January 17, 2022 Technology, Interview

Change is in the air

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Cash will be here for a while, but is no longer king of the casino, with an even greater move to cashless gaming predicted for 2022.

The idea of cashless gaming in casinos has been discussed for years – and 2022 might see a significant move forward.

According to four gaming industry insiders who spoke with Gaming America, the change to cashless is not only coming soon, in many ways the “future” is already here. They said progress would be even more swift if not for regulatory hurdles that need to be updated, to reflect a new generation that not only does not carry cash, its members don’t even carry a wallet.

With all that said, there was a general agreement cash will continue to be offered as an option for those who prefer to put  a bill into a slot machine.

Tiffany Sadler, Global Marketing Manager, Gaming and Amusement for Suzo Happ, said the technology to load money onto a machine via a cashless or contactless option has existed “for a while now.”

“Adoption has just been slower – although it has definitely sped up since the beginning of the pandemic,” Sadler assessed. “Where we are likely to see a lot of innovation now is in integrating these technologies with property apps in to gather more customer data and on the payout side.”

Tracey Chernay, SVP Global Casino, Gaming and Lottery for TransAct Technologies, noted casino operators are interested in any technology that will help improve player experience to keep them coming back, staying longer and spending more entertainment dollars at their casino.

"Improvement in player experience means different things to different players, so it is not a one-size-fits-all technology solution," Chernay emphasized.

She continued: “While a very small number of players might still long nostalgically for the authentic ‘cha-ching’ of change falling into the hopper, most players have embraced  ticket-in, ticket-out (TITO) as a convenient way to begin playing quickly, to easily move between games, and to cash out when they are ready to head home."

Chad Hoehne, President and Founder of CasinoTrac, agreed. When asked in what ways the gaming industry will move toward cashless during the year ahead, he replied: “I think it is already there.”

Hoehne noted CasinoTrac, along with all of the CMS providers, offers a “cashless” and “mobile-app enabled” solution and is joining forces with the industry’s financial services providers on moving cashless forward.

“Whether it’s called a ‘wallet’ or some other term, provisions are there to allow the guest to move funds from external funding sources all the way to games and back,” Hoehne said. “It is the regulators and casinos that will determine the pace and scope of adoption of this technology.”

Mike Kaplan, Chief Revenue Officer, PayNearMe, predicted the lines between the online and offline worlds will continue to become more blurred in 2022. He said land-based operators will look to leverage their database and loyalty programs to drive acquisition of players online.

“A major part of that relates to how players view the balance they have online, and their ability to use that balance in a brick-and-mortar casino,” Kaplan said, adding: “Cashless will play  an important role in bridging the online and offline worlds.”

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

CasinoTrac’s Hoehne said regulation and adoption of cashless technology will be the top trend to watch for the year ahead, but he expects casino floor automation and staff-reducing technologies will be a close second.

Sadler of Suzo Happ believes the gaming industry will display a great deal of creativity with how player payouts will be handled. She noted coins are becoming rare as players offer options in which change can be donated to various charitable organizations in lieu of payout, can be printed on an additional voucher or added to an app account for future use.

“This flexibility and abundance of choices is exactly what customers want and where we are likely to see the most growth in the next year or so,” Sadler said.

Kaplan of PayNearMe described cashless as a “fast-moving market,” and said he expects “a few areas” will see changes, starting with regulatory changes that embrace available technology. In addition, as more states go online in sports betting, he believes operators will look to catch up to what they  are doing on the retail side to drive adoption.

TransAct’s Chernay said cashless technology takes the benefits  of TITO and adds the element of access to the player’s funds.

“Some players will be early adopters, signing up for cashless wallets, but most will be quite happy to continue to use cash as their access to funds,” Chernay said.

A benefit of cashless is that it does not disrupt most players who are used to using TITO, Chernay continued, meaning the cashless wallet technology will be seen as “simply incremental” for those who are more technologically savvy.

“We see this as an evolutionary change in the gaming industry rather than a revolutionary sea change,” Chernay said. “There are a great many cashless solutions that have been introduced to the market. I think there will be consolidation to a smaller number of the cashless solutions providers.”

New look for casino floors?

Gaming America asked executives to describe what they expect will be different and what will be the same for cash on the casino floor by December 2022.

Kaplan said every operator should have a cashless strategy in place that matches the online experience from a payments perspective – and not limited to cards.

“This means offering the alternative payment options and digital wallets the next generation of players expects to be able  to use, such as PayPal, Venmo and Apple Pay,” he said.

Sadler pointed to a number of properties that have switched to Bluetooth-enabled card readers so players can connect to machines directly from their phones via property apps.

“This prevents customers from having to wait in cashier lines, reduces touch points and interactions, and expedites the transaction for both the player and the property,” Sadler said, calling it a “win-win situation” that eventually will reduce labor and overhead costs, and keeps players at games for longer periods as they do not need to leave their seat to reload.

“If they haven’t already, these contactless/cashless options definitely will be on the casino floors in some format – whether in terminals or perhaps, depending on legislation, fully integrated at the individual game level,” Sadler predicted.

"So the infrastructure will still need to support it, albeit perhaps not as extensively as it is supported now,” she explained. “This is a transition that will likely happen over multiple years, not something we expect to see immediately, especially as it is expensive for casinos, and the past year and a half has hit the industry in an unprecedented way. As recovery continues, we will see more of these shifts occur naturally, but there is no immediate rush.”

Hoehne said the player card will be replaced by virtual card methodologies in casinos by the end of 2022.

“Also, if cashless is allowed broadly, we will see the first casino floors with no bill validators/drop boxes,” Hoehne said. “In my opinion, most casinos will still be using cash in the same way as today, even if they begin to offer cashless and virtual card options to their guests.”

Chernay said she is watching the move toward electronic table games (ETG). With Covid as a backdrop, she noted casinos are finding it difficult to hire enough staff for manned table games, and there is more player acceptance of the ETGs.

“ETGs have already incorporated familiar TITO solutions that allow players to easily access and move between the electronic tables. Again, I see cashless as incremental to this trend,” Chernay said. “But there are many reasons why some players prefer the use of cash and casinos want to appeal to all types of players. I don’t see the use of cash going away anytime soon; for either the guest who walks by the slots and puts $20 into a machine, the casual player who comes into the casino with their entertainment budget of $100 in hand, or even the high-value player that prefers not to be rated for whatever reason.”

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