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Going Cashless

When will casinos get with the times and allow patrons to transfer cash electronically? It may be sooner than you think.

Going Cashless

Cashless is fast becoming painless.

Casino operators boldly try to match the instant-funds access consumers gain from other industries.

Gaming companies have figuratively succeeded at placing an ATM inside smartphones via the digital wallet, and drastically shortened table-side transactions via touchscreen technology.

Transformation went one step further in late March, at the 2020 trade show and convention of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), when IGT unfurled its land-based IGTPay.

The decision speaks volumes about gaming’s projection for cashless. Regardless of roadblocks, its path is forward.

Some of the obstacles are necessary. Operators have rightly been concerned about security, hacking and fraud when introducing rapid funds accessibility to players. They have also dealt with cautious regulators, as expected.

All parties understood the need to merge speed and safety.

Speed and safety wage a perpetual regulatory tug-of-war, but the end results benefit both interests. Security continually improves, and companies continue propelling the cashless sector.


Cashless Payday

IGT is introducing IGTPay for land-based casino operations, designed to fund casino players’ cashless wagering accounts from external sources.

There are two aspects to IGT’s land-based casino cashless payments solution:

  1. The IGTPay payment gateway product
  2. Payments services required for ongoing operation

This is the company’s proprietary payment gateway product, which has been operational in U.S. digital gaming and iLottery markets since 2013.

“A player can enter the property without any currency, stride past the casino cage, walk up to a slot machine and use a mobile device to immediately engage.”
Ryan Reddy, Vice President and Chief Systems Officer, IGT

Company officials say that while other funding suppliers have no choice but to integrate their gateway solution into another vendor’s casino management system, IGTPay is unique because its solution is tightly coupled with the IGT Advantage casino management system.

Unlike other options on the market, this product can provide direct access to all available major external funding sources, including credit and debit cards, e-wallets and bank accounts, officials assert.

Ryan Reddy, IGT vice president and chief systems officer, touts IGTPay’s addition to Resort Wallet and Card Connect in the company’s Advantage system.

“We’re excited that IGTPay represents the final step in providing a completely cash-free experience on the casino floor,” he says. “When equipped with Resort Wallet, a player can enter the property without any currency, stride past the casino cage, walk up to a slot machine and use a mobile device to immediately engage in play.”

IGTPay is available for sale as a turnkey, add-on module for IGT Advantage customers who are considering reducing cash handling, and who also want to provide players a cashless experience by accessing an external funding source.

IGTPay works in harmony with Cardless Connect and Resort Wallet, he asserts.

“Looking at each solution separately, Cardless Connect allows a player’s smartphone to become a loyalty card,” Reddy says. “Players tap their phone on an enabled machine to card in and immediately collect points.

“Resort Wallet creates a secure digital player wallet, enabling a patron to easily transfer funds to and from gaming machines and transfer funds to tables, sports betting and retail, all by using their mobile device. Players can conveniently maintain slot, sports and online balances within the same digital casino wallet.

“With Resort Wallet, players simply tap their phones on any Cardless Connect-enabled gaming machine to card in, then easily and quickly transfer funds between slot machines on site, as well as between a casino’s sister properties,” he adds. “Funds in the digital wallet can be redeemed for cash at a kiosk or the casino cash desk, or securely maintained in the wallet for the next play session or property visit.”


Cashless Arsenal

Darren Simmons, executive vice president and fintech business leader for Everi, says cash may no longer be king, but it’s still preferred by many customers.

“A large percentage of casino patrons use cash, as it remains the predominant form of currency used in gaming,” he says. “Similar to the introduction of ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) technology in the 1990s, we anticipate slow adoption of the digital wallet over the next three to five years, as it will take time for patrons to become comfortable enough with the technology to use it. Operators’ ability to effectively educate and market the tool in partnership with suppliers will be key here.”

So will cooperation with regulators, whom he considers appropriately conservative in protecting patrons. They want to ensure that no manipulation of a device is possible, that customers are not confused, and that reporting mechanisms are seamless.

Amid that backdrop, Simmons endorses company products geared for cashless.

“Our award-winning QuikTicket solution has drawn a lot of attention since its introduction,” he says. “The product is aimed at maximizing funds to the floor and dispensing a gaming ticket in lieu of cash from an Everi kiosk, which both traditional and new cash-access patrons appreciate.”

The QuikTicket transaction is authorized as a point-of-sale (POS) debit purchase, which may allow patrons to withdraw more funds, compared to traditional ATM withdrawals, which are limited by banks. Simmons says Everi has consistently seen double-digit organic adoption of QuikTicket by patrons and new conversions to this method, which drives more cash to the floor.

CashClub Concierge is another solution providing patrons more freedom and convenience regarding cash access and management, Simmons says.

The product delivers personalized cash access cage service right at the guest’s table position via mobile tablets and mobile point-of-sale devices, through Everi’s CashClub payments software platform. The solution can reduce disruption of play, as guests don’t have to step away from gaming to access additional funds. It can also shorten lines and wait times at the cage.


Cruise Lessons

“Perhaps the method currently proven successful by the cruise lines may be the best method for destination resorts,” says Tom Soukup, senior vice president and chief systems product officer for Konami. “That is, allowing players staying at the casino to make charges to their hotel folio (i.e. debit/credit card on file) with Property Management System (PMS). In the cruise line industry, cashless solutions have been available to guests for many years.”

Soukup says Konami’s Synkros cashless wagering accounts are used by many cruise lines, and approved in multiple land-based jurisdictions, including Nevada.

During a voyage on a cruise ship with Synkros, carded players can perform a “Folio Charge,” entering the amount they want to download directly through the player tracking interface at the slot machine.

Synkros then requests the charge to the folio (which has the player credit card on file). If the request is successful, the amount is charged to the credit card on file and downloaded to the slot machine. If players don’t use all the funds on the slot machine or have winnings, upon card removal the remaining funds on the gaming machine are automatically uploaded to their cashless wagering account.

Patrons can then choose to play other games by using the funds in the account, or go to the cage to withdraw physical cash for the funds on their account.

Gamblers can also use an interfaced kiosk that supports debiting or crediting the player’s cashless wagering account to withdraw physical cash for the funds balance on their account. At the end of the voyage, any remaining balance in the account is automatically credited back to the folio.

For players who aren’t on a cruise, or simply want to embrace innovation, Soukup touts the Synk Connect mobile application, planned for several key Konami Synkros customers, in addition to those that have already begun using it.

Across the industry spectrum, Soukup believes cashless is all about convenience.

“Wide-scale adoption of cashless depends on making a cashless wagering account or digital wallet easier to use for the player than going to the ATM/TITO kiosk to get more cash or to redeem their winnings,” he says.

“As players become more accustomed to using mobile payment or digital wallets in other areas of their daily life, they will increasingly expect digital wallets for gaming activities. Assuming the PMS and POS systems also enable the player to pay their folio or meal with a digital wallet, the entire casino ecosystem will become frictionless for players to enjoy their total experience at the casino using cashless (i.e., a single digital wallet).”

The benefits will increase upon each regulatory hurdle cleared.

“It appears regulatory agencies are slow to embrace either allowing players to interface with their hotel folio to make gaming charges against the debit/credit card on file with the property management system or allowing them to link to their bank accounts or other funding sources via a third-party payment processing company to their digital wallet,” Soukup says.


Cashless Unification

The QuikTicket transaction is authorized as a point-of-sale (POS) debit purchase, which allows patrons to withdraw more funds compared to a traditional ATM withdrawals.

Scientific Games may link the word “seamless” with cashless.

Its new Unified Wallet solution, slated for American casino rollouts in the second and third quarters, has omni-channel efficiency, according to Kathir Palanisamy, senior director of software engineering for Scientific Games. Unified Wallet was about a year and a half in the making.

“We’re excited because the customer is getting access across the wallet, the slots, the tables, hotels, online, point-of-sale, the lottery, etc.,” he says. “We want it to be truly omni-channel across the whole ecosystem, not just one channel.

“This is similar to Starbucks, where you tap your phone and pay your bill. You see it with online shopping too. Click a button and buy. We need to bring that experience to the gaming world.”

The Unified Wallet solution enables cashless options not only for slots, but also for online gaming (website or mobile). SG Unified Wallet can be funded either through a mobile payment gateway or at a cage with patron deposits. The type of payment method (credit, debit, or ACH) depends on the payment provider chosen by the property.

When it comes to the mobile app, the properties can choose SG’s mobile solution or integrate their existing app with the Unified Wallet module, along with third-party payment gateway integration.

Palanisamy notes Unified Wallet’s ability to provide instant access to cash, credit and points, the sharing of wallet across online and brick-and-mortar, along with the transferring of funds from mobile to a slot machine, for example, and back into mobile.

“Earlier versions of the cashless solution were closely integrated with core accounting products and were designed primarily for funding within B&M operations,” he says. “Unified Wallet, on the other hand, is a standalone, cloud-compatible service, built using the latest technology stack that enables enhanced security standards, leverages solutions like Docker for easier deployment, and scales efficiently to meet a wide range of customer needs.

“The solution is built with an API-first approach, to make it easier to integrate with a wide range of payment providers and support a wide spectrum of platforms, including social gaming, electronic games, sports betting, lottery, table games and retail purchases.”


Move That Money

From an operator perspective, the cashless solution improves player engagement, personalizes marketing, and reduces the friction in onboarding younger demographics.

For customers, it provides the ability to track spend, gain control of gaming habits and lose something important—lines.

How is it activated?

The customer downloads the casino’s player app from the app store, signs up using the email address and sets up the password for the mobile app access.

Next step is registering for the casino’s loyalty program, or linking his/her existing loyalty account to the mobile app.

The customer then adds a funding source by selecting a payment provider and registering one or more payment methods: credit, debit, ACH. Next comes adding funds from the payment provider: for example, $100 from a debit card to the Unified Wallet.

A customer then initiates a play session at the slot machine using card or cardless (a phone number, mobile device BLE) and transfers the funds from the Unified Wallet to the slot machine, using mobile or in-game display screens. The funds then can move from the wallet to the slot device using mobile or in-game display screens: for example, $75 from the wallet to the slot machine.

At the end of the session, the player transfers the funds from the slot back to the wallet using a mobile device or in-game display screen: for example, $30 from slot machine to wallet, with an end balance of $55.

Throughout the industry, companies have a varied overview of cashless. Yet their aim is similar. Make its access easier, safer and faster.


Ticketless TITO
A new system will allow players to avoid paper tickets and go virtual

“You can hit a button, and be in the middle of that craps game on the next roll.”
Christopher Justice, President, Global Payments Gaming Solutions

Global Payments Gaming Solutions is set to unfurl VIP Mobility at the Downstream Casino in Oklahoma in the coming weeks.

It will be the first rollout of a product that offers casino operators the opportunity to reduce their costs while improving the player experience, according to Global Payments President Christopher Justice.

VIP Mobility enables guests to create digital TITO tickets on their mobile device by scanning an existing voucher or using their VIP Preferred e-check account. They may then pair their mobile device to any slot or table game by scanning a QR code, reload from their phone, and retrieve funds once they finish playing. The entire experience is seamless, from funding through cash-out.

Benefits include reduced cash handling expenses, more cash in play, limited implementation costs, improved performance metrics and players never getting interrupted to get cash, Justice says.

This mobility is in line with the dominance of mobile devices. “Last year, Americans spent $80 billion between Black Friday and Christmas, and over $40 billion of that was done on a mobile phone,” according to Justice. “In 2018, the phone replaced the television as the most widely watched screen.”

Patrons will be able to access the solution by downloading an app, while operators can participate with a Bluetooth-enabled bill validator. Everything else is in the software.

VIP Mobility enables a gambler to load funds into the phone, press a button next to a slot machine or table game, and instantly have funds transferred to those places.

“You can hit a button, and be in the middle of that craps game on the next roll,” Justice asserts. “VIP Mobility takes center stage in three major areas—fit, ease of use and results.”

Justice says the “fit” aspect concerns compatibility with infrastructure and won’t require changes to back-office systems and hardware. The product fits within the regulatory scope of the industry.

As for ease of operation and results, he adds, “It’s great to organize my money electronically and know where it all it is. When I use cash, the next thing you know, I’m taking out money for my wife and kids. Five dollars here, $20 there, the next thing you know, it’s gone and I don’t know where it went.”

Justice uses the example of his 78-year-old mother as an example of how an older generation would benefit from cashless.

“My mom is superstitious,” he says. “If she’s on a slot machine and decides to get another $20, she has to walk across the casino, get in line, come back and perhaps be upset that somebody ‘took’ her machine, when in actuality, the other person merely wanted to play. But now the casino has a problem, in that it can’t give a positive gaming experience to both players.”

If his mother had instant-funds access, there would be no need to leave the machine prematurely.

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.