Post-Pandemic, Casinos’ Future Could Be Cashless

Technology is slowly making paying with cash a thing of the past. Thanks in part to the coronavirus pandemic, there is a chance cash could quickly disappear from the unlikeliest of places – casinos.

The American Gaming Association announced on Tuesday the framework for regulation that would make digital payments on casino floors legal.

The AGA released its “Payments Modernization Policy Principles,” which reports findings from an 18-month collaboration with other industry leaders that explored contactless payment options.

The Nevada Gaming Commission will hold a hearing on June 25 to review amendments that could usher in this new era.

WHAT IS CONTACTLESS PAYMENT?

Contactless payments are more secure purchases made with debit cards, credit cards, smartphones and other devices via the “tap and go” method.

Contactless payment, which is projected to be a $27 billion industry by 2023, would be a boon for struggling casinos across the country as they begin to reopen.

Take Foxwoods Resort Casino, for example. Located in southeast Connecticut, Foxwoods is one of the largest casinos in the world. The shutdown was costing it $2 million a week until it re-opened on June 1.

ARE CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS THE FUTURE OF CASINO GAMBLING?

Perhaps. The regulatory framework set forth by the AGA, which represents a $261 billion dollar a year industry, has been years in the making but is now taking on heightened importance due to the pandemic.

To that end, the CDC has urged the use of contactless payments in its guidelines for re-opening various businesses.

At the heart of the AGA’s proposal is that research of past-year casino visitors found that 57% of people said the option for digital or contactless payments on the casino floor is important to them due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, 59% of people said they are less likely to use cash in their everyday life as a result of the pandemic, while more than half (54%) said they would be very likely to use digital or contactless payment options when they gamble.

“The COVID-19 pandemic made it all the more important to advance our efforts to provide customers with the payment choice they are more comfortable with and have increasingly come to expect in their daily lives,” said AGA president and CEO Bill Miller.

Digital or contactless payments is certainly a welcome development. But it’s not an earth-shattering concept, pandemic or not.

A 2018 study from the Pew Research Center revealed 29% of Americans said they make zero purchases using cash during a typical week. Nearly half of respondents (46%) said they don’t worry about carrying cash because “there are other ways to pay for things.”

To that end, cash is becoming as irrelevant as a star NFL running back: it’s nice to have, but most people (teams) don’t need it to accomplish their goal (the last running back to win Super Bowl MVP was Terrell Davis in 1997).

Cash is no longer king, and digital or contactless payments are even more preferable due to the pandemic. What does this mean for the future of casinos and gambling? Let’s break it down.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS AT CASINOS?

The AGA says allowing contactless or digital payments will equip customers with “digital tools to help them monitor their gaming and set limits.”

It also asserts this payment method will assist in “matters of anti-money laundering and monitoring of financial transactions.”

In addition, the AGA released the following benefits to digital or contactless payments:

  1. Equip customers with more tools to wager responsibly.
  2. Give customers payment choice and convenience.
  3. Ensure state laws enable a flexible regulatory approach, capable of keeping pace with evolving forms of digital payments.
  4. Address heightened customer public health concerns.
  5. Provide customers confidence in digital payment security.
  6. Create a uniform regulatory environment for casino operators, suppliers, and regulators.
  7. Empower law enforcement to better identify offenders through digital payment analysis.

All of that is to say nothing of the obvious health benefits that come with avoiding touching cash, one of the dirtiest things you can handle. A 2017 study found microorganisms such as vaginal bacteria and flu-like viruses living on cash.

HOW SOON WILL CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS BE IN CASINOS?

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, if the Nevada Gaming Commission votes to approve the amendments on June 25, contactless payment will be available in Nevada immediately.

This would be especially important for Nevada, which has crippled economically by the coronavirus shutdown and is now seeing a spike in cases in the two weeks since re-opening.

At this time, it’s unclear what legalization of contactless payments in Nevada would mean for the rest of the country.

But it would seem to bode well for other casinos given that the Supreme Court struck down PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) in 2018, which gave every state the option to legalize sports betting.

Using that decision as precedent, it would stand to reason that what’s good for Vegas casinos is good for the rest of the struggling casinos across the country.

HOW WILL CONTACTLESS PAYMENTS AT CASINOS WORK?

The answer lies with the London-based company International Game Technology, or IGT, which dubs itself as the “global leader in gaming.”

The company may not be familiar at first glance, but it already has a foothold in Vegas.

Stations Casino in Las Vegas began implementing IGT’s Cardless Connect feature in several of its locations in 2017.

Cardless Connect serves as a replacement to the “Player’s Club” cards of years’ past and works by tapping slot machines with your phone after accessing your account through the app.

That was the first step toward contactless payment. IGT then rolled out its “IGT Pay” feature for land-based casinos in Sweden in late May in response to the pandemic (the feature has been used digitally and in iLottery since 2013)

Customers can play at video lottery terminals with their mobile phones by transferring funds from their bank account via a “widely used mobile payment service” called Swish – think along the lines of Venmo or Cash App in the U.S.

IGT’s “Resort Wallet” feature allows gamers to transfer funds to and from gaming machines, tables as well as sports betting integration all from their mobile device.

Simply download and tap and go. It’s that simple.

Click here for more information on what cashless casinos will look like.

About the Author

Carl Carchia

Carl Carchia has spent more than 13 years in sports journalism working for NBC, ESPN and CBS among others. He loves the Cowboys, Mets and disappointment, naturally. He likes to golf and play video games. Carl was very excited the day PASPA was struck down and is annoyed Connecticut doesn't have regulation in place yet.