Today, we bring you Part Two of our exclusive interview with Skrill USA Vice President Joseph Hall (JH). CardsChat News Editor-in-Chief Hannah Elisabeth (HE) spoke with Hall by phone in his Manhattan offices earlier this week.
Skrill was recently approved as a digital wallet provider for the New Jersey online poker and gambling market, so we asked Hall about his views on some of the issues that have hindered growth and revenues in the Garden State, as well as his overall thoughts on US iGaming’s future.
HE: As you know, banking issues have been problematic for online gambling from Day One of regulated gambling in New Jersey. A lot of that is due to confusion caused by the Department of Justice’s reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act after its massive Black Friday crackdown in April of 2011.
So I know a lot of businesses are still wary, because you have the difference in that it is somewhat like the marijuana thing, although not quite as drastic, in that you have a difference in the state regulations versus the federal regulations, and I know a lot of banks are uncomfortable about getting in the middle of that.
How do you see Skrill as helping online poker players make deposits and withdrawals a simpler, more reliable process, which we know is an important part of attracting and keeping players, and how do you think that could possibly impact online growth in the future?
JH: Sure. So, we are obviously doing everything that we can to help players, whether it is poker or casino, fantasy sports, or even traditional gamers. We are doing everything that we can to have as many options as possible for people to play with. That is really the secret that a lot of European operators have been using for a while, really localized payment options per market.
In the US, the credit and debit card penetration or usage, it’s so high, that when you are faced with a scenario like Jersey, where Visa has a really poor approval rating, Master Card is [just] okay, everyone starts going crazy. I have heard a number of people actually complain about the banks, trying to force the banks to make new MCC [merchant category] codes.
For us, it’s quite clear: it’s beyond our control. So we have to look at other ways for people to get money in. If the schemes themselves are going to open up, and by all means there are new MCCs coming next April that are going to help the industry, especially in New Jersey, so the point is, the schemes are going to do what they want to do; it is out of my control.
My job is to ensure I have a ton of different ways to pay, but an equally as safe and secure, popular and reliable [method] for players to be able to play any time. And that is really where the digital wallet concept comes in, because unlike our competitors, we are not just offering a single way to pay. With Skrill, it isn’t just a thing where you use your credit card.
We offer all cards, we can offer ACH payments, we will be able to offer instant ACH payments soon, we’ve got paysafecard, which is a cash-based voucher system, where you can walk into one of 50,000 locations in the US, hand the cashier $20, and he’ll give you a sixteen-digit pin code, which you can then put straight in your Skrill wallet, and it is cash-uploaded on the Internet.
The point is, we are always looking for new ways, we have a number of ways at the moment, and we are constantly looking at new things, and having our licenses and having this platform actually allows us to do that, which is what will set us apart from the competition.
HE: We all know mobile is the biggest trend right now, and many players will access online poker sites in New Jersey via their phones or tablets. So how well can they expect Skrill to interface on those types of devices?
JH: Yeah, so, it works perfectly. If you tried to pay by Skrill on your mobile or tablet device, as the Skrill payment page will be loaded in a mobile friendly way, you would be able to use it on your mobile device just as well as you would on a desktop, exactly the same functionality, so there is no difference.
We have also introduced the mobile-friendly payment option called 1-Tap. We made 1-Tap a couple of years ago, and we launched with the market leader in sports betting in Europe and it went “bang” overnight. It’s basically our digital wallet, packaged in a way where a customer doesn’t need to enter a username or a password. In fact, the customer doesn’t need to enter anything, all they need to do is tap the 1-Tap button and they’ve made a payment over to the operator.
So if you are playing a casino game and you are actually in a game and you want to have credits, Skrill is the fastest way for an operator to reload a player’s account, with literally one tap. That is now rolling out with partypoker and some of the Borgata sites over the next few months, which is really exciting for us as well.
HE: Which online poker sites have you spoken to specifically that will be offering your services, and when can online poker players expect to see that begin?
JH: For 1-tap, or just in general?
HE: In general, I guess.
JH: In general, we haves signed contracts with 85 percent of the operators in New Jersey. We are currently live with Borgata Casino, Borgata Poker, partypoker, Tropicana and Virgin casino.
And we are obviously speaking to all of the others; I mean, take somebody like Betfair, for example. I have been working with Betfair for nine years and with Skrill, they are doing significant volumes with [our] company. So we already have ties with a lot of technology providers and the websites that are already in the market, which is really good.
HE: Is it your goal to have 100 percent market saturation in New Jersey?
JH: Yes, absolutely. We aim to work with everybody in New Jersey; we aim to work with everybody in every state that regulates casino and poker.
HE: So, just to wrap up, and you have already touched on this generally, but what are your overall thoughts on the future of regulated and legal online poker in New Jersey and throughout the US? Are you hopeful…worried…excited…all three ? Just tell us your general thoughts on that.
JH: As a subject, I am very excited. I think we should be, we have waited a long time, and now it’s actually happening. We can’t be shocked that it is not happening in a perfect way, without any thrills and spills, but it is still very exciting, and it has come at a time where the technology is also very different to other markets, and yeah, I’m very,very, very positive.
From our side of things, online gambling as a subject in the US isn’t just regulated poker and casino. There are other things that are going on in the US that are gambling, like fantasy sports, for example. It’s a clear workaround of the sports betting rules, for us, that’s massive potential. We are obviously integrating with a lot of those guys there and working with a lot of them.
We’ve got a big ADW [alternative launcher for Android operating system] for the parimutuel horse betting industry that is going really well out there, so for us there are a number of different opportunities that can form under that gambling vertical, and regulated casino and poker state-by-state is only one of them. So our eyes are much bigger than just New Jersey.
The cool thing for us is when we start to see fantasy sports players from New Jersey, we can cross-sell them over to poker or casino relatively simply, and that is where we really start to become [valuable] to operators.