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Why Fantasy Sports Startups Struggle with Merchant Account Acquisition for Credit Card Processing?

In the ever-evolving landscape of the sports and gaming industries, fantasy sports startups have gained immense popularity. These platforms offer fans an opportunity to engage with their favorite sports on a deeper level, strategizing and competing against friends and fellow enthusiasts. However, behind the scenes, these startups often face a significant roadblock – acquiring a merchant account for credit card processing. In this blog post, we delve into the complexities of this issue, exploring the reasons why fantasy sports startups encounter hurdles in obtaining merchant accounts and potential solutions for overcoming these challenges.

High-Risk Nature of the Industry

One of the primary reasons why fantasy sports startups face difficulties in obtaining merchant accounts for credit card processing is the perception of the industry as high-risk. The fantasy sports landscape involves real-money transactions and betting-like elements, leading financial institutions to categorize these startups alongside actual gambling platforms. This perception stems from the fact that the outcome of fantasy sports contests often hinges on real-world sporting events, creating a level of unpredictability.

Legal and Regulatory Ambiguities

The regulatory landscape surrounding fantasy sports is complex and varies from region to region. Some jurisdictions classify fantasy sports as a form of gambling, while others consider it a game of skill. This legal ambiguity makes financial institutions wary of providing merchant accounts to startups that could potentially face legal challenges in the future. As a result, these companies struggle to secure credit card processing services, hindering their ability to conduct smooth and secure transactions.

Chargeback Risks

Chargebacks, which occur when customers dispute a charge and request a refund from their credit card issuer, pose a significant concern for financial institutions. In the fantasy sports industry, chargebacks can occur due to various reasons, including customer dissatisfaction with contest outcomes or perceived unfairness. The higher chargeback rates associated with high-risk industries further deter merchant account providers from working with fantasy sports startups, as they fear financial losses and reputational damage.

Fraud Prevention and Identity Verification

Fantasy sports startups often deal with a broad user base that spans various geographical locations. This diversity increases the risk of fraudulent activities and identity theft, as malicious actors may attempt to exploit vulnerabilities within the platform. Merchant account providers prioritize stringent fraud prevention measures and identity verification processes to safeguard against potential threats. For startups that lack robust systems to ensure the security of user transactions, gaining approval for a merchant account becomes an uphill battle.

Lack of Financial History

Established financial institutions prefer to work with businesses that have a proven track record of stability and successful operations. Fantasy sports startups, often being in their infancy, lack the financial history that banks and payment processors look for when assessing merchant account applications. Without a substantial financial track record, startups face skepticism regarding their ability to manage the financial aspects of their business, leading to rejection or onerous terms.

Need for Specialized Payment Processing

The nature of fantasy sports transactions requires specialized payment processing solutions tailored to the industry's unique demands. These startups need systems that can handle real-time contest entries, cash prizes, and seamless fund transfers. Generic payment processing platforms might not be equipped to meet these requirements, leaving startups with the challenge of finding suitable solutions that cater to their specific needs.Specialized payment processing providers, such as Approvely, are stepping in to address these challenges by offering tailored solutions that cater to the unique needs of fantasy sports startups. Approvely's specialization in high-risk industries grants them an in-depth understanding of the unique challenges fantasy sports startups face, enabling them to provide industry-specific guidance.

Scalability and Revenue Fluctuations

Fantasy sports startups often experience fluctuations in user activity and revenue based on seasonal sports schedules and major events. This inherent volatility can pose challenges when financial institutions evaluate the startups' stability and sustainability. The uncertainty surrounding revenue streams and the potential for rapid growth can make it difficult for startups to meet the criteria set by merchant account providers.

Negative Industry Perception

Despite the massive popularity of fantasy sports, the industry still faces some negative public perception. Critics argue that it blurs the lines between sports fandom and gambling, potentially leading to addictive behavior among users. Financial institutions might be cautious about being associated with an industry that draws such criticism, as it could negatively impact their reputation.

Overcoming Challenges and Finding Solutions

While acquiring a merchant account for credit card processing might be challenging for fantasy sports startups, there are strategies they can implement to enhance their chances of success:

  • Legal Compliance: Startups should diligently research and adhere to the regulatory requirements in the regions they operate. Demonstrating a commitment to legal compliance can alleviate concerns of merchant account providers.

  • Fraud Prevention Measures: Implement robust fraud detection and prevention systems, including multi-factor authentication and identity verification, to ensure secure transactions and protect user data.

  • Transparent Communication: Clearly communicate the nature of the business to merchant account providers, highlighting the distinctions between fantasy sports and gambling to dispel misconceptions.

  • Establish Financial History: Building a solid financial history through partnerships, collaborations, and demonstrating consistent revenue streams can help improve credibility when applying for a merchant account.

  • Specialized Payment Processing: Explore specialized payment processing solutions tailored to fantasy sports, ensuring that the platform's unique transaction needs are met.

  • Customer Support: Offer responsive and effective customer support to address user concerns promptly and reduce the likelihood of chargebacks.

  • Diversify Revenue Streams: To counteract the volatility of seasonal sports, startups can diversify their revenue streams by incorporating features like eSports or expanding into related industries.


Fantasy sports startups have revolutionized the way fans engage with sports, offering a dynamic and interactive experience. However, the challenges they face in obtaining merchant accounts for credit card processing highlight the complex nature of their industry. By understanding the factors contributing to these challenges and implementing strategies to address them, startups can navigate the landscape more effectively, ensuring smooth financial operations and sustainable growth. As the industry continues to evolve, collaboration between startups, financial institutions, and regulatory bodies will be crucial in creating an environment that fosters innovation while maintaining integrity and compliance.



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