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ICE key takeaways: Priorities for iGaming in 2020

Earlier this month operators and suppliers from across iGaming met at ICE London, perhaps the industry’s biggest trade conference. Here are the topics that were most heavily discussed at the show.

Sports betting in 2020 might be all about 5G

Mobile platforms will continue to the fastest growing sports betting channel in 2020; according to our latest research 37% of players say that mobile is their preferred channel for sports betting, and it is easy to predict this will continue to rise.

This natural growth will be accelerated by the widespread introduction of 5G data networks that are scheduled to be rolled out during the next 12 months. 5G data networks should enable digital services to benefit from better connectivity and increased bandwidth; for sports betting operators this means being able to offer more seamless services, including improved data and video streaming, from more locations.

In addition to offering many growth opportunities for operators of mobile betting platforms generally, two areas that have been earmarked for substantial overhaul in 2020 are in-play betting and in-stadium betting. And consumers are ready for the benefits increased bandwidth and reduced latency will generate.

According to our latest research The evolution of mobile sports betting: assessing the impact of 5G on the online gambling industry 42% of weekly sports bettors already placing more than one bet per week say that they will increase the volume of in-play sports bets they make when they have access to 5G, and for half (21%) of these players this will include betting on new events.

51% of weekly sports bettors do not place mobile wagers when attending sports events due to connectivity concerns, but 52% also say that being able to place bets while attending sports events would make the experience more enjoyable for them, and 45% say that they are more likely to attend a sports event if they could place a wager when at the game. So it is easy to see how 5G could make a huge impact if operators get their in-stadium proposition correct.

DraftKings CEO Jason Robins is one senior sports betting executive that appears motivated to ride the oncoming wave of 5G. When recently discussing DraftKings tie-up with European software provider SBTech, Robins cited offering “a more robust in-play betting offering” and focusing on new product features and betting experiences that were more tailored to US sports including in-play, rather than adapting the international sports-optimised experience that European-based sports betting technology firms have traditionally focused on.

FanDuel CEO Matt King is also buoyant about the opportunities presented by 5G. In an interview in late 2019 King agreed that mobile would be the main driver of sports betting growth in the US, should regulation continue to proceed as expected in 2020.

The casino experience wherever, whenever

As well as facilitating improved in-play and in-stadium sports betting experiences, a further impact that the introduction of 5G is predicted to have on iGaming is the growth of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

As 5G rolls out globally in 2020 iGaming operators will aim to leverage AR and VR technology to bring the casino experience to players wherever they are, whenever they want to play. Suppliers are investing significantly in this technology, and so operators will have to consider how to offer the optimum user experience including account deposits and withdrawals in order to replicate the live casino experience that will generate adoption.

A greater role for AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is growing in significance for all industries; for many businesses it will be the cornerstone of future growth and online gaming operators will be no different. There are multiple use cases for AI that will grow in significance for operators in 2020.

Collecting player data and acting upon it to make smart business decisions is one of the cornerstone benefits of AI. Using data to enhance the player experience with more seamless and engaging services is another.

One example of this is mass customisation, where players are communicated with personally, and with more tailored promotions and offers; this use case for AI is almost guaranteed to become standard across the industry in the coming years.

Improved detection of problem gambling and better tools for identifying fraud and money laundering are other benefits from better utilisation of AI.

What next following the credit card ban?

Earlier this year the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) announced that from April 14 2020 operators would be banned from accepting deposits into gambling accounts from credit cards. Reports suggest that, of the approximately 10.5 million online account holders, up to 800,000 UK consumers (7.6%) use credit cards to gamble currently (and UKGC data states that 165,000 players deposited a total of £46m into online gambling accounts via a credit card in February 2019 alone), so one topic that was frequently discussed was how this change in regulation would affect the habits of players and the knock-on effect for operators.

According to our research, the security of a player’s funds and an easy user experience are the most important factors sports bettors in the UK consider when selecting a payment method, followed by an existing familiarity with the payment method and the cost of making a transaction.

For players seeking a near-frictionless yet secure deposit method, alternative payment methods such as digital wallets, eCash, and direct bank transfer may appeal. And while it is not completely clear how the credit card ban will alter player behaviour yet, offering players a choice from a wide range of payment methods is certainly the optimum way to navigate the new market conditions.

Moving beyond the Fourth to the Fifth and Sixth EU AML directives

At the beginning of 2020 the EU’s Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive was updated, to be replaced by the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, and will be updated again to the Sixth Anti-Money Laundering Directive in 2021. The impact of this will be far-reaching for iGaming operators.

Three implications of the new Anti-Money Laundering Directives are an extension of the directive’s scope to cover all virtual currencies including cryptocurrencies, stricter Know Your Customer (KYC) commitments for prepaid cards, and an extension of requirements to monitor Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) to include Commercially Exposed Persons (CEPs) and Media Exposed Persons (MEPs). For gaming operators, compliance with the new directives will require working with a payments partner with the tools and industry knowledge to navigate the new regulations.