Here’s the sector that literally pays.
Perhaps nowhere has the gaming industry met customer demand better than in payment options. Innovation spans several realms over the years—from payment access to funding methods, from mobile to wallets—all timely unveiled to match escalating customer demand.
Enhancements tied to payment options include marketing, player retention and recruitment areas. The newest upgrade is a responsible-gaming niche hailed by players, operators and gaming regulators. Players can put money back in their wallets as easily as they withdrew it, avoiding the temptation that comes with excess cash in one’s pocket. Responsible-gaming innovation matches the casino philosophy of not wanting players to gamble away their last dollar.
This is a good time to be in the payment sector. It’s a star performer in the gaming industry.
The Payments Potpourri
The drive for convenience and speed in payments remains prominent, according to Victor Newsom, senior vice president of product management, payment solutions for Everi Holdings.
“A buzzword that you’ll probably hear more and more in our sector is ‘embedded finance’—it’s already big in the fintech space,” Newsom says. “Along with what we deliver with banking as a service, the next evolution is trying to make payments as transparent as possible. ‘Embedding’ them in the customer journeys is going to be an ongoing focus. It’s more about choice and omnichannel access, because otherwise it’s not transparent.”
Newsom says the company has been successful giving customers a choice of channels and instruments. That includes multiple self-service kiosks, cage, tables, slots, mobile, retail, and web channels with cards, check, Apple Pay, PayPal, PayNearMe, RTP, crypto and more.
“We’re giving consumers an option of when and how they want to access it,” he says. “In our sector, we’re seeing a healthy economy. So, it’s even more critical for us to be able to provide our services in a way that is value-added, both for the casino operators and for the patrons.
“We had record quarters, as heard on our earnings calls, and I would like to suggest that some of that is because of how we’ve come to the market.”
Newsom says cash remains king, and that Everi is able to provide more access points than its competitors.
He also touts the company’s continued success with QuikTicket as the best performing product in the space. It is cashless and doesn’t require an account to sign up. Players are able to get a TITO ticket with a point-of-sale (POS) debit transaction on a self-service device. Patrons don’t have to wait in line at the cage as they would with a debit card cash advance.
It allows operators to bring in new patrons who never tried this type of transaction, according to Newsom. This is part of a regular PIN debit purchasing-type transaction flow.
Part of why it’s successful is that it’s available to anyone who is doing a card-based transaction, and that purchase goes through as a gaming credit purchase, Newsom indicates. That convenience gained more focus during Covid, with customers worried about handling cash at ATMs.
“Debit transactions overall have been trending positively anyway,” he says, “but with QuikTicket we see a natural attraction, without marketing incentives. We’ve seen over 30 percent on average of debit volume will move to this product, operators will see a lift in new net users, and people who find this convenient will use it more and spend more.
“We’re very pleased with it. It fits in with the cashless narrative, but it doesn’t require a mobile account or wallet to use.”
Newsom promotes a significant product enhancement that makes it even more valuable. “Visa has allowed us to take that same anonymous QuikTicket purchase with their debit card and do it in reverse,” he says. “We were the first and only current land-based, card-present, non-account-based choice for this because we were uniquely positioned to deploy the controls that card schemes require to be in place behind the scenes.
“So when patrons cash in a TITO ticket, they have a choice of sending it back to their bank using the same debit card they purchased the ticket with, and they can do so without having to sign up for any account.”
Newsom believes that patrons may consider an amount like $1,000 going back to their bank instantly, in real time, more attractive than putting that cash in their pocket.
From a responsible gaming aspect, the ability to send money back to one’s account instantly is ideal. One innovation leads to another.
“In addition to QuikTicket introducing a full cashless, account-less, in person, self-service life cycle, one can ‘prime the pump’ for the bigger digital transformation that we see emerging in the industry,” he says.
“That lends itself into the company’s CashClub Wallet product well, as far as being able to do many of those same things, and it lends itself into other use cases across the family of cash flow products, whether they’re at the cage or at the gaming table.”
CashClub Wallet technology acts as a digital fabric across all the infrastructure that land-based casino operators have invested in and integrated into all aspects of operations, compliance, loyalty training, and internal controls, he asserts. It also plays a role in helping operators retain longtime customers.
Newsom indicates that Everi does not label any particular product as one geared at retaining customers. Rather, each is a spoke in a great big wheel.
“One of the things that we look at is helping our operators choose,” he says. “We don’t tell them how to run their business or drive their business model. We help the operators choose what aspects of the customer experience that they prefer—based on the realities of what they’ve invested in internally already, and that has a wide array of configurations.”
Newsom cites an example that some operators have chosen not to charge a consumer a fee to load in the digital channel, but still charge that fee at the cage. They may also have Everi provide an app or a specific retail POS system.
Regarding the next wave of innovation, Newsom says Everi has taken its time going into the online space, but it has the infrastructure in place to make “brick-to-click” a “wow factor” for 2023.
“Everi also recently announced the acquisition of Veneutize, which is in line with our long-term strategy of moving beyond the gaming floor and even beyond the casino walls into venues outside the resort,” Newsom says. “So, we’re not just focused on doing ‘on-us’ transactions inside the casino, but we’re also offering full, retail-enabled loyalty via mobile technologies, and then bridging the gap so our customers can now have a truly integrated digital strategy.”
VIP Preferred Adds New Elements
Christopher Justice, president of Global Payments, sees the industry tight-roping between the pandemic aftermath and a looming economic pullback.
“The payments industry is going through incredible change right now,” he says. “While the pandemic itself has somewhat abated and its grip on society has slackened, its effect on the payments industry continues to shape how people pay for things on a daily basis. The convenience that was made necessary by the pandemic, i.e., cashless and contactless payments, is now here to stay.
“Now, of course, our economy is headed into a downturn,” he adds. “Retailers of all kinds are looking for ways to save on operating costs, including in their payments systems. Payments technology providers will likely pivot to solutions that help save money and give operators their money as quickly as possible.”
Within this environment, Justice indicates that Global Payments’ standard e-check network, VIP Preferred, continues to thrive. It enables casino patrons to seamlessly connect their checking accounts to more than 400 in-person and online casinos. VIP Preferred delivers a payments experience of unmatched convenience and ease, he asserts.
And it has been upgraded.
“We have enabled VIP Preferred users to use digital banking credentials to sign up for VIP Preferred online,” he indicates. “This new feature is designed to make it easier for new users to create their account.
“VIP Preferred also enables all Global Payments’ other solutions. VIP Mobility, the industry’s first mobile solution enabling true cashless gaming, utilizes the VIP Preferred e-check network to provide quick and easy payments. VIP Preferred also powers Global Payments’ comprehensive self-service solution, VIP Financial Center, which allows patrons to access the services they need without waiting in line at the cage.”
Global Payments also uses digitally nurturing programs like the Partner Assist Program and the Member Rewards Center to encourage current users to continue using VIP Preferred.
As his company integrates with a changing marketplace, Justice believes the sports-betting realm will remain robust.
“While the American economy is slowing down, the growth of iGaming and online sports betting shows no signs of stopping,” he asserts. “Both online and in-person gaming institutions will likely invest heavily in sports betting and in technology to improve sports betting.
“The payments industry more broadly will also evolve over the coming year. Retailers of all stripes are implementing cashless payment systems, be they online or contactless payments. However, while restaurants and grocery stores have integrated these solutions rather successfully, the question remains how gaming institutions will use them.”
Upgrading to Top Product
Craig Libson, CEO of Flexia Payments LLC, promotes his company’s innovation connected with its Flexia Cashless solution.
The product already eliminates many of the current pain points of cashless while maximizing its flexibility and efficiency across the casino resort—from enrollment, compliance, and onboarding across multiple systems to funding, loyalty, data, and marketing.
Now it takes another step up.
“We launched our new InstaPlay module first and foremost to empower seamless, real-time customer onboarding to the Flexia Cashless solution and the casino management and loyalty systems,” he says. “A scan of a program-specific QR Code initiates a simple registration process, complete with KYC/fraud checks, enabling instant enrollment and the issuance of the multi-account Flexia Card, which can be either a physical plastic card issued at the casino or digital only appearing in the player’s app.”
Libson considers the magic of InstaPlay its ability to facilitate the variety of customer relationship scenarios—from existing loyalty members with personal data on file to brand new customers, with no previous information on file—and Flexia’s ability to tailor the InstaPlay process to leverage existing data or customer touchpoints the casino may already have to further streamline the process.
“It’s no secret that some prior cashless solutions which were rushed to market have soured the taste of the gaming community to cashless due to the inefficiencies and awkwardness of the onboarding processes,” he indicates. “When casino operators experience the speed and fluidity of our InstaPlay, there’s almost a sense of amazement in how easily and intuitively we can onboard customers.”
Regarding the art of incentivizing or retaining customers, Libson says the company’s approach to cashless has been its technical and strategic integration with casino loyalty programs and the solution’s powerful marketing tools and data sharing.
“We’ve developed new ways for the operator to drive additional customer engagement, from casino-branded card graphics and linking the Mastercard account spend for players to earn casino loyalty points, to providing flexible tools for targeted in-app promotional messages and sharing the data about where their customers are spending money outside of the casino with the operator,” he says.
The FUZION Infusion
JCM Global continues to thrive with its patented FUZION system. The company considers it a breakthrough gateway for developers of all types to integrate their digital wallet technologies onto gaming floors, giving casino players additional transaction options.
FUZION is built with an encrypted data superhighway so slot machines equipped with it can securely accept digital wallet payments. Plus, it is a highly advanced and flexible technology that makes the path to cashless easier, regardless of the casino management system. Additionally, it enables both NFC and Bluetooth transactions at the EGM.
JCM’s Mobile I/O technology offers operators two options to enable cashless transactions at the EGM: BLE Mobile I/O, an internal module that plugs into the USB port of JCM’s Peripheral Network Adapter (PNA) unit inside the EGM; or NFC Mobile I/O, an external module that mounts to the EGM.
Once connected, mobile applications developed to interface with Mobile I/O allow players to use their mobile device to securely identify their EGM location, conduct transactions, receive and act on marketing and promotions, verify their wagering ID, and more.
“This is an exciting time for payment options because operators
and their players have more choices than ever,” says Dave Kubajak, senior vice president of sales, marketing and operations for JCM.
“JCM has been leading the way for cashless payments with our FUZION system. With it, suppliers can integrate mobile wallets, and operators can choose whether those connections happen using near-field communication (NFC) or Bluetooth.”
JCM introduced FUZION a few years ago, offering a wealth of capabilities that include cashless payments. One of FUZION’s benefits is that it is system-agnostic, Kubajak says.
“Any casino with any system can use it, and no casino system upgrades are required,” he indicates. “Any supplier can integrate their mobile wallet technology through secure APIs, whether they use NFC or Bluetooth.
“Of course, paying with cash or using paper tickets remain attractive options for operators and players. There have never been more ways for guests to play, and that makes us look forward to the future.”
The viewpoints of these companies, combined with their product rollout, indicate good news for consumers and operators. Patrons can be both enticed to gamble and given the mechanism to play responsibly.