Q&A: Cashless Casinos Frank Legato, CDC Gaming Reports · December 9, 2019 at 11:00 am One of the hottest topics at this year’s Global Gaming Expo, and the subject of new product launches by several major slot and system suppliers, was the advent of cashless gaming. More specifically, major slot and system suppliers rolled out modules for their casino management systems that relieve the patron of the need to handle cash. Typically, a smartphone is involved, as suppliers are asking operators and regulators to bring casinos – one of the last remaining businesses based on a model of cash-based transactions – into the 21st century. Systems recently launched by several manufacturers are designed to allow customers of casinos to pay for their gambling entertainment the same way they pay for their coffee at Starbucks or countless other transactions in the non-gaming world. The major casino management systems have been augmented to appeal to the modern patron, particularly younger patrons who, outside the casino, generally pay for very little in cash. CDC Gaming Reports asked officials from four of the top casino management system suppliers – IGT, Scientific Games, Konami Gaming and Aristocrat Technologies – to describe how each of these systems accomplishes cashless play, and to assess how quickly operators and regulators are likely to adopt cashless play as a universal method of payment in the casino. CDCGR: Please describe the features of your system that would enable cashless play at the slot machine. Nick Khin, Chief Commercial Officer, IGT: IGT’s Advantage Systems Player Experience Product Suite of solutions enables casino patrons to effortlessly make cashless transactions at gaming devices, creating a seamless gaming experience for players while generating greater operational efficiencies for casino operators. In combination with the Advantage product suite’s Cardless Connect solution, which allows a player’s IGT’s Cardless Connect smartphone to become a loyalty card, Resort Wallet transforms a smartphone into a secure digital wallet, enabling players to easily transfer funds to and from gaming machines and pay for casino entertainment using their mobile device. Players can conveniently maintain slot, sports and online balances within the same digital 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. 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. Kathir Palanisamy, Senior Director, Software Engineering, Scientific Games: Scientific Games’ Unified Wallet solution enables cashless options not only for slots but also for online gaming (website or mobile), thus creating an omni-channel wagering experience for the casino patron. 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 SG’s Unified Wallet module along with a third-party gateway integration. With Unified Wallet, a player can transfer funds to and from the slot machine using the mobile app or through the in-game display at the slot machine. The mobile app enables a seamless transfer of funds from the wallet to the slot machine using Bluetooth connection. The player can choose the amount to be transferred and at the end of the session the player can transfer the remaining funds back to the wallet from the slot machine. In the absence of a mobile app, the player can use the in-game display to transfer funds between the wallet and slot machine. The mobile app also eliminates the need for a physical card to start the play session at the slot machine. Tom Soukup, Senior Vice President and Chief Systems Product Officer, Konami Gaming: Konami’s Synkros casino management system has supported cashless play at slot machines for over five years. It has gained popularity in the cruise lines, as these entities are self-regulated, need to manage physical cash during a voyage, and make it easy for players to access the debit/credit card they have on file in their folio during the voyage. Konami’s SyncConnect For example, during a voyage on a cruise ship with Synkros, carded players can perform a “Folio Charge” and enter the amount they want to download directly through the player tracking interface at the slot machine. Konami’s Synkros then requests the charge to the folio (which has the player credit card on file), and if the request is successful, the amount is charged to their credit card on file and downloaded to the slot machine. If the player doesn’t use all the funds on the slot machine or has winnings, upon card removal, the remaining funds on the gaming machine are automatically uploaded to their cashless wagering account. The player can then choose to play other games by using the funds in their cashless wagering account or go to the cage to withdraw physical cash for the funds in their account. Additionally, the player can 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 a player’s cashless wagering account is automatically credited back to their Folio. On one cruise line, Konami’s Synkros is also used to enable table games players to request a “Folio Charge” and buy chips for table game play. Other Konami customers in regulated or tribal jurisdictions are using Synkros’ cashless functionality to give high-end players convenient access to their funds on deposit. Their funds on deposit are moved to their cashless wager account and made available on any slot machine they want to play. Angelo Palmisano, Senior VP Strategy & Innovation, Aristocrat Technologies: After a patron has registered for the cashless account and funded it in a casino using our Oasis 360 casino management system, they will see a feature in their loyalty app that allows them to transfer funds into gaming play. After that transfer and using the app to enter into cardless play with Aristocrat’s product known as “Mobile nCompass,” they can define a value of wallet funds to transfer to the game. After session play ends, they can take any remaining credits off the game’s meter and bring it up into the casino play wallet, and if needed, back up to their external wallet. Does your technology require creation of a deposit account beforehand? Khin: With IGT’s Advantage Resort Wallet solution, players open a secure player account at the casino cash desk, which enables them to quickly and easily transfer funds between the slot machines on site, as well as between a casino’s sister properties. 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. Scientific Games’ mobile wallet Palanisamy: A deposit account is not required with our system. As part of the cashless enrollment process, a wallet account is created within Scientific Games’ system. The wallet holds the funds transfered either from the payment gateway or through patron deposits at the cage. Soukup: In the cruise line example, all player accounts are created as cashless wagering accounts from the on-board folio for the voyage. The player accounts are linked to the debit/credit card they have on file with the folio system. Currently for regulated or tribal jurisdictions, the player must visit the cage to establish a cashless wagering account. The Konami technology and interface technology are currently available to enable cashless wagering accounts for all players. However, the depositing and withdrawing of funds is currently either through the cage or an interface kiosk. Palmisano: It does, because the external provider needs to run the patron through the payment card industry data security standards (PCI DDS), and know your customer (KYC) to create an account, and a patron can link a funding source to it. By having this, a casino partner can be assured the patrons using are ones that should be using the solution. How does the system allow players to use their smartphones to withdraw funds for play? Khin: Players simply tap their phones on any IGT 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. Palanisamy: The mobile app allows the player to select a payment provider and transfer the funds from their credit or debit card to their wallet. Once the funds are available in the wallet, the player can start the session at the slot machine using the Bluetooth connection. After the connection is established, the player can then choose the funds to be transferred to the slot machine from the mobile app for wagering. Soukup: Konami has a mobile application called SynkConnect that enables a player to view the funds they have in their cashless wagering account. Moreover, they can pair their mobile application to the EGM either with NFC or by scanning a bar code on the player tracking display, to enable them to “card in” with their mobile application and download any of the cashless wagering funds directly to the slot machine via the mobile application. Likewise, upon “card out” or by selecting to end their session, any remaining funds are uploaded back to their cashless wagering account. The Konami technology and interface technology are currently available to enable the player’s mobile to accept funds from external sources and deposit/withdraw funds to/from their cashless wagering accounts. For example, if allowed by the regulator, a player could move funds from their bank account into their cashless wagering account and vice versa. Konami has been in discussions with various third-party payment processing companies to add this feature to the SynkConnect mobile application. Palmisano: Aristocrat’s solution allows for a patron to fund their external wallet and move funds between it and the casino wallet that is frictionless and adds value to the player experience without the need for carrying cash, paying high fees on ATM withdrawals, or utilizing and paying for credit card transactions. How quickly are regulatory agencies changing their positions on cashless play? Are there still significant regulatory obstacles to casinos adopting the kinds of payment methods used in the consumer world at large? Khin: The global digital payments ecosystem is changing rapidly, and consumers are increasingly using new digital payment methods to satisfy their desire for faster and more frictionless payment processing. Casino operators are recognizing that players expect the same quick, simple transactions they have at the slot machine as they have at their local coffee shop or clothing retailer. The good news is that from a regulatory perspective, this convenience is already possible today in many U.S. gaming jurisdictions, including Nevada, through systems innovations such as IGT’s Cardless Connect and Resort Wallet solutions. Palanisamy: With regards to externally funded wallets, regulators are becoming more open to the idea and more comfortable with the technology, but they are cautious to ensure that the players are fully protected, both from a responsible gaming standpoint and from any possible fraud. Digital payment is gaining traction with the advances in technology and security, and electronic payments being generally more common across other industries. Soukup: It appears regulatory agencies are slow to embrace either allowing players to interface to their hotel folio and make gaming charges against the debit/credit card on file with the property management system or allowing the player to link to their bank accounts or other funding sources via a third-party payment processing company. Palmisano: In recent years we have seen a shift within the industry towards wanting to go cashless across their gaming and non-gaming amenities because patrons are demanding it. This mirrors consumer activity away from the gaming industry. Think about how often you use cash for purchases versus using your credit or debit card. Most consumer behavior is heavily favored towards the card. It’s fast, it’s convenient, it’s more direct. How realistic is it that cashless play on the slot floor will be adopted on a wide scale, and when do you see this happening? Will cash always be part of the equation? Khin: The U.S. gaming industry has been using cashless technology for many years, so in one sense it’s simply evolving from a paper-based to paperless cashless solution, thanks to digital technology. Historically, the rapid and enthusiastic adoption of ticket-in, ticket-out (TITO) cashless technology in the form of vouchers speaks to players’ and operators’ willingness to move beyond actual cash handling, and we should also remember that cash transactions didn’t completely disappear following the adoption of TITO as a cashless solution. We think both traditional cash and cashless will continue to have a place in the gaming industry, but we’ll see the ongoing progression of cash merging with digital formats, rather than being a binary option between one or the other. Palanisamy: There is definitely lots of interest around cashless, and we see a few early adopters. If the industry estimates are accurate, we could see some rapid growth in cashless play (around 25 percent to 35 percent) in next year or so. Cash will be part of the equation for the near future, until the cashless play reaches critical mass. Soukup: Most players currently use ATMs to get physical cash to play on the slot floor. They then use cash-out tickets to turn any winnings back to physical cash. There will be many players that will continue to use this method. Wide-scale adoption depends on making the cashless wagering account methods easier and more frictionless for the player than going to the ATM and then going to the TITO kiosk. As players become more accustomed to using mobile payment methods for purchases in other areas of their daily life, players will increasingly expect cashless wagering options for gaming activities. Assuming the property management systems and point-of-sale systems also enable the player with a cashless wagering account to use those funds to pay for the hotel folio or pay for dinner (by integration with the CMS), the entire casino ecosystem will become more frictionless for players to enjoy their total experience at the casino with a single digital wallet. Palmisano: As the younger players continue to gravitate towards a casino, their demand will be towards this being an expected offering with going cashless. For a period of time, cash will still be needed with an older demographic that is used to that way of funding their gaming experience.