In the same way that coins at the slot machine have been replaced over the years by banknotes at many casinos, so banknotes may soon be replaced by special gaming tickets or cards. It’s called cashless payment and it’s one of the hottest tech trends in the casino industry. While the pleasure of counting one’s winnings after a few rounds at the slot machine is for many gamers a part of the thrill, the handling of cash, and especially its ‘processing’ and ‘storage’ costs casinos money.
In gaming, 95% of transactions involve cash, according to Harry Hagerty of Sightline, a company developing cashless payments solutions for casinos in Nevada and beyond. In the retail world, the use of credit and debit cards has become the norm, but tight regulations prevent land-based casinos from accepting direct card payments, and many online casinos require customers to transfer their money to an e-wallet or turn it into game coins. Cashless payments systems try to change things.
Cashless payment systems have been already deployed in casinos in Nevada, where they come in two flavors, one based on a ticket voucher system developed by IGT EZ Pay, and the other on a casino club members’ card powered by Las Vegas-based Sightline Payments.
The Ticket Voucher System
EZ Pay tickets are compatible with video poker and slot machines. They are based on a simple concept – instead of paying out customers in cash, casinos add up their winnings to ticket vouchers that can then be inserted into a slot machine or used as a video poker currency. At any time, gamers can turn their tickets into cash at the cage.
So far, the ticket voucher system has been confined to use with slot machines and video poker, but as the cashless payments concept further develops, the use of such tickets can be extended to casino-related shops and hotels, and even linked to debit cards.
Casino Club Cards
The casino club card Sightline Payments offers is not quite as straightforward as a ticket or a debit card, but it works with slot machines just as easily. Customers order the card online and then transfer to it cash from their credit card or bank account using their Internet Banking application, or a mobile app. The card isn’t a standalone debit card, but rather gets linked with their local casino club card, so that funds can be transferred between them. Card holders insert the card into the machine card slot and check their balance using a PIN. The Sightline casino card also works as a Discover card, but does come with a $2,000 a day deposit limit and a $10,000 monthly cap, as well as small transaction fees. To prevent impulsive spending, the card has a 15 minute “cooling” period during which deposits cannot be made.
Whether they take on the form of tickets or cards, cashless payments can be used to collect more customer data and better understand the purchasing patterns of customers. Also, in theory at least, gamers are more likely to spend a little more if they use a card or voucher, as they don’t feel the weight of the money in their pockets. Another form of cashless payments is by using the bitcoin currency. It is a virtual currency, so doesn’t exist in cash form. There are dedicated bitcoin casinos that deal in bitcoin only, such as MegaDice.
As cashless payments become more popular in Las Vegas casinos and beyond, vouchers and casino cards are likely to become a regular feature of many casinos, at least as an alternative to cash.