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U.S. Gaming Industry's Cashless Adoption Slowing Post-COVID

April 29, 2024
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Although the pandemic may have accelerated the move by U.S. consumers toward touch-free, cashless payment methods in general, that transition has taken casinos longer to embrace due to various factors, including the industry’s strict regulatory environment.

Although the pandemic may have accelerated the move by U.S. consumers toward touch-free, cashless payment methods in general, that transition has taken casinos longer to embrace due to various factors, including the industry’s strict regulatory environment.

At the height of the pandemic four years ago, there was a steady stream of mainstream media articles on how the coronavirus was set to speed up the adoption of cashless wagering on casino floors.

Such predictions are now less prevalent, however, even as fintech and payment company executives insist there is still strong demand for cashless gaming in casinos in general.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created some very specific conditions that incentivized vendors and operators to develop new ways to pay, including cashless and contactless payments,” Dan Connors, CEO of Pavilion Payments, told Vixio Gambling°ϲʹ.

“While the contactless aspect has become less important as the pandemic has receded, awareness and demand for cashless is alive and well,” Connors said.

Victor Newsom, senior vice president of product management with Everi Holdings, agreed that there was a sense of urgency during the height of the pandemic.

“It wasn’t just in gaming but a panic of, how do we engage consumers differently?” Newsom said. “You saw it at your neighborhood restaurant, suddenly being able to take food orders online and through DoorDash. Entirely new economic models were developed.”

Newsom told Vixio there was an appearance, not just in the gaming industry but for the entire U.S. population during the COVID-19 pandemic, that cashless payments were suddenly everywhere.

“You saw people tapping with cards that never tapped with cards before,” Newsom said. “Tapping with phones for the first time. Anything to reduce the risk of contagion.”

In 2020, Nevada regulators approved changes to two gaming regulations covering the electronic transfers of money to games or gaming devices. Previously, regulations allowed customers to transfer money from debit cards to a game or gaming device, but very few properties had approved systems in place.

Two years later, regulators also approved another regulatory change to allow gamblers to establish wagering accounts for cashless gaming remotely, ahead of arriving at a casino cage.

Specific regulations to allow for cashless gaming to be offered in land-based casinos have also been adopted since 2020 in various other states, including Missouri and South Dakota. Regulators in Massachusetts and Florida continue to consider the issue.

Newsom attributed the regulatory changes in Nevada and other states to regulators being willing to do anything to protect gaming tax revenues during an unprecedented crisis.

“The temperature has cooled quite a bit,” Newsom told Vixio. “The sense of urgency behind it has backed off. But I do think if you were to look at this as a spectrum of consciousness, then everyone has forgotten about cashless.” 

For the casino industry, evolving to a fully cashless environment similar to other economic sectors involves “education challenges” at various levels, according to Brendan Bussmann, managing partner with B2 Global Advisors in Las Vegas.

“Not only do you need to modernize your [gaming] floor to take into account these advances in technology but in some cases, you need to modernize the regulations to support them,” Bussmann said.

“Nevada’s a case in point,” Bussmann said. “I should be able to register on an app today (as I do with any other industry) that can verify who I am, source of funds, etc. It causes friction with the process and if the process takes longer than what you do today [for other products], there just won’t be a shift in behavior.”

Prior to COVID-19, cashless gaming was generally limited to patrons being able to establish a cashless wagering account at a casino.

“It was never popular because of all the friction,” Newsom said. “What we saw post-COVID, there was a willingness to have this conversation about new products [and] services.”

Still, Newsom warned that consumers also now have greater expectations of convergence between e-commerce and retail. Businesses across the transit, hospitality and entertainment industries, including casinos, are “getting squeezed together across different systems that were never designed to do everything.” 

Newsom stressed that the fintech industry does have broad support from the gaming industry to keep moving forward with new innovations.

“But what we have seen, at least what we’ve done, we have deployed systematic changes that will allow for a regulatory friendly set of options that will help mitigate cash demand on the floor,” he said.

For example, Newsom said, Everi has developed a quick ticket that allows a customer to buy a TITO (ticket-in, ticket-out) ticket with a debit card for use in a slot machine or at a gaming table.

“You don’t have to sign up for a wallet,” he said. “I don’t have to sign up at the cage for a cashless wagering account. The operator didn’t have to spend millions of dollars upgrading their slot machines to be cashless.”

The appeal for casino customers, Newsom said, is that when the consumer is done gaming, the $1,000 left on the TITO ticket can be sent back to their bank account through their debit card.

“What that means is you have an entirely cashless life cycle,” he added. “Now you’ve created an infrastructure that is available right across almost every jurisdiction with a form factor that everyone understands.”


         

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