November 15, 2021 Interview

Interlocking Legos

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Christopher Justice, Global Payments President, speaks to Gaming America on the subject of cashless payments.

Could you tell us about your background and Global Payments as a whole?

I’ve spent the last 25 years leading business units for some amazing companies like Ingenico, the global leader in payment devices, Merchant LIC, the leader in connectivity for integrated systems, and First Data for Concord EFS, which was considered the “Porsche of Wall Street” by Investor’s Business Daily before its acquisition. I have been trying to help develop expertise around delivering secure payment solutions and rich customer experiences for some of the leading firms in various markets around the world. Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, McDonald’s, Nordstrom and many others. I have been very much focused on the payments world. How to engage customers at the time and place where they want to spend money, and then helping to deliver a compelling experience.

In addition to those activities and certainly in addition to what I’m doing here at Global Payments, I’m on the board of the American Gaming Association (AGA) as well as Fintech Atlanta; all organizations are driven to promote growth in our ecosystem around the world. I’m also on the Executive Committee for BWB Strategy which is more in and around how investors take a look at these kinds of markets and where they should place their money. Back in 2017, I readily accepted the challenge to join Global Payments to digitally transform the gaming industry and bring some of that expertise that I’ve had in so many other markets. It’s been fun and exciting to be in the industry, and being able to work with the world’s gaming entertainment leaders; to create those compelling consumer experiences, to help maximize their spending across both physical as well as the digital properties of those organizations. 

The biggest thing that’s hit the industry, and what’s topical for most organizations today, is the focus on mobile cashless funding to enable a single, casino-branded application to work across the entirety of the resort. So, whether it’s my favorite slot, my favorite table, or I want to go and buy that bag for my wife from Louis Vuitton and dinner for my friends at Wolfgang Puck. The ability to do all of that from the palm of my hand means that, effectively, I’m bringing my own trusted device to the table.

Thus, I’m able to leverage really important, bank-graded security to protect my personal information as well as my funds, engaging all of those activities in a very seamless way. This, coupled with the fact that the solution itself leverages existing systems and existing touchpoints within the casino, means I don’t have the same kind of change management an operator may have to go through with other systems. 

As we think about the challenges that organizations are having today filling open positions, nobody has the time to go through and train their staff on new ways of doing things; it’s one of those things that just has to happen naturally. We’ve done a really good job of managing the change management associated with all of that. Then, I think the last big part of it is because it’s consistent with how consumers use other applications, it’s got the same logical workflows and user interfaces that folks expect. It’s driving compelling results and I think that’s one of the things that differentiates what Global Payments is doing in this space from all of the other solutions out there; that are a lot more complex to implement, a lot more complex to maintain, and certainly aren’t having near the consumer uptake, just because it’s not a user workflow that anybody would tolerate. So we’re excited about where we’ve gone with the entirety of this solution.

 

It’s been a big year for cashless payments; there has been a lot of change and digitization in this area. How would you summarize 2021?

It has certainly proven to be a significant year for growth. The number of customers who have contracted with some form of cashless roughly accounts for about 10% of all of the gaming devices in the US. So, it’s growing very rapidly. It’s the pandemic that ignited the need for safer, mobile interactions. The drive towards self-service, mobile and digital-first interactions is leading the way across every consumer market around the world. Mobile is growing more than 30% a year. It’s incredibly compelling and operators across the country are embracing it as the next new wave. If you go back 20 years to the implementation of TITO, that was Star Wars technology back in the day, nobody had a mobile phone and email addresses weren’t all that popular. So, to go from something of value, a token, to this piece of paper, seemed radical. Yet today, more people have a smartphone than have running water around the world. People use their phones the majority of the time and as of last year, the mobile phone became the main screen for the majority of the population. There is a demand for digital-first experiences and we’re seeing that in the rise of the use of applications like Amazon and Uber, and certainly how iGaming and sports betting are run around the country. 

 

‘Cash or card, sir’

Cashless to me is a real game-changer with numerous benefits for the operator and consumer alike. It is one of those customer conveniences that will determine whose chair the consumer is going to sit in once the music has stopped. I liken it to pay-at-the-pump, where years ago none of the petroleum guys wanted to implement it because they’d make all their profitability from customers coming inside.

But what they quickly realized was if they didn’t have pay-at-the-pump, consumers weren’t going to stop; and in fact, the majority of Americans will drive to the next station if the pump doesn’t accept their card. I think the same thing is going to happen here with cashless, in that it’s a solution that’s here to stay. It meets the expectations of the guest and it’s certainly going to help capture extraordinary market share for those early adopters who get in and provide that much more convenient way to play than their competitors. We’re seeing the results of that in the locations we’ve launched here throughout the last couple of years.

 

You have a big product in VIP Mobility. Can you talk us through what this offers to the market?

There are tremendous benefits to both the operator and consumer. One of the things we find important and from all the research we’ve done, as well as the experience we’ve had rolling out mobile solutions around the world, is customer adoption is king. So, we’ve spent a lot of time focused on conversations with the customers. 

The process to get started is an application you download from one of the app stores like you would any other application. It’s a very fast and easy sign-up process; you can get started anonymously so we’re capturing 100% of the players as opposed to the 60 or 70% that wind up being carded in most organizations. But it’s very intuitive. I can get started with nothing more than a TITO ticket and scan that into my app no differently than I would deposit a check into my bank account;  and I can also connect that to my other financial accounts. So, from the comfort of my seat, I can move money into the casino, I can play my favorite game and I can cash out and go on home without the safety, and security issues I would typically have carrying around large sums of cash.

When you get to the operator side of things, I think the benefits there are numerous, but I would say the fact it interoperates with existing systems and doesn’t require change management is probably number one. It has a distinct cost advantage to get started. The operating and maintaining of it are very simple and easy and probably the most significant thing for everybody is that it’s driving increased frequency, increased coin-in, and increased GGR so the results and the ROI are compelling.

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