The insistence of the U.S. casino industry on the use of cash for wagering has become more and more antiquated, as some in a generation of potential young new players who grew up in a mostly cash-less society shrug their shoulders and walk off the casino floor.
But the casinos’ stance — like so many other aspects of American society — may change in light of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, the American Gaming Association released a “Payments Modernization Policy Principles” report based in large part on polling showing that 57% of recent casino visitors describe the option for digital or contact-less payments as “important” given the current circumstances.
“Enabling payment choice allows casino customers the ability to supplement cash with safe and secure digital payment options on the casino floor,” AGA President Bill Miller said in a statement. “This not only improves responsible gaming efforts by equipping customers with digital tools to help them monitor their gaming and set limits, but also provides operators, regulators, and law enforcement increased transparency into matters of anti-money laundering and monitoring of financial transactions.
“Advancing opportunities for digital payments has been one of our top priorities since my first day at the AGA,” Miller added. “It aligns with gaming’s role as a modern, 21st century industry and bolsters our already rigorous regulatory and responsible gaming measures.
“The COVID-19 pandemic made it all the more important to advance our efforts to provide customers with the payment choice they are more comfortable with and have increasingly come to expect in their daily lives.”
More than a year in the making
Early in 2019, the AGA convened a group of members to evaluate the regulatory, processing, and consumer landscape related to expanding payment options on the casino floor. The Payments Modernization Policy Principles — the product of that collaborative effort — seek to educate state and tribal regulators who are considering expanding payment choice about how to:
- Equip customers with more tools to wager responsibly.
- Give customers payment choice and convenience.
- Ensure state laws enable a flexible regulatory approach, capable of keeping pace with evolving forms of digital payments.
- Address heightened customer public health concerns.
- Provide customers confidence in digital payment security.
- Create a uniform regulatory environment for casino operators, suppliers, and regulators.
- Empower law enforcement to better identify offenders through digital payment analysis.
Recent AGA research found that 59% of past-year casino visitors are less likely to use cash in their everyday lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This translates to customer preferences on the casino floor, as more than half (54%) indicate that they would be very likely to utilize a digital or contact-less payment option when they gamble.
Last October, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a key figure in the landmark state victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 when the court ruled that all states could offer legal sports betting, told a story at the Global Gaming Expo that illustrated the AGA’s point.
Christie pulled out a wad of bills from his pocket, noting that his then-26-year-old son “doesn’t carry around any of this.”
So when Christie’s son attended a wedding at a country club last year, when the valet came around with the car at departure time, his son said, “What’s your Venmo account? I don’t carry cash, but I want to tip you.”
“If you don’t make mobile easily accessible to them, then they will not bet — they just won’t,” Christie said last year. “And don’t make them go to a casino to sign up, or to collect their winnings. They just won’t use your product.”
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