Skrill USA CEO: NJ Online Poker Market Has Room For 3 Networks Maximum

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With several major banks and payment providers like PayPal on the sidelines, consumers are too often frustrated by the process of depositing at New Jersey’s online poker rooms and casinos.

And operators are still in the early stages of deploying alternatives that will allow players to deposit, withdraw and move funds from site to site with a minimum of cost, time or hassle.

One of those alternatives is a familiar name in the international iGaming market: Skrill.

OPR interviewed Neil Steinhardt, CEO of Skrill USA, via email for his thoughts on the current payment processing situation for NJ online poker, Skrill’s timeline for entering the Nevada market and the chance of iGaming movement in California this coming year.

Follow Steinhardt on Twitter – @NeilatSkrill.

Chris Grove: What brands are you currently working with in NJ?  

Neil Steinhardt: We will be announcing the names of the brands we are working with in the New Year.

Neil Steinhardt SkrillGrove: Why should customers in the New Jersey regulated market prefer Skrill to other available methods?

Steinhardt: In today’s regulated environment in NJ, we are the only digital wallet available, and therefore, the only instant method for paying in and getting paid out.

If customers want to manage their playing funds independently and enjoy the flexibility of sending money to any poker site with just one click, we are their only option.

Grove: There’s a perception I’ve seen floating around that Skrill can be utilized as a way to circumvent a credit card issuer’s policy of blocking online gambling transactions – i.e., fund Skrill with the credit card and then fund your casino account via Skrill. Can you clarify your policy on this sort of activity?

Steinhardt: This is not true. Skrill is a part of the same evolving payment ecosystem that the operators work in, not a way to work around it.

We work with our acquiring bank and with the credit card brands to ensure that credit card transactions are properly coded. Clearly there are some education opportunities for a number of issuing banks. I suspect that this situation will get better over time.

Grove: Can players deposit at New Jersey sites using Skrill when they’re located outside of NJ? Or do they have to be located within the state to deposit?

Steinhardt: We are not an operator, so players can deposit from anywhere. To play, they must be registered with a licensed operator and geo-located within New Jersey state lines. Customers can upload funds to Skrill in any state, but can only deposit with an operator when in NJ.

Grove: New Jersey’s current payment processing situation is obviously frustrating for many players. What are the top three things that have to happen for that situation to improve?

Steinhardt: First, banks need to be educated on this situation. Too many banks do not recognize the emergence of regulated gaming and have a blanket no-gaming policy.

Second, I’m not sure if there is enough liquidity in a small state like NJ, but should a larger state like California legalize online gaming then there would be many more millions of customers looking to make deposits. The banks would take more notice.

Third is time. I think a lot of banks are taking a “wait and see” approach.

Grove: Do you expect dramatic improvement of the payment processing situation in the near-term (say the next three months) or is this a problem that is just going to take some time to work out?

Steinhardt: As much as I would like to see a dramatic change, I think it will be more incremental.

Grove: Can you offer any general numbers regarding how many customers are utilizing your service to fund online gambling accounts in NJ?

Steinhardt: Along the lines of our forecast, which is great.

Grove: Nevada’s online poker market had a strong start liquidity-wise but has suffered a dramatic drop-off in recent months. How can NJ online poker operators avoid a similar fate?

Steinhardt: Well, New Jersey is not Nevada. The New Jersey gamer doesn’t have the same amount of brick and mortar options to satisfy their desire to play.

Also, I live in New Jersey and I don’t think we’ve begun to see any dramatic marketing pushes. I think the momentum in New Jersey is going to continue to build.

Grove: How many distinct online poker networks do you think the NJ market can support?

Steinhardt: Without PokerStars for two years, I believe three networks maximum, with one of them taking 40-50% share.

Grove: Why in Skrill not active in Nevada’s market?

Steinhardt: We will be shortly.

Grove: Do you see California passing online poker regulation in 2014?

Steinhardt: I would like to see that. Recent history has shown that betting on California to legalize poker has been a losing bet but like everyone else in the industry I’ve seen and heard encouraging signs.

All I can say for certainty is that when it is legalized, you’ll see Skrill front and center in the cashier.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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