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US online sportsbooks’ player acquisition & the twin roles of payments & affiliate marketing

Zak Cutler, Paysafe’s President of Global Gaming, argues that payments diversity twinned with a robust affiliate marketing channel are essential if American online sportsbooks want to convert and keep players on board

Big-budget marketing campaigns plus major bonuses and promotions have been key tactics for U.S. online sportsbooks’ acquisition of players in the different states in which they operate. Despite the significant spend, the results and ultimately the return on investment (ROI) of such a strategy have tended to be relatively underwhelming.

In the iGaming acquisition conversation, payments are too often neglected, and this is a mistake. After all, an online sportsbook’s cashier and the payment experience it offers can be a highly effective way to win new customers, especially when combined with an optimized affiliate marketing program.  

Released last month, our latest All the ways players pay iGaming payments research report surveyed online sports-bettors in six U.S. states alongside those in the U.K. and Canada’s Ontario. The report revealed that American players prioritized quick and easy payouts over all other factors when deciding which online sportsbook to play with – this was a priority for 36% of U.S. sports bettors we polled. Streamlined payouts trumped an online sportsbook being a brand the players could trust (32%) and good odds (28%).

And when it comes to bonuses, less than three out of 10 American players (27%) considered them a key consideration. Sports sponsorships were even less of a factor – with just 12% of American bettors saying they would sway their decision to wager with a book.

In order to maximize the acquisition potential of payments, operators need to offer their customers the payments experience they’re seeking. The speed of cashing out is, as mentioned, vital, but other essential considerations include offering a range of alternative payment methods (APMs) and ensuring players can transact safely and securely.  

In terms of APMs, operators need to consider integrating digital wallets like the Skrill solution in their cashier alongside traditional payment methods such as debit cards and, where permitted by state regulators, credit cards. Our research indicated that the ability to deposit with a favorite payment solution is an important factor for 27% of American online sports bettors. Furthermore, while debit and credit cards dominate wagering preferences (the favorite payment methods of 48% and 33% of U.S. players, respectively), digital wallet usage is today very robust.

In fact, three out of 10 American online sports bettors would choose a digital wallet to fund their player account (if they have a wallet account). Interestingly, the popularity of digital wallets is more pronounced in American states where regulators prohibit credit cards for iGaming deposits.

If we look at the Midwestern state of Iowa, where gaming regulators don’t allow players to fund wagers with a credit card, close to half (45%) of bettors prefer to use wallets. Even in New York, which doesn’t have an outright credit card ban but limits yearly deposits with this payment method to $2,500, we see digital wallets being even more popular than the American average, at 35%.

Why do U.S. sports bettors prefer digital wallets for iGaming? The overall payments experience offered by a wallet is key, including transactional security. The ability to make safe and secure deposits is essential for players, with a third (34%) of American bettors we polled revealing it was what they cared most about when funding a wager.

Security can often be a deal-breaker for iGaming in the U.S. Half (51%) of American online sports bettors said they would not proceed with a deposit if they had worries about their transaction being safe and secure. Almost as many U.S. players (46%) emphasized they would abandon a wager if they were asked to give too much financial information to the online sportsbook.

And, of course, a digital wallet’s inherent security is hinged in part on an account holder’s financial info not being shared directly with the operator, without compromising transactional speed –seamless deposits and withdrawals.

Affiliate marketing to complement payments

While payments’ value for customer conversions are significant, operators also need to consider other cost-effective channels in tandem. The affiliate marketing channel plays an essential role in iGaming acquisition, given that it can lead to as much as 30% of new customer conversions for U.S. sportsbooks, according to data from our Income Access business unit.

Affiliate marketing’s ROI is also high, as its performance-based model means that online sportsbooks only pay affiliate partners for the converted players they drive. That said, these days the channel’s impressive results are leading to increasingly high competition among U.S. brands for the best affiliate positioning, so it’s essential for sportsbooks to make their brand stand out.

American online sports bettors frequently search for iGaming brands based on the payment methods they offer, so affiliates have dedicated pages to detail the sportsbooks that support these payment solutions, including Skrill, paysafecard, and Paysafecash. To achieve the best results from the affiliate channel, it’s essential for gaming brands to be listed on these affiliate pages.

When a robust cashier offering a frictionless payments experience and featuring APMs, including digital wallets, is combined with the affiliate channel’s reach and cost effectiveness, U.S. operators can convert new players with strong ROI, and also go on to retain them if they boast an unparalleled transactional experience.