Sightline: Driving cashless

September 19, 2023

Omer Sattar, CEO of Sightline, has had his eye on one prize since the very beginning – cashless casinos. With developments in technology, he says we're getting there. But to ensure that cashless is widely adopted, he believes operators need to be careful to choose technology that works well.

You’ve been in the payments industry for quite some time. How has it changed over the years?

Consumer behavior has been and continues to be the driving force in payment technologies. Whether it’s big banks who have supplemented the teller experience with walk-up and drive-thru ATMs; or it’s the creation and massive adoption of credit cards; or it’s pay-by-phone technology; consumer demand for increased convenience has been the driver behind every payment innovation.

Throughout the evolution in payment technologies, there have been some constants. First, consumers want to know where their money is and that it is safe. Second, consumers want the freedom to spend their money when, where and how they want. Third, consumers want loyalty tied to their payments. Lastly, consumers don’t want to be charged fees for spending their own money.

Over the last 70 years, the fundamental trend in payments is the ease of access to your own money to pay for things when, where and how you want to pay for them. In other words, as consumer demand for convenience has steadily increased, payments companies have had to ensure payments are seamless and as safe as possible.

To us at Sightline, the “how they want to pay” is fascinating. That’s what every casino operator and regulator should be thinking about. Consumer behavior has driven every evolution in payment technology for decades, and now the casino industry needs to decide to embrace the “how” so we can best compete in thelarger entertainment industry.

Sightline has been advocating for casinos to move to cashless technology for some time...

Cashless sometimes seems like a new conversation; however, the reality is, it’s been around for decades – we’ve just called it TITO (ticket-in, ticket-out). In the early 2000s, there were some calls to move to a completely cashless environment; however, consumer behavior dictated casinos maintain a cash element to payments.

Since then, there have been various iterations of cashless gaming; however, general banking and payments technology was not ready and, more importantly, consumer behavior wasn’t quite ready for it yet. In 2004, mobile phones were few and far between. Now, everyone has a mobile phone, and consumers are using their phones in ways we only dreamt of in 2004.

Now consumers are using their phones to pay for everything, everywhere – grocery store, coffee shop, online shopping they do on their phones, you name it. Now phone payments are just as, if not more, convenient than carrying a card in your traditional wallet. Consumers are carrying much less cash and are carrying their phones everywhere.

And now consumers worldwide are using their phones for iGaming and sports betting, they are looking at brick-and-mortar casinos, strumming their fingers and tapping their feet, waiting for us to respond to their new gaming and payment behavior.

What do casinos need to do to execute a transition to the cashless way of life?

It’s not a light switch; however, it’s not complicated either. What we need is innovation that is responsive to our consumers, and their new demands and preferences. Legacy systems are hard to change and it requires infrastructure; systems integrations matter.

Think of it this way: payment systems are built to move money. In the casino industry, a two-way system of moving money is essential because consumers aren’t just paying for a cup of coffee and moving on. They can pay for a game and can win money on that game. That bi-directional system requires a network. To move the industry forward, Sightline created a network called SPAN, short for Sightline Payment Application Network, and that is the key that allows us to move money in and out of game systems.

Since we created it, we have integrated SPAN into dozens if not hundreds of systems, making widespread servicing of consumer demand for cashless payments possible. Just the way Visa and MasterCard were built to be ubiquitous in retail, we have been building SPAN for over a decade to be ubiquitous, but in gaming led ecosystems.

Which casinos or operators do cashless best and what makes them the best at it?

Today, several commercial operators are experimenting with cashless including Boyd Gaming, Penn National and Resorts World. What makes them better is their user interface. The best user interfaces reduce what is called “time to play,” meaning, the time it takes from the minute a consumer decides they want to gamble to the time they’re playing.

Initially we thought the ideal time to play should be three minutes or less. During our conversations with the team at Apple, they pushed us to reduce that to just one minute. Now we understand that if we want broad and widescale adoption, our collective goal should be that the consumer should be able to download and play in less than one minute.


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