Getting money into the hands of casino players is essential

Cashless.

It once implied vulnerability, like facing a blizzard with no winter coat. Yet the term slowly gained traction, denoting innovative payment methods across several spectrums. It graces the retail world via grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and gas stations. Cashless also means paying bills with a cellphone keystroke, a text or a click. Or buying show tickets on a tablet. Bing, bang, paid.

Gaming runs a parallel cashless route. From ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) to enhanced kiosks and the mobile-phone tap, it features the groundbreaking, instant reconciliation world.

Casinos grasp a win-win. Immediate funds enable patrons to avoid play gaps, while new EMV safeguards (Europay, Master Card, Visa) reduce their exposure to fraud.

Juggling increased funds and security becomes a multimillion-dollar task for operators. This is one high-wire act they must master. Companies offer a wealth of solutions, and those that help casinos balance this equation will probably wind up “cash full.”

 

Touting NFC

Alpharetta, Georgia-based Agilysys, a stalwart in the hospitality industry, steadily increases its gaming footprint. The company also serves the hotel, resorts and cruise, food service management and health care sectors, from offices throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

Spotting a technological upgrade, Agilysys combined the mobile-friendly world of near-field communications (NFC) with deployment of its rGuest Pay solution in Pennsylvania. It was a sensible fit.

“Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company was looking to reduce enterprise-wide data security exposure for their nearly 500 payment processing terminals,” says Robert Sadeckas, director of product management for Agilysys. “The company implemented Agilysys rGuest Pay as its payment gateway for their point-of-sale transactions, which has helped Hershey Entertainment protect sensitive card data and save PCI security assessment costs. rGuest Pay also provided EMV.

“With NFC, access to the payment networks is achieved by virtually any object embedded with a chip and antennae.”

NFC has gained momentum in the cashless realm. It is a form of contactless communication between devices like smartphones or tablets. The contactless communication allows a user to wave the smartphone over an NFC-compatible device to send information without needing to touch the devices together or go through multiple steps setting up a connection.

Sadeckas says that as merchants are mandated to upgrade to EMV (chip/insert), the new terminals typically are delivered NFC-enabled, which addresses the acceptance issue. Furthermore, since chip transactions are viewed as being time-consuming and slowing, consumer preference is favoring the speed of tap-and-pay.

“RFID, as the predecessor to NFC, simply communicated the magnetic stripe information in a contactless method,” he indicates. “However, poor implementations ended up deploying card numbers into the RFID and were prone to compromise by criminals with RFID readers. In the NFC environment, payment tokens (card aliases) are deployed in the device, which if compromised provide no value to the criminal.”

“NFC also is an important interactive technology that engages guests using their mobile phones,” Sadeckas adds. “It can be two-way, where NFC readers are deployed to sense an NFC resource on a guest’s phone and launch a transaction or, as we see in payments, the phone launches a transaction that is sent to the payment terminal.”

Sadeckas says that while near-field communication is not new, the application of it is improved.

“The key benefit to it is that it enables the industry to transcend a card form-factor which previously was rather limiting,” he asserts.

“Another advantage with mobile phones is that it can transmit multiple pieces of data in the transactions,” Sadeckas adds. “So, instead of presenting coupons for discounts, loyalty cards for points and bank cards for payment, a simple tap of the phone can complete all three functions.”

 

Recalling A Banner Campaign

Vantiv, the Cincinnati-based multibillion-dollar merchant giant, brings a significant aspect to gaming. It provides the connectivity to enable transactions for anyone wanting to use a card to fund gaming purchases.

The company’s involvement reflects gaming’s large upside via card transactions. Vantiv has steadily increased its commitment in this area to include back-end reporting, significant partnerships and new products. And 2017 has been a blockbuster.

“This will be looked back upon as the year cashless gaming ceased to be regarded as technology of the future,” says Joe Pappano, senior vice president and managing director of Vantiv Entertainment Solutions. “While you may not have been able to experience cashless gaming on your favorite casino floor this year, I can assure you that the most prominent casino operators in North America have either expressed interest in integrating the various technologies within their operation, or are already under contract to do so in 2018.

“The sheer revenue will be realized in the years to come, but 2017 will be regarded as the year cashless gaming became an adopted concept within the U.S. casino and lottery industry.”

Pappano says it would be tempting to equate the trend with a technology product or solution. But he credits the mindset of operators.

“They have shifted and are heading toward the prioritization of embedding cashless gaming—card acceptance at slot devices and table games,” he says. “Operators realize the long-term cost savings these products offer, not to mention the convenience it provides to their players.”

Given what they’ve realized, there is at least one Vantiv product that has fit nicely into this space. Pappano touts the company’s data engine, most recently dubbed Vivid Data Engine.

“For years we have had the vision of productizing our data mart, but, due to what is naturally a very sensitive area of our business, it required immense time and effort to ensure the ongoing security of every individual consumer,” he says. “We had to do that by providing a level of anonymity to their purchasing behavior while also grouping or drilling down far enough to provide our merchants/operators with an extremely valuable tool for their ongoing mission to better understand the consumer.

“While I cannot discuss the current accounts which are leveraging this product or the ‘imminent installs,’ I can say with extreme confidence that every single operator across every market which we serve has expressed an immediate interest in leveraging this, and rightfully so.”

Pappano sees a strong connection between cashless gaming, Vivid Data Engine and an emerging spike in the gaming and entertainment markets.

“In the casino market we’ve partnered with industry pioneers such as NRT Sightline and ACS whose Play+ and PlayOn solutions, respectively, bring not only modern technology to the gaming floor but provide long-term cost savings,” he says.

“Most importantly, they remove the anonymous nature of cash. Card acceptance on the casino floor was the last piece to the puzzle, if you will… By better understanding your consumers not just on the casino floor or even within the parameters of your property/properties, you will realize not only operational cost savings but will significantly reduce marketing costs by increasing their ability to retain current customers and lower the cost of acquisition.

“A big part of this is modernizing gaming regulations.” he adds. “We will continue to focus on helping educate the industry to modernize gaming regulations, that ultimately allow for cashless technologies to be consumed seamlessly. We did a lot of heavy lifting in 2017, which led to consumers deserving a frictionless environment, and there is still work to do in 2018.”

 

Unfurling a New Lineup

Everi Payments, credited with a surge in the Everi Holdings Corporation’s stock price over the past year, maintains that faster and safer are not mutually exclusive. The company has put significant effort into stabilizing the technological platforms for all of its cash-access offerings, allowing the addition of enhanced security features and integration with Everi Compliance, its AML compliance product.

The timing is important. With Everi being in more than 1,000 properties, the cash concept is championed. Money reaches customers faster straight out of the ATM than by other means, in this viewpoint.

Yet that dynamic needed to be augmented by compliance expertise. Kiosks bring more potential revenue into the mix at the point of play, given their enhanced flexibility, while compliance mechanisms and remote funds access areas like phones figure into the picture.

Into this environment, Everi has unfurled an array of products. Many of them were displayed at G2E.

CashClub Wallet is a sophisticated, interactive wallet that consolidates payment options for players when integrated with Everi’s CashClub software and full-service Xchange kiosks. CashClub Wallet allows players to store multiple payment methods, easily move funds in and out of the casino, and manage their spend limits, thus supporting responsible gaming initiatives. It also creates consistency across payment types through a convenient and efficient patron interface.

CXC 5.0 is Everi’s newest full-service kiosk, offering enhanced security features including self-frosting glass and a real-time rear-view camera to give casino patrons a more private and secure cash-access experience. The CXC 5.0 kiosk provides ample branding and marketing space on the second screen as well as on custom-fit LCD panels between each kiosk in wall or pod configurations.

Everi’s newest kiosks offer the same functionality as ATM, bill break, ticket redemption, QuikTicket and Giving Module with a more sophisticated, secure and appealing look. CXC 5.0 L offers smaller properties similar security features and marketing opportunities on a smaller-footprint device.

AML Intelligence for Everi Compliance combines the company’s deep experience in gaming AML with VizExplorer’s industry-proven analytics platform to help operators quickly identify potentially suspicious activity.

Everi Payments also is showcasing QuikTicket, which expands the funds-to-the-floor options provided by Everi kiosks by allowing operators to dispense gaming tickets in lieu of cash. Another innovation is CashClub Concierge, which offers personalized cage access services for VIP customers, table games players and high-limit room players that are fully integrated with Everi’s CashClub software, eliminating the need for a player to stop playing to access additional funds for play.

So how do you want your cash? The service end of this industry has grown substantially. Money needs to be everywhere, accessed instantly.

Bing, bang, paid. For vendors, the beat goes on. A cashless cash-in beckons them.

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Your Personal ATM

Don’t scurry around for an ATM when cash becomes scarce. Bring your own ATM with you.

That’s one take on a revolutionary solution pioneered by Reno-based Automated Cashless Systems. Its PlayOn product keeps players in the action. And the company is on the cusp of finding a vast pool of new customers.

“Our table solution is the only true cashless, debit system provided to a player at a gaming position in the market today,” says Stephen Warner, the company’s co-founder and chief operations officer. “PlayOn is not a prepaid debit or gift card, nor is the patron required to sign up for an additional rewards card. The patrons use their own bank-issued card. ACS PlayOn has been approved in various jurisdictions throughout the country and is up for approval in Nevada.”

Warner says the solution has simple yet effective implications for the customer. During a hand break/buy-in session, the patron is handed the PlayOn wireless terminal by the dealer (if no other buy-ins are present, the dealer proceeds to deal the next hand, no stoppage). The player swipes his debit card, enters the amount, enters his PIN number and accepts the nominal fee. Upon approval, a controlled voucher is produced at the game, and during the next hand break/buy-in session the dealer will exchange the voucher for chips to the player.

PlayOn allows patrons to utilize their own debit card at the gaming position, with funds converted to gaming chips or a TITO ticket. There are no 31 reporting requirements, no cash is extended for any PlayOn transactions and no debt is incurred by the patron.

“In today’s marketplace, everyone has easy electronic access to their funds no matter where they are—checkbooks aren’t as prevalent as they once were,” Warner says. “You can travel around the world and get electronic access to your personal funds. ACS has taken the initiative to provide PlayOn, a wireless technology for the customer while at the gaming position in a safe, secured and controlled manner.”

The company has also annexed some major partners, like Vantiv, which has helped in the area of marketing and compliance regulations, among other things.

“We’re developing and progressing as rapidly as we can with our PlayOn slot solution,” Warner indicates. “The interfacing to the slot systems is quite detailed and unique, but by 2018 we hope to be granted approval for trial. Operators are biting at the bit for the PlayOn slot application.”

Some have already “tasted” the rewards in nearby California.

“ACS PlayOn has quickly become an invaluable asset to Thunder Valley’s AAA Four Diamond resort experience,” says Dawn Clayton, general manager of Thunder Valley Casino Resort. “Our guests appreciate the convenience of safe and secure transactions without having to step away from their favorite games.”

Ken Harvey, the director of table games at Red Hawk casino, also touts it.

“As an add-on product for table games, the PlayOn platform has been instrumental in providing guests with a convenient and affordable at-the-game solution for their buy-in transactions,” Harvey says. “We continue to see acceptance and increased utilization from our players and believe PlayOn to be a positive addition to any floor.”

“What makes our system novel and unique is the ACS gateway we created to route transactions so that regulatory limits can be enforced and an audit trail for operators and regulators is provided,” says Michael J. Sackrison, CFO of ACS.

Author: Dave Bontempo

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.