Losing cash now spells good news for US land-based casinos

Throughout casino history, things like blowing on dice for luck, standing shoulder-to-shoulder at card tables, and handling paper bills have been the norm. As Covid-19 restrictions begin to lift around the world, these practices must change as the focus shifts to more sanitary environments.

The American Gaming Association (AGA), a trade group that represents the $261 billion American casino industry is planning to eliminate the need for paper bills at casinos.

In a recent report, the AGA details seven recommendations for the creation of a digital payment system on casino floors. The ever-present fear of new Covid-19 infections in casinos due to cash handling largely inspired these changes.

Bill Miller, CEO of AGA told the Associated Press that the move to a modern payment system has been in the pipeline for a while.

"Advancing opportunities for digital payments has been one of our top priorities since my first day at the AGA,” said Miller. “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.”

Tech to the rescue

A few casinos in the U.S. had already implemented digital payment options before the appearance of Covid-19. However, cash was still the preferred option across the country, with credit cards being shunned in many locations. Considering recent events, cash has lost its preferred status as the Covid-19 virus can remain on the surface of paper currency.

AGA revealed the findings of a private survey that showed that 59 percent of casino customers claimed to be less likely to use cash because of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 57 percent stating that they wanted a safer, digital alternative to cash payments because of the virus.

The popularity of digital payment options like Google, Apple Pay, and PayPal has been on the rise recently and casinos have now stopped resisting the transition to this new technology.

The AGA’s seven steps lay out how the industry can transition to the use of digital payment options. The customer-related measures include equipping customers with a safe and convenient range of payment options. According to the AGA, providing options such as "credit cards, debit cards, or debit-enabled forms of payment such as mobile payment apps, player reward cards, or digital wallets" as well as providing customers with peace of mind has the benefit of better integration between payment systems in casinos and those at their surrounding resorts.

Double-edged Sword

The AGA says that giving customers the ability to track their payments through a digital interface may also prevent instances of reckless spending. However, it has been proven that digitized forms of gambling also come with their particular potential for abuse.

OpenUp, a New York-based behavioural research start-up conducted research that found that consumers who use digital forms of payment bought twice as many goods as they thought they did. This is partially due to the intentionally frictionless spending environments of digital wallet interfaces.

This ease of spending could harm the estimated two million adults in the U.S. who have a gambling addiction, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. The relative safety and convenience of digital payments at casinos is contrasted by the potentially negative effects on how people regulate their spending when playing.

Privacy protection is also a major concern when it comes to digital payments. With this in mind, the AGA has also advised that casinos need to ensure that all digital payment options used should meet modern data-protection standards before being adopted.

To date, there is no set timeline for the nationwide implementation of these new systems and no consensus has been reached on which systems are likely to be used. 621 casinos have already reopened across the country, so the need to implement these safety-focused changes is more crucial than ever.