Pavilion Payments: Keeping the flywheel moving

September 19, 2023
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Christopher Justice, CEO of Pavilion Payments, speaks to Gaming America about the importance of digitization and the evolution of payments.

Christopher Justice, the CEO of Pavilion Payments, has had a busy year. A veteran of the payments industry, he shepherded Pavilion Payments through its recent split from Global Payments in April and is now gearing up for a G2E exhibit that he says will be “jaw dropping.”

Speaking to Gaming America from his company’s splashy 'client experience center' at Pavilion Payments' Las Vegas headquarters, where customers can try out Pavilion products on working slot machines and in other casino environments, Justice reflected on his 30 years in payments and where he sees his company headed next.

You’ve been in the payments industry for about three decades. How has this industry changed over those 30 years?

It’s like technology in general: it continues to evolve at extraordinary rates. You see this in the rest of your life, outside of the casino. There’s the whole lot of reasons certain industries lag behind others. This is one of those industries, to me, that is ripe for digital transformation. Because, other than nail salons, what other industry uses as much cash as we do? And with cash comes problems: loss. The cost of cash.

When you start to think about everything a casino does, you’ve got the cash in the machine, you’ve got the cash in the vault, you’ve got the cash prepped to be able to roll into the places to give it to the guest as they come in. It’s 3x the cost of cash than what it should be. So, when you think about these multi-billion-dollar organizations – and now with the cost of inflation and interest rates, and the cost to operate – to carry that amount of money, just hanging out is a terrible waste of resources.

So, the more we can help them dramatically consolidate the cash that’s in use, the more this will help their profitability, and certainly help change their direction of their profit and loss. This ultimately translates into better stock prices and all of the things that are associated with it. In my 30 years in this industry, it continues to rapidly evolve, things become more and more efficient.

And I assume the move to digitization protects casinos from the Danny Oceans of the world?

(Laughs) You bet. Of course, anybody who hasn’t been in a casino vault would be stunned to see it doesn't look as beautiful as Ocean’s Eleven. It’s a room full of filing cabinets. But when you think about the Danny Oceans, when you start even taking it down to micro-level, whether it’s the organized folks – and I’m not talking organized crime per se, but the little fraud rings and the people who are trying to continually run scams on the casino.When it comes to cash, it’s really hard to figure that out, right?

You can’t see it. There’s no connectivity between you and me. So, if we were to walk in and run our game, because it’s cash, you really can’t track it or tie it back to commonality points; if they catch me, they don’t necessarily catch you, or they don’t catch either one of us. When you start to get into things like electronics and “what can I do with my understanding of you and your mobile device?” compared to anything else, I can tell it’s you just by the way you text, type and interact with the phone.

You need the ability to go through and validate: who is the guest; are they real; are the accounts associated with them authentic; do they have the authority to use them? You start getting down into certainty and if we can start helping with that certainty it’ll reduce fraud losses. It reduces so many other things. Again, this all adds profitability.

You place a premium on eliminating friction in payments. How do you do that?

It’s years and years of expertise. I think the easiest way to start is to talk about the mobile app we’ve got. We came out with an original prototype that had all kinds of amazing capabilities, all of which are still sitting in the incubator. But then you have to start looking at it from a couple of different perspectives.

One is “what does the guest expect when they interact with that?” And the question is, “who’s the guest? Is it your mother? Is it your grandmother?” It’s a huge span and the applications themselves have to be useful for everybody. They have to be intuitive for everybody.

When you think about my kid, who grew up with an iPad, versus my mother, two technically different generations. So, we’ve got to go through and think about that. We spent a lot of time with Apple and Google UI and UX people to test out. We said, 'Hey here’s an application.

Now, if you want to play, what would you do, looking at the app and how would you play it?' To me, you’d push the big “Play” button. The fact of the matter is 37% of people push the “Amount” button. Now, you push the “Amount” button, you push the “Play” button, they take you to the destination that you expect; because we know through testing and research, before we release this, that that’s what you expect as a guest and we want to deliver on your expectation.

What are your goals for the rest of 2023 and looking into 2024?

There’s a myriad of blocking and tackling things that we’ve been trying to do. One of the areas we’ve focused on through our separation from Global Payments was elevating our team. We were hell-bent on putting programs in place to really elevate benefits and capabilities for our staff.

The belief being, if we take really good care of our people, they will take really good care of our customers, and then our customers will take good care of us. It just winds up being a self-repeating process. That also translates into doubling our staff in a variety of areas, like our service organization and our tech-support organization.

Because, let’s face it, we are in the casino industry and they expect the ambulance to appear when there’s a papercut. We want to make sure that we are that kind of company and we feel that also marries up very well with the reliability of our tech stack. If we can marry that up with Johnny-on-the-Spot, no company will service our customers any better than we will.

Some of the stuff we’re doing in innovation and the product set, of tying our brick-and-mortar capabilities into the iGaming capabilities, is another big thing that we’re working on; because we’re really the only omnichannel payment provider in the space. We’ve got relationships with the great majority of the online folks, as well as 400-some-odd brick-and-mortar casinos.

The ability to be here, participate in something in Vegas, but still go back home to Colorado and play sports and your money is still there and useful – ‘cause it’s your money, right – it’s not anybody else’s. But how do we make all of that work, within the rules and regs of 146 jurisdictions and all the other stuff that goes on?

We’ve got some amazing capabilities and have been able to deliver on that. I would say our biggest focus, outbound-wise, still remains you as the guest. Because if I can take care of you as the guest, that means you’re going to participate with our customers with more frequency – probably shift more of your gaming wallet towards places that are delivering that better experience. If we can do that, then I’m delivering value to you, which delivers value to our casino properties; and that flywheel just continues.

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