Within a few months, you may be able to enter certain Pennsylvania casinos with no money in your wallet, never touch an ATM, but play slot machines.
This is because Boyd Gaming Corp., which owns Valley Forge Casino Resort, and Penn National Gaming, owner of Hollywood and Meadows casinos, are pioneers in transitioning the gaming industry to cashless transactions.
In recent raffles, executives from the two multi-state gaming companies touted their separate plans to put their Pennsylvania casinos at the forefront of national efforts to end total reliance on the use of cash for gambling.
The switch to the use of money by gamblers who access loyalty cards or smartphone wallets has been a goal of operators for years and has received new impetus from the COVID-19 pandemic as all health concerns about contacting them have recently been raised The same materials and surfaces are made touched by dozens of strangers.
According to industry representatives, if gambling money can be stored and used on customers' own devices, they will simply adapt casinos to a funding format that their younger demographic has become accustomed to in other transactions – be it buying a cup of coffee or something else.
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"We certainly don't force customers to do it," said Blake Rampmaier, Boyd senior vice president and chief information officer. "It's something, if you use it, you can. This type of functionality is increasingly used, understood and accepted by consumers in various industries."
CEOs want to get started as soon as possible
In an interview with Penn Bets, Rampmaier responded to comments Boyd President and CEO Kevin E. Smith had made on a corporate earnings announcement on February 16.
Smith described how the company worked with Aristocrat Technologies on the BoydPay cashless digital wallet, which was first implemented in casinos in Indiana and Ohio and is being tested in Nevada. The company hopes to add it in Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Louisiana by the end of March, subject to regulatory approval.
"Later this year, BoydPay will become a true digital experience, a cashless wallet available on smartphones that we pay for for everything we sell in our properties across the country," said Smith.
"In the long term, this digital wallet will be functional beyond the walls of our properties as we work to integrate the BoydPay digital wallet into our online products," he added. "This integration enables us to offer our guests a seamless experience between digital gaming experiences and our traditional characteristics and to create the possibility to stay in touch with our customers wherever they want to play with us."
Jay Snowden, President and CEO of Penn National, told analysts that the company's three Cs are expected to launch in Pennsylvania in the first half of 2021: “Our new cashless, cardless and contactless technology will improve efficiency and a guest experience that is consistent with other industries frequented by younger populations in the past. We assume that this will also lead to further additional income for us. "
Snowden has previously spoken about the inefficiency associated with moving all paper bills around casinos, with the need to track, store, count and report them in a way that would be exponentially faster and safer by digital means.
"We can't move forward fast enough as an industry," Snowden said last year, and the American Gaming Association ran a campaign to promote the transition, which includes guidelines on how casinos and regulators should act in ways that do so Serves the interests of operators, consumers and law enforcement agencies with their ongoing concerns about money laundering that can take place in casinos.
The first phase includes familiar loyalty cards
Rampmaier said that from Boyd's perspective, the transition available to customers in his properties like Valley Forge would come in phases.
In the first phase, players could use their debit or credit cards or the cash deposited in the cashier's cage to fund accounts linked to the company's “B Connected” loyalty card program.
Currently, players can sit down at a slot machine, insert their loyalty card and, if they do not want to use money to play, use their PIN code to access any credits they have received from previous games or competitions. With the new system, Valley Forge customers will have additional access to funds that they may have previously deposited into their account, or they can electronically re-deposit while they are at the machine.
"You insert your B Connected card into the slot machine and an additional screen will appear. You will be notified that you have money in your wallet and asked how much you want to bring into the slot machine," explained Rampmaier. "It's a virtual account. … When you withdraw the card from your slot machine session, the money can flow back directly into your cash account. And you can switch back to digital accounts at any time."
It means no more having to get up from the machine when you run out of money to go to the nearest ATM and get more cash. This is not necessarily a good thing, according to some leading responsible gambling advocates who believe that such necessary pauses in a losing player's activity can keep them from getting carried away.
However, Rampaier notes that the new technology would allow customers to limit in advance how much money they can access from their accounts in any given period of time. This is a feature that is similar to the responsible gaming options available on iGaming websites, touted by online operators as a means of controlling excessive spending, and which have traditionally not been available in brick and mortar casinos.
Smartphones can replace the use of cards in the future
The new way of using your loyalty player accounts to play slot machines is just the first step in a broader program, Rampmaier said.
In the following months, customers could access funds on these accounts to play table games, purchase meals or use other casino amenities.
In addition, the technology developed for the B Connected mobile app ultimately enables customers to use their smartphone for a contactless experience when accessing funds at slot machines, tables or restaurants without presenting their card. This gives casino guests all the options that they are increasingly finding in the rest of society.
“It's been on the roadmap for four or five years. … COVID has certainly accelerated this, "said Rampmaier. “We know customers in other industries have more contactless experiences, whether it's Starbucks, Target, or swiping your phone over the machine at the gas station. … If this is something that appeals to you, this is your opportunity or choice. Our overall goal is to make the experience run smoothly. "
Rampmaier said the company has some estimates of how much and how quickly its gaming volume will be converted to cashless form, but it is unwilling to make them public.
And first, state regulators will need to opt out before the new options become available. Rampmaier said regulators have been generally receptive so far, while of course they had questions about how the new process works, how customers control it, what options they have, how financial reporting is adjusted to the state, and so on.
Boyd is optimistic about getting approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in the first quarter of the year, Rampaier said while the wait could go further and "we look forward to your approval."
The Board's staff have had discussions with Boyd / Valley Forge and other operators on how to apply the regulations previously approved by the Board on this matter. There is still no schedule for an operator to get approval and begin the transition as no formal requests have been made, said chief executive officer Doug Harbach.
"Our employees have had productive discussions with a number of licensees about programs that enable cashless transactions," he said. "In all of our discussions, we have told licensees that when they are prepared to review specifications, they will submit a template to us so that we can perform a system review and develop internal controls for those systems."
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