On Thursday, the Nevada Gaming Commission made the first steps toward elevating financial transactions to the digital realm in casinos. The commission approved of eight amendments to current standing regulations on cashless gaming systems.
Industry leaders think that the new gaming system rules could change casino procedures in the same way that “ticket in-ticket out” technology did when it was first introduced in the 1990s.
The amendments made Thursday are effective immediately. The move might see a variety of new systems produced for casinos that would enable casino guests to easily move their money from their bank accounts through the use of debit cards or prepaid debit cards, and over to slot machines and table games.
Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan has been a long advocate for more cashless solutions in casinos, and believes that the new technology would do wonders at attracting new customers, but also be beneficial to the industry by creating a space for more responsible gaming measures.
Morgan earlier this year said that requests to introduce cashless technology have slowed over the past nine months, but it seems that the current coronavirus pandemic we’ve been living through in the US over the past few months has pushed cashless gaming systems back into the limelight.
In fact, Brendan Bussmann, a gaming industry consultant and partner with Global Market Advisors, said that the nationwide shutdown of casinos back in mid-March
Sights on Clean Technology Spurred by COVID-19 Outbreak
Spurred by the COVID-19 outbreak gaining much more traction now. With high-touch surfaces being something that the virus can live on several days, it’s caused a lot of people to be more cautious with handling cash in the meantime.
Companies are now looking to clean technology to replace germy cash, with this being the driving force behind the commission’s speedier amendment approval.
According to medical experts, consumers should be cautious with what they do with their hands when handling a wad of cash or making a withdrawal from the ATM.
Dr. Ellen Foxman, an assistant professor in Yale’s Department of Laboratory Medicine, advised that the virus can stay on surfaces for several days on things you touch, including cash.
Now, several different casino companies are beginning to join forces with the cashless gaming systems that were approved for licensing by commissioners, including Everi Holdings, IGT, Scientific Games, and NRT Technology Corp.
While many consumers are concerned with how contaminated dollar bills might actually be right now, expects still advise that chances of being infected after handling cash is still low compared to other methods of potentially contracting the virus, such as person-to-person contact.
Mainly, COVID-19 spreads through droplets released into the air whenever a COVID-19 carrier coughs or sneezes, but also through the surfaces we come into contact with. Still, it makes the cash for utilizing digital financial transactions and wearing face masks and gloves while out in public stronger.
Cash in No Longer the #1 Payment Choice for Americans
In today’s digital age, it’s not a surprise that cash is no longer the preferred payment choice for American consumers. In fact, it’s only used in just one in four transactions. Debit card payment is now the preferred payment choice, even over credit cards for department store buys.
A study from the 2019 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice found that cash was the third most preferred payment method, and that the preference for cash has decreased over the last three years.
The share of cash use tends to be the highest among two specific groups: Younger age groups, among individuals 18 to 25-years-old, and individuals over the age of 45.
The coronavirus has turned, or urged rather, Americans to turn their attention to digital tools. This is evident in casinos utilizing mobile check-ins for their hotel stays, rather that face-to-face interaction with a front desk agent.
According to Christopher Justice, president of the gaming solutions division for Global Payments, a number of studies has found that a third of the population today is afraid to use cash because of the coronavirus.
With coronavirus taking out the industry in two weeks, Justice says we have to think differently about deploying different solutions. And it looks like different industries are doing that, from the gaming industry to the food industry.
Many restaurants are now using QR codes, typically set up near the host stand, that patrons who own a smartphone can use to scan and have the menu pop up onto their phone rather than providing them with a physical copy.
All of these things are being done in an effort to reduce physical contact in the age of COVID-19.
However, for some groups, such as low-income households, it may not be possible to avoid using cash, in the same way that it’s not possible to avoid touching a door handle. For those who typically use cash, the best prevention method for catching COVID-19 is thoroughly washing hands before eating or touching your face, according to Foxman.
Typical Cash-Use in Casinos
If you’ve ever stopped to really think about it, you’ll realize that most, if not all, gambling transactions are initiated through the use of cash.
Visitors coming to Las Vegas hoping to win big will either have a designated stockpile of cash to be used on table games or slot machines, or they will pull the money out of the casino ATM’s or head to the bank to pull out the funds necessary for their desired play.
In fact, only a small number of casinos throughout the country allow other methods of payment, including credit and debit cards, with some allowing PayPal, Apple, and Google pay.
AGEM Supports the Amendment Changes
Years ago, actually, Nevada outlawed direct credit card-use on a slot machine.
The reasoning? Mike Rumbolz, a former Control Board chairman and a CEO for both casino operators and manufacturers, said credit cards is one instrument that causes the most concern for people. Rumbolz explains that it’s gambling with money you don’t actually have, whereas a debit card is directly tied to a checking account.
In a letter to the commission board, Dan Reaser, an attorney for the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM), says that driving the gaming industry toward a cashless environment is bound to have profoundly positive impacts.
The letter was prefaced with the impact that ticket-in/ticket-out technologies made over a decade ago in the industry.
Reaser explains that the positive impacts will include enhanced legal compliance, improved public health, and safety, especially now with casinos reopened amid a global pandemic, more gaming operating efficiency, and more responsible gaming alternatives.
AGEM Executive Director Marcus Prater says these regulatory changes have to start somewhere, and that Nevada should be the one to take the lead on it to inspire the rest of the industry to follow suit.
A Closer Look into the Amendment Changes
The amendment approval covers two regulations directly concerning the electronic transfers of money to games or other gaming devices.
While the current regulations allow for customers to transfer money from a debit card to a gaming device, very few properties have licensed systems in place to do that legally or efficiently.
Other amendment changes include a daily monetary transfer limit, and displaying digital messages on messages that encourage responsible gaming, which will include the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling.
Gaming Commission Member Deborah Fuetsch says that by removing the prohibition of a cashless wagering system in approving these specific systems, is opening the door for new, more efficient, and responsible gaming technology.
Timeframe for Allowing Digital Payments on Casino Floors
Everything has a time and place for action, and for digital payments on the casino floor, it’s clear that COVID-19 has sped up that time and place to happen much sooner.
The American Gaming Association (AGA), the Washington, D.C.-based trade organization, announced a framework last week for when digital payments could be allowed on casino floors. They stated that the public demand for this type of cashless gaming system has increased most recently.
While the coronavirus pandemic has increased the public’s demand and interest for cashless gaming, the AGA was already leading an 18-month collaborative industry-wide effort to create a structure that would cover eight necessary principles for modernizing casino payments across the country.
Cashless Systems Would Include Cashless Sports Betting
Cashless systems will revolutionize casino payments entirely, which includes how wagers would be handled in sportsbooks as well.
The new system could potentially allow race and sports bettors to fund their mobile betting accounts through some sort of digital transfer, which would likely save them a trip to the casino.
Bussmann, a partner with Global Marketing Partners, said that for the most part, Nevada casinos have been reluctant to back mobile funding that could be done from home, in an effort to get customers onto gaming properties instead.
But, Bussman said that the pandemic allowed insight into how successful funding from home could be. He pointed that it’s been done successfully in New Jersey, and how the South Point casinos in Las Vegas and William Hill had to get creative during the shutdown in how bettors could fund their accounts.
Bussman believes there shouldn’t have to be a drive-thru system in place to fund customer accounts.
The commission approving these amendments seems promising for cashless gaming systems to arrive in Las Vegas casinos, and casinos nationwide, possibly by year-end.
It will still be a process to get the right digital systems in place, but with COVID-19 still around, momentum is moving quickly.
What do you think about Las Vegas casinos, or casinos anywhere for that matter, using cashless gaming systems?
Do you think it will be a more effective and responsible gaming solution? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the new technology below.
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