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EDITORIAL With live gambling poised to return, now is the time to bet on carrier billing

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As lockdowns ease globally it will be interesting to see how the consumer habits shaped in the past three and a half months stick or twist. While we can’t know what that will look like, we can look back on how the pandemic has played out and what effect that has had on various industries.

And one that has seen its fortunes reshaped in myriad ways is the gambling industry.

The igaming business has had a rollercoaster ride through the pandemic. First, there was the cancelling of all live sport and events, which hit the sports betting business hard. That, however, was tempered to some degree by a consumer shift to other forms of digital gambling, not least an up-tick in interest in lotteries.

This filled in some of the lost revenue, but more it has seen the igaming industry attract new players and seen a boom in existing player engagement.

According to analysis by the UK Gambling Commission, during lockdown there was a 0.2% uplift in new gamblers in the UK, but more significantly, existing players upped what they were doing.

“During April 2019, 26% of consumers appeared to engage in more than one online activity, a figure which rose to 42% during April 2020,” say the Gambling Commission. “We know from previous studies that engagement across a larger number of activities can correlate to higher levels of moderate-risk and problem gambling recognising that the data does not include offline activities which have not been available during the lockdown period.”

Further research by YouGov shows that around a third of past four-week gamblers say they have tried one or more gambling activities for the first time during lockdown. This figure rises to more than half (54%) of engaged gamblers – meaning those who have participated in three or more gambling activities in the last four weeks – with 18% of this group having tried betting on virtual races or sports and a similar proportion trying out online bingo for the first time during the last four weeks.

However, there is still plenty of opportunity for growth, re-growth and to tap into changing and changed consumer mores.

The DCB opportunity

The interesting takeaway from what has happened to igaming over the global lockdown  is that, with more consumers than ever looking to digital – mobile in particular – to try new things and to be entertained, gambling operators need to find a way to get new people playing, as well as to make what they offer more attractive to existing players.

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that many more people want to play these sorts of games – or to add these sorts of games to other games in so called loot boxes – but that they want to dip a toe in the water first.

There are many others that are occasional gamblers who don’t want to register a card or other payment tool, but just want a small play, especially of lotteries.

This is where the direct carrier billing (DCB) opportunity lies. As we report, the latest Telemedia Mythbuster white paper outlines how igaming businesses are leaving as much as 70% of money on the table by not giving punters and, moreover, would-be punters, the full range of payment options – because they are missing out DCB.

Research by Juniper Research suggests that as many as 70% of first time users of a service convert when offered carrier billing, while credit card only offers around 12% at best.

DIMOCO research also suggests that DCB can bring a 10-15% increase in revenues to any digital content business.

Applying this to the igaming market could see many new players signing up to services while still in lockdown and partial lockdown – and beyond.

While the betting industry is losing out on live betting – for now – there is still the opportunity to prime new players for when it returns by making other igaming games more accessible through easier and more ubiquitous payments.

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