Exclusive Q&A w/ Chris Nikolopoulos, Chief Commercial Officer at BETBY
Cryptocurrency has really taken off over the past few years within the iGaming industry and has established an important foothold in the world of online casinos.
We spoke to Andrey Starovoitov – Co-CEO at SOFTSWISS, Daniel Heywood – Co-founder of NuxGame, and Matt Sahakian – CSO at Technamin, to talk about what the future holds for cryptocurrency and why it is now a hugely vital part of the industry.
How widespread is the use of cryptocurrency in online casino and sportsbook and does it have mass appeal?
Andrey Starovoitov (AS): The use of cryptocurrencies in gambling is a sustained trend that is only getting stronger from year to year. Today, we can see a certain segment of crypto casinos getting a strong foothold and taking over a considerable market share. Crypto casinos are certainly a flagship of our client portfolio along with major fiat casinos. In terms of figures, cryptocurrencies have grown 10% year-on-year to make around 35% of the SOFTSWISS turnover. This is an evident growth indicator on the back of the major coin price volatility, which shows a gradual progressive increase of player interest in this type of deposits.
Daniel Heywood (DH): There has been significant uptake in cryptocurrency adoption in various industries in recent times, including finance, IT, e-commerce and more. Additionally, outside of its use in the corporate world, it has been championed by thousands of private citizens who regularly use cryptocurrencies. This is a far cry from the image crypto had only a few years ago and serves as a testament to its growth.
Matt Sahakian (MS): I think that at this point, crypto is inseparable from our industry. Most reputable online casinos are now offering crypto payment methods and the ones that are not doing so, surely have it in their short-term roadmaps. Online sportsbooks jumped in on the trend a bit later than online casinos, but are certainly catching up as we see the rise of crypto sports betting in the industry.
What are the biggest advantages of using crypto for operators and players when placing wagers online?
AS: First of all, operators gain access to a whole new younger audience which generally does not overlap with the traditional fiat casino segment. The use of cryptocurrencies often gives a certain level of anonymity, which, in turn, attracts VIP players and high rollers.
On the level of operations, all crypto casino metrics such as acceptance rate, conversion rate and others are much higher compared to those of fiat casinos. For instance, the SOFTSWISS acceptance rate (successful to attempted deposits ratio) is 99% for cryptocurrencies.
All of the above is just a smidgen of the benefits from using crypto in iGaming. The main advantage is that crypto is an ever-growing trend we’ve been observing over the last five years.
DH: There are lots of benefits for both players and operators, with the speed of transaction being the most obvious. Because there is no intermediary involved in the transaction process things can be completed far quicker and with fewer steps involved, in comparison to traditional payment methods. The added – and significant – spin-off from the removal of that intermediary is the subsequent lowering of fees, making the process more streamlined and cost-effective.
MS: The foremost advantage is the added layer of security that these currencies bring, thanks to the blockchain technology they are based on. Security is always of paramount concern to both operators and players, and crypto puts both minds at ease. The decentralised nature of these currencies also amounts to higher degrees of anonymity which players prefer when it comes to their information and transaction history.
In which markets are a cryptocurrency solution particularly relevant?
AS: In fact, when asked which is the most popular market for cryptocurrencies in gambling, at SOFTSWISS we highlight that crypto falls into a separate new market. And it makes sense, as the differences between the crypto and fiat audiences are quite significant – the demand for transaction processing speed, availability of provably fair technology games, high game limits and even top game lists are totally different in these two segments. In general, the geography of crypto gamblers is pretty vast – Canada, Germany, LatAm (Brazil, Mexico, Argentina), and Asia.
DH: Cryptocurrencies are relevant across the world. There is no market in which they’re not playing an increasingly important role. However, they are aiding in the expansion of the iGaming industry in developing countries in particular. This is mostly due to the strict banking rules and restrictions within these jurisdictions that cryptocurrencies remedy.
MS: We’re seeing the Asian market as well as certain areas of the LatAm market embracing crypto, along with Africa and the USA. Mexico is also big on blockchain, being included in the top 50 countries where crypto is most popular. Countries like Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, and the UK are also joining in on the trend.
Is it all about Bitcoin, or are other cryptocurrencies commercially viable?
AS: Indeed, we are observing new coins ascending against a gradual Bitcoin decline in the crypto basket, but this does not mean that it is the Bitcoin that is losing its appeal but rather that other cryptocurrencies are gaining momentum as a gambling deposit method. According to our partners’ research, customer interests are shifting towards “stable coins”. Facing the crypto winter, most crypto traders have already sold the most volatile cryptocurrency as we are living in the “cash is king” times. USDT is the leader amongst stable coins, followed by BUSD. As a result, in 2022 we saw that Bitcoin was not the ultimate GO-TO choice for payments. But don’t get me wrong, it is still huge as only Bitcoin offers indisputable decentralisation and freedom of payment. It fell from 65% to 49% in transaction count on average, but marks much lower levels for new casinos with a younger player base.
DH: Bitcoin is of course the obvious leader within cryptocurrency, but there are an increasing number of options for both players and operators. Clients are using an increasingly diverse range, featuring projects such as Ethereum, Solana and Tether and others in order to offer the widest range of payment choices available.
MS: There was a time when Bitcoin was stealing the thunder in the world of crypto. However, that’s not the case today. There are nearly 10,000 active cryptocurrencies out there. Granted that not all of them are as popular or even used, many of them like Ethereum, Binance USD, Dogecoin, Tether and XRP are just as popular with bettors as Bitcoin. That’s the thing with these currencies. You never know which one is going to take the lead.
What does the future hold for using сrypto in online gaming? Is it a passing trend or here to stay?
AS: Overall, despite the volatility we are observing, the crypto gambling segment and its audience will continue to grow, as it is the speed, simplicity, and a certain level of anonymity that players value most in cryptocurrencies. We can clearly see an increasing interest in this niche, and a growing number of operators, including top tier ones, are adding crypto to their payment methods.
DH: Cryptocurrencies are categorically here to stay; by now I’m certain most can agree on that. As the crypto industry evolves, new and more innovative solutions are emerging and are competing for their “15 minutes of fame.” This in turn drives more innovation. A few of these are no doubt just a passing trend, yet some will stay with us long-term and become part of the furniture in the industry.
MS: When Bitcoin was released as the first open-source software and blockchain currency back in 2009, many people thought it would be a passing trend. It has been more than a decade now, and look where we are with these currencies today. Much like any other phenomenon, it is impossible to tell where crypto is going, but a decade-long popularity and expansion are clear indicators that this is a journey which we must follow closely.
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