The expectation is Coronavirus’s shutdown of the US casino industry will hasten the spread of online gambling across the country.

But a shifting attitude towards online gambling products is only one of the ways the industry might change in the aftermath of COVID-19.

As much as online gambling can help, the US gaming industry understands where its bread is buttered, and that’s at their terrestrial casinos. With that in mind, another significant change (that is long overdue) is contactless transactions at brick and mortar casinos.

AGA Chief’s Signature Issue

Since taking over the reins of the American Gaming Association (AGA) in January 2019, Bill Miller has made cashless gaming his signature policy issue.

In an interview that appeared in the January 2020 issue of Gaming Law Review (paywall), Miller said the following in regards to the gaming industry’s antiquated money policies:

“For the life of me, I don’t understand how an industry that is as modern as the 21st-century gaming industry can offer guests first-in-class hospitality, restaurants, entertainment, spas, and all sorts of exciting opportunities, and yet if they walk onto the casino floor and they want to pay digitally in the same way that they’ve paid for every other part of their experience, it’s unwelcome.”

In the interview, Miller went on to say that cashless gaming not only strengthens opportunities for the industry, but it also assists law enforcement, regulators, and responsible gaming advocates. Cashless gaming increases the efficacy of Know Your Customer checks, allows for better tracking of betting behaviors, and strengthens anti-money laundering compliance.

Miller’s sentiments seem even more prescient in the current environment of Coronavirus. The pandemic has ushered in an era where social distancing and fewer unnecessary interactions are imperative, providing yet another reason to embrace cashless gaming.

The Deployment of Products That Cut Down on Interactions

The industry is also coming to grips with the need for contactless transactions systems.

In a recent interview with Fantini Research, Mike Rumbolz, the CEO of Everi, made it clear that brick and mortar operators need to modernize and embrace everything from online gambling to things like contactless payments.

“Having online coupled with a brick and mortar casino is the key to the future. Both for online gambling, but also, bricks and mortar casino operators are going to have that offering in their quiver if they’re going to be a full-service operation,” Rumbolz told Frank Fantini.

In terms of terrestrial products, Rumbolz had this to say:

“There’s a couple things we have done, and I think they’ve gone overlooked until suddenly people got very concerned about touching surfaces… We had already introduced a cashless solution a while back called quick ticket that allows you to purchase a ticket for a gaming device from a kiosk and not have to handle cash.”

According to Rumbolz, two Las Vegas operators have already started installing these kiosks, which are in the process of being developed into a near contactless solution that only requires the insertion of a player’s card and entering a pin.  

The Next Generation of Contactless Payments

To go fully contactless, Everi has also developed a digital wallet that can be used to purchase a ticket, and ultimately, to put credits onto a slot machine. Rumbolz is hopeful the company can introduce a full digital wallet by the end of summer.

Rumbolz explained the process this way:

  • A player sets up their account from anywhere (even at home) using personal identification and either linking a card or checking account or preloading a specific amount in the wallet.
  • At the casino, the player can either receive a ticket or, when available, to directly transfer the money onto the gaming device.
  • When the gaming experience is over, players can transfer whatever money is in their digital wallet back to the funding source or leave it in the digital wallet.

Obstacles Remain, but Contactless Is the Future

The major hurdle with digital wallets will be the need to update slot machines to accept digital wallets (whether via a player’s club card or through Bluetooth technology) and integrate them across companies.

Another hang-up is integration. A universal digital wallet system will require cross-company integration for the digital wallet to work with all slot machines, regardless of the company that produces them.

Friction points aside, unlike plexiglass barriers, contactless payments are long overdue in the gaming industry, and once installed they’re likely here to stay.

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