There is always some sport or another in season — which means sports betting is always in season. In fact, as we all learned last year when major-league sports leagues shut down worldwide, sports betting was more persistent than the sports themselves, as gamblers proved there are all kinds of things one can bet on — including camel racing or the weather.
But with the return of the more mainstream (and less wild) world of sports, more regular sports betting has returned and is entering into a very busy next several weeks. The Kentucky Derby has just passed, the Preakness is coming up soon, and then the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs and, of course, the 2021 Summer Olympics are all coming up — and betting on gaming seems to be on the verge of a very big summer.
Online gaming payments provider Mazooma aims to make it easier for online gamblers by offering the option to have their winnings paid out immediately into their bank accounts on demand. This program, which is now live for all Mazooma operators, lets players receive automatic payouts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The new feature is the result of a partnership between Mazooma, Fifth Third Bank and the RTP Network® from The Clearing House, which are collaborating to make real-time withdrawals for sports wagering and iGaming available to players. As The Clearing House’s Senior Vice President of Products and Strategy Steve Ledford told Karen Webster in a recent conversation, it’s an advance they couldn’t have easily forecast when they first started working on the faster payment rails several years ago.
“Payments are payments — when they go through a network originated by a treasury management bank, they all kind of look alike,” Ledford said. “It’s how the payments are being used and integrated with what the customer is doing — that’s where the creativity comes in, like what Fifth Third has done with Mazooma with gaming and sports betting. We’re happy to see folks using the network in ways we never would have dreamed.”
Sports betting wasn’t on their minds when they were building the RTP Network, he noted — but what has happened in the industry is exactly what they envisioned. The Clearing House’s interest in the instant payments project was infrastructural, putting the underlying architecture in place so that treasury banks and businesses could develop use cases for the funds moving instantly along the rails they were building.
Gaming’s Instant Payments Power-Up
A space like online gaming is one where the power and appeal of instant winnings payouts is pretty much instantly obvious, Ledford said — particularly as demand for such services has surged in the years since a Supreme Court decision opened the door for sports betting in states nationwide.
“There have always been ways of placing sports bets. Now there are legal, regulated ways of doing it,” he noted. “It’s another reason that I think we’re going to see more and more states legalizing sports betting, because if folks want to place a bet on their favorite team or their favorite horse, it’s better to do it through a mechanism that is regulated” — and accompanied by payouts that are secure, reliable and instant.
And while instant is igniting in gaming, he noted, it’s also sketching out the adoption path to instant payments, using the RTP rails and otherwise. There is a push in the market toward the most efficient and effective payment systems, as it always has been.
The Wider Path For Real-Time
What will become increasingly obvious in the marketplace, Ledford noted, is that players who have adopted real-time payments will pick up a competitive advantage over those who have not. That is already evident in places like online gaming, where the ability to get winnings paid out on demand is being used as a competitive advantage, and also in places like payroll and merchant settlement.
“Being able to deliver funds to folks faster is a competitive advantage — and those who offer it will reap the benefits,” Ledford explained.
What exactly those benefits will look like remains to be seen. The Clearing House is basically the “plumber” of real-time payments, putting in a set of pipes through which instant payments of all kinds can flow. The actual flow of those payments, said Ledford, will be the work of the treasury and the firms they are working with to unlock a use case and build a better experience.
But the interest is certainly there. Since Mazooma and Fifth Third’s gaming payout project went live, TCH has been fielding a steady stream of calls from financial institutions about how they can work with the real-time payment networks. And increasingly, TCH is seeing a lot of unique applications ready to benefit from the power of real-time payments.
Sports betting will be a big use case for real-time payments, but it will be far from the only one, said Ledford. With the rails in place, innovators are learning they can do a lot with making money move faster.