, local options such as Interac e-Transfer®, and APMs like the Skrill digital wallet and Paysafecash eCash solution.

Not only will this allow operators to meet player expectations and level-up acquisition and retention, but it will also be a catalyst for wider market growth during the province’s second year as an expanded market, as iGaming continues its transformation into mainstream Canadian entertainment.

Download our 2023 ‘All the ways players pay’ research report for all the insights and payments data on the Ontario iGaming market.