While the idea of going to a casino without a wad of cash in your hand may still feel somewhat counterintuitive to some, there is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated an American move away from carrying cash. From ApplePay to food apps to debit cards, the next generation rarely carries cash, and some Nevada casinos — Resorts World-Las Vegas among them — are testing cashless casino play.
The experience sounds seamless: You can play casino games, eat at a restaurant, or buy a drink at the bar without ever handing over a piece of paper money. All transactions can be made with a unique digital account, and all points earned automatically go to a player’s loyalty rewards program.
But the experience isn’t completely seamless. There is, as the industry likes to call it, a “friction point” at the very start of the process. In order to get a cashless account, players must register in person.
“You have to go to the loyalty window, and then you have to go to the cage to get verified,” said Jonathan Michaels, SVP of strategic development and government affairs of Sightline Payments, which provides payment solutions to gaming operators. “The quickest you can do this is seven minutes, but sometimes people wait an hour. Think about other industries, like Starbucks or banking — the standard [account signup] is about three minutes.”
One more step toward modernization
Michaels and his company are aiming to bring Nevada casinos in line with those other companies. Sightline proposed a change to Nevada’s gaming regulations that would allow for digital identity verification, which in layman’s terms means that you can kiss the line goodbye, as patrons would be able to register their casino accounts online.
The move would be just one more modest step in continuing to modernize Nevada’s regulations. In June, the state made rule changes that enhanced Nevada’s cashless gaming regulations and, following that, updated policies around cashless gaming technology.
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Nevada already allows remote registration for online peer-to-peer poker, but does not allow it for sports betting. Sightline Payment’s request for a rule change would not affect sports wagering.
“The aim of the changes suggested by the petitioner is to create a better player experience, principally by offering choice and limiting friction, and this deserves consideration so long as we do not short-cut necessary regulatory oversight and controls,” said Nevada Gaming Gaming Control Board member Philip Katsaros. “Why make someone do all this if we can still maintain integrity? I do not see a compelling reason to require someone to sign up in person for such a wagering account, and wait in a queue if they don’t wish to, so long as we can still maintain full integrity of the process.”
On Thursday, the NGCB will hold a workshop and public comment session on the proposal following its regular meeting. The board will then forward its recommendations to the Nevada Gaming Commission, which could consider the change at its December meeting.
Digital signup allows for more RG controls
Among the reasons to move to a digital signup, Michaels said, are enhancements in responsible gaming tools and a casino’s ability to track a player. With cash transactions, players can be anonymous.
“I could go into my FanDuel app and see how much I’ve won or lost, and I could say, ‘Hey, I’m not OK with this,’” Michaels said. “And then I could set time or deposit limits. It gives you more control.”
Said Katsaros: “Cashless or electronic activity allows regulators to track and monitor activity from a responsible gaming perspective, and as a result, velocity controls and player messaging, as examples, have been able to be utilized and introduced in a more effective manner.”
And while there are some advantages on the responsible gaming front to going cashless or allowing for remote registration, there are also some concerns, among them that any controls should be opt-out, rather than opt-in, or that using debit is safer than using credit.
“When we remove these friction points in the digital realm, it’s much easier to to lose track of, especially if you’re not getting any real-time data,” said Brianne Doura-Schawohl, vice president of policy and strategic development for EPIC Risk Management . “We know, especially from research in the U.K. and Australia, that people engage in much riskier and irresponsible gaming” in a cashless system.
Doura-Schawohl advocates for the ability to track, message, and help players with control via digital accounts, but also puts the onus back on the companies advocating for remote registration to make responsible gaming tools accessible and clearly available.
“If we’re going to remove this ‘friction,’ then we should make sure that we are replacing it with other controls. How many people spend more money on Amazon than at the store? I mean, there’s no ‘friction points,’” she said. “I don’t want to come across as all doom and gloom, but it’s a matter of how they approach it that will determine its success or failure.”
In the bigger picture, a change to the identity verification process could not only bring Nevada casinos more in line with other industries, but could potentially lay the groundwork for remote registration for sports betting.
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