Home Where the Money’s At: The Future of Casino Cash Transactions

Where the Money’s At: The Future of Casino Cash Transactions

Where is the future of casino monetary transactions heading? As sure as bill validators and TITO dramatically changed the relationship of coins to currency on the slot floor, so too will electronic wallets and contactless payment systems affect the landscape of casino cash transactions.

Today’s slot players must negotiate a number of inconvenient hurdles both prior to and directly after enjoying their favorite game, including ATMs, bill validators, ticket printers and stationary ticket redemption kiosks. While our older players still remember and appreciate the technological leap from coin to currency, these once innovative tools designed specifically to convert currency to credits and back again are now barriers to expanding our dwindling player base.

In fact, three out of four Americans say they use less cash today than 10 years ago, according to a MasterCard poll of more than 1,000 adults about their views and attitudes toward the increasing use of electronic payments.

Additionally, the same survey showed that members of Gen X (ages 32-47) are most in favor of a world where they pay for everything electronically and don’t have to carry cash at all (61 percent). This generation came of age during the evolution of electronic banking and online shopping and is extremely comfortable with both the convenience and the technology utilized in these processes. Is it any wonder that this generation does not find our products compelling?

From online purchases with credit, debit and prepaid cards to making purchases via electronic apps, the average potential casino customer has more choices than ever when it comes to electronic payments. These options offer a host of benefits that cash can’t touch, like speed, convenience, guaranteed payment for transactions, and security for consumers.

It has become increasingly clear that we must adapt our payment systems to leverage current available technologies, such as electronic wallets and contactless payments, if we wish to introduce a new generation to the entertainment options our industry can provide.

A digital wallet, or e-wallet, allows users to make electronic payment transactions quickly and securely. The phrase “mobile wallet” is also increasingly being used to describe smartphones that securely store an individual’s financial credentials and utilize wireless technologies such as near field communication (NFC) to carry out commercial transactions. While radio-based payment systems have been around for over a decade, the technology has, until recently, been limited to specific venues and credit card companies.

The rapid adoption of mobile wallets has expanded in large part due to a partnership between MasterCard and Google with the introduction of Google Wallet. This mobile payment system allows its users to store debit cards, credit cards, loyalty cards and gift cards on their mobile phone and utilizes NFC to make secure payments fast and convenient by simply tapping the phone on any PayPass-enabled terminal at checkout. There are many other mobile wallet applications available in the market today, including PayPal, Amazon, ISIS and Giesecke & Devrient (G&D), just to name a few.

No matter which mobile wallet you choose, its functionality is completely dependent on the contactless payment infrastructure the wallet service has in place to support you. Contactless payment systems are credit cards and debit cards, key fobs, smartcards or other devices that use RFID for making secure payments. The embedded chip and antenna enable consumers to wave their card or fob over a reader at the point of sale.

The Square Wallet by Square Up uses geolocation and wireless networks to tell if you are in the vicinity of the retailer and allows you to confirm your transaction with your name. While the benefit of this technology is clear, the current limitations of geolocation would make it nearly impossible to implement in a casino environment, as there are several hundred retail outlets (slot machines) in a tight space.

With this in mind, JCM Global, Techfirm Inc. and NRT Technology Corp. have teamed together to provide a mobile wager network that connects players’ mobile wallets through redemption ATM kiosks and the gaming device. Although this will allow casinos to utilize mobile wallets on their gaming floors, the operator must retrofit slot machines with new validators containing the necessary NFC chip to utilize this service. Additionally, ATMs will have to be equipped with the same technology, and the solution will only operate with smart devices incorporating NFC as a standard option.

While many smartphones today offer NFC capability, notably absent is the Apple iPhone, which comprises 32 percent of all U.S. smartphone users. The consumer market will no doubt demand the inclusion of NFC technology, or a viable alternative, in their smart phones, and innovative players like JCM will adapt accordingly. But will the potential value to the player offset the additional costs to the property? Will this solution attract new players? If the player must still visit an ATM to load their mobile wallet and use their cell phone for every transaction with a slot machine, haven’t we just replaced one poor experience for another?

Companies like Apple, Starbucks, Uber and Square have simplified the customer experience for ordering and paying for services. Money Centers of America has taken that same approach in developing its business-to-customer applications for the gaming marketplace. The company provides a secure and easy to use payment and compliance solution that is integrated across land-based, mobile and online platforms.

Money Centers’ mobile application allows users to buy chips, get cash and check available limits right from their phone, tablet or computer without leaving their gaming position. It also provides integrated compliance tools for verifying funds, age, identity and location.

The Money Centers e-wallet enables cashless gaming whether using a physical players club card on the casino floor, a virtual card online, or a smartphone app from a mobile device. Once customers are issued their e-wallet token, they can virtually associate that wallet with multiple players club cards from the casinos and gaming sites where they play. The e-wallet token interfaces separately with the debit/credit card or check guarantee provider, allowing for the buying-in or cashing-out of funds.

Because it makes sense to provide players as many options as possible to load credits or fund e-wallets, Money Centers provides ATM, credit card, POS debit and check cashing in both mobile and online environments.

The potential value of any mobile wallet is only as good as the customers’ ability to immediately access their funds. Many of the current e-wallet providers utilize Money Wires, which are costly, or ACH and paper checks, which aren’t immediate. Money Centers has solved this fundamental basic problem. Customers can instantly cash out via a unique feature that Money Centers offers whereby funds are deposited using consumers’ existing debit cards, which are linked to their bank accounts.

Every service we provide in the casino environment has its cost, and the expenses associated with mobile wallets are no exception. How do we pay for the fees associated with the financial transactions? Because the major credit card companies and financial institutions routinely deny services to gambling related activities, it will be necessary to process our wallet deposits as cash advances, an activity that the card companies charge a premium to use. There is also a premium associated with offloading funds to a player’s bank account. Will the player see these fees as a normal cost of doing business in an electronic world, or does it make more sense for the casino to factor these fees in to the total cost of the experience?

While the solutions are not yet obvious, the problem is crystal clear. We must adapt to the transactional capabilities of the 21st century or risk being viewed as irrelevant to the next generation of players. Fortunately, we have a clear path to follow and technology that can be rapidly adapted.

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