Setting Sights On Cash-Free Banking At Ontario Casinos, Sportsbooks

Written By Robyn McNeil on July 15, 2022

If you want customers of the legal Ontario gambling market to be happy, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of swift, easy deposits and withdrawal options. So, helping operators provide those financial tools is where Sightline can shine.

Sightline Payments’ new Play+ platform offers a cash-free payment option. Soon, Play+ will be available at Ontario casinos and sportsbooks.

Play+ in time for football betting

Tamara Tenenbaum is among a trio of new hires on the Sightline Canada team. Tenenbaum told PlayCanada:

“We’re going to launch Play+ shortly in Ontario.” Timeline-wise, according to Tenenbaum, “by football season, we’ll be up and running.” 

How Play+ cash-free banking works

Play+ is a co-branded debit card integrated into an operator’s payments stack. The payment tech allows players to deposit and manage funds easily. Moving money between accounts is simple, and players can use it for debit transactions.

And it’s easy to register, said Jonathan Michaels. Michaels is Sightline’s senior vice president of strategic development and government affairs.

To start, you want to sign up for a Play+ account, he said. Then register with your operator(s) of choice. Michaels said:

“Our special sauce is a network called Span that we’ve created. Most payments are either push or pull. Span can do both of those. The No. 1 reason a player chooses a sportsbook in America is quick payouts. Our solution enables those payouts to happen very quickly.”

In some cases, traditional payment platforms can force users to wait three or even five days to gain access to their money.

Another positive is the ability to avoid co-mingling gambling funds with a person’s daily bank account. Michaels told PlayCanada:

“I think the last, and probably the biggest one, is it gives you the flexibility to spend that money. What this means for the customer is that it’s possible to transfer money in and out of accounts quickly and easily. You also have the ability to spend anywhere Discover or Mastercard are accepted. That can be point of sale, an ATM withdrawal, or you can even transfer that money back into a bank account.”

Sightline invests in Ontario gaming

Sightline provides payment solutions for the gaming industry, said Will Hill, Sightline’s vice president of business development in Canada.

Ultimately, the Sightline solution, said Hill, is a great enabler.

“It fuels retention efforts for casino operators and digital operators. And it provides convenience in a frictionless way for customers and consumers.”

Hill is among the team focusing on Sightline’s expansion — the company’s first outside the US. “Commercial gambling has typically been a largely cash-dependent business,” Hill told PlayCanada.

“Can we take the convenience of cashless from other aspects of our life and apply it within the environment that is commercial gambling? The answer is yes. Sightline already has more than 80 partners in sports betting lottery and casino businesses in the US. And it has greater than 1.5 million [customer] Play+ accounts.”

In the meantime, Hill is concentrating on getting up to speed in his new role:

“My first and foremost goal is to scramble my way up this dangerous, long, steep learning curve in front of me because there is much to learn. I mean, as much as I spent a dozen years in commercial gambling. I’m now in a place where I’m learning about the payment side of things, which is vital.

“In terms of long-term goals, I’d like to see this very practical payment solution succeed to the same level in Ontario and Canada as it already has in the US.”

True ID tech keeps customers’ identities safe

As a money-service business in the gaming industry, Sightline has to adhere to the regulations of FINTRAC, said Tenenbaum. (FINTRAC is Canada’s national financial intelligence agency).

For that reason, Sightline’s chosen to implement an enrollment process called True ID, which has been successful in US jurisdictions. Some operators, like theScore Bet Ontario, have also implemented similar signup requirements.

Tenenbaum said:

“True ID is basically a document and selfie match. That means Sightline verifies an official ID (driver’s licence or passport) with a selfie match… It’s been probably the most successful type of enrollment and KYC (Know Your Customer) in Canada thus far. So that’s what we’ve chosen to do.”

After the players’ ID is verified, the process continues, collecting further details including name, address and date of birth to satisfy FINTRAC requirements.

Like in the US, players in Canada may end up with three or more Play+ accounts. Each is connected to a preferred operator.

While it would technically be possible to have one card work for multiple accounts, the current branded system allows operators to build customer loyalty. It also makes it easy for players to benefit from integrated loyalty programs, said Tenenbaum.

But, if an operator is operating in multiple jurisdictions, players can use the same card. As long as they are legally allowed to play in that region, that is.

Secrets to keep Ontario gambling customers happy

For retention, said Michaels, there are two ways to retain a player.

“One is loyalty, and the other is payments. And if you were able to put those two together like we’re able to do, we think it’s a really strong retention tool for operators to utilize. A Play+ type solution to help keep players.”

For Sightline’s part, they’re excited to put their long history to work in Ontario and across Canada. Especially after the success, the company’s seen in the US.

For Tenenbaum, it’s been a “whirlwind of excitement” to be part of Sightline making strides in Canada.

“Not to get too much into the product side of things, but it is a new product. It’s a really similar product to what it is in the US. But it’s Canadian payment rails, Canadian acquirers, Interac and EFT… So there are the key elements to it that for me, you know, being Canadian, and doing this in my backyard is totally exciting.”

Meet the Sightline team

Hill joined Sightline in June. Hill previously worked 11 years at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission.

Tenenbaum completes the trio as Sightline’s new SVP of business development and managing director for Canada. Before this, Tenenbaum was Sightline’s VP of market development for Canada and director of payments at Caesars Interactive.

Brian Cottengim, who also started last month, is the senior vice president of client solutions strategy. Cottengim comes to Sightline from FreedomPay, another payment provider.

Photo by Sightline
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Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor. She lives in Halifax in an empty nest with a mischievous cat and a penchant for good stories, strong tea, cheeseburgers, yoga, graveyards, hammocks, gardening, games, herb, and hoppy beer.

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