Funding March Madness – how payments drives acquisition and retention

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Joe Pappano, CEO Sightline Payments, talks to SBC Americas about the appeal of March Madness and, crucially, how the right approach to payments can actively increase player acquisition and retention.

March Madness is the most heavily wagered event of the year in the United States, with the American Gaming Association estimating that 47.4 million Americans will wager on this year’s tournament.

As a big sports fan, I could not be happier to see the tournament return this year after being cancelled in 2020. Every sports betting operator is gearing up for a huge month with new promotions, customer acquisition campaigns, and odds boosts. 

There is mounting evidence that the most important criterion a customer uses in selecting their sports book – and stays there – is due to the operation’s policies regarding payments. Payments policies also provide your consumer with a level of trust that their wagers will be paid out, unlike illegal offshore sports books. 

In the American Gaming Association’s 2020 Sports Betting Consumer research report, the biggest factor for customers to engage with legal sports books was confidence in payouts, with nearly 70% of respondents saying payouts were “very influential” in their decision. Further, overall user experience and a positive experience with payouts were the top two considerations for respondents when selecting their operator of choice. 

As you design your recruitment and retention strategies, highlighting the legal payment and payout options are critical to gaining customers who might otherwise choose illegal offshore options. The recent launch of Conscious Gaming’s Bettor Safe campaign is a great step in the right direction in helping bettors understand not only the benefits of using legal books, but also which sports books are legal in the first place. 

Living in Ohio, I see a lot of ads from Indiana sports books. This time of year, all of them have a variety of offers to engage patrons to sign up through various bonuses, risk free bets, and other customer acquisition tools.

Far too often these promotions neglect to mention the payout structure for winning wagers. As Entain CFO Rob Wood stated recently: “The average customer has three or four apps on their phone, and the one they default to is the one they enjoy using most – usually due to the ease of use for handling deposits and withdrawals.”

At Sightline with the Play+ product, we work with nearly every sports betting and igaming company across the country to help them increase the efficiencies around deposits and withdrawals to better engage their customers. 

While many think of Sightline as a prepaid card, the Play+ solution enables customers to deposit funds quicker and allows near instant access to their winnings through their Play+ card, which can then be used anywhere a Discover card is accepted. Meaning, instead of having to wait to issue a check or an ACH, their funds can be transferred from their wagering account immediately to their Play+ card. 

Sports bettors are also more likely to shop around for bonus offers as opposed to online casino focused customers. I attribute this to the seasonality of sports with different customers having different betting preferences based on time of the year and the bonus structure that follows those big events.

Given the challenges that many sports books had with the volume of wagers in the run-up to the Super Bowl, encouraging bettors to fund their accounts ahead of tip-off for each round of NCAA tournament games and placing their wagers shortly thereafter will bear fruit in an improved customer experience that would be free from latency issues and site malfunctions. 

As a result of the appeal of bonuses on customer recruitment, sports bettors have a higher likelihood of using more than one sports betting account regularly. With nearly a quarter of Play+ customers having more than one account, streamlining your withdrawal process is one way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. 

Many anticipate that March will be the single biggest month ever for US sports betting. In January, nearly $4.4bn was wagered at sportsbooks across 19 states, which marked the sixth consecutive record breaking high for legal sports betting. It is not out of the realm of possibility that there will be $5bn wagered at legal sportsbooks in March with New Jersey becoming the first state ever to crack $1bn in handle. 

Last December, Paysafe conducted a survey of US sports bettors and asked them to give their top three criteria for evaluating different sports books they do not currently have an account with. Many would think that good odds or good promotions would be the leading reason. The top reason given at 37% – quick and easy payouts. 

So, while you run your traditional promotions around bonusing, think about how you can leverage your payments solutions to deliver what consumers really want – quick and hassle-free deposits and withdrawals. It will provide you with the opportunity to not only recruit new players but retain them through a strategy that delivers on their top expectations around payments policies.