More on the Topic of Cashless Casinos

Though cashless transactions seem to many to be a function of the new world that COVID-19 has created, cashless wagering isn’t entirely new in the gambling and gaming industries.  Think slot machines without coins; bitcoin and other virtual currency in gaming; and cashless wagering accounts on cruiselines – to name a few.  That said, recent events have brought the idea of increased cashless wagering opportunities to land-based casinos.  Some issues to consider:

  • There is some research that suggests that people spend more when they pay by cards as opposed to cash. 
  • Ease of access and the fact that a player doesn’t have to keep track of cash are part of the issue for those with a gambling problem.  If a player doesn’t “see” the impact; if the money doesn’t seem “real,” and if the play can be continuous with the addition of more funds at the push of a button, these elements can contribute to a person’s inability to stop gambling?
  • Responsible Gambling is also the responsibility of the gambler – some research shows gambling/game play tools are most effective if the player chooses to initiate them

Our ECPG LIVE! Event on Cashless Casinos included robust conversation around the topic.  This ECPG EXTRA! Features additional information and Q&A with our guest presenters.

Q:  What impact do you see cashless wagering having on people affected by problem gambling?

  • Cashless gaming is likely to increase risk of gambling problems. Research makes clear that financial problems are among the most common consequences of gambling addiction. Indeed, borrowing money to relieve gambling-related financial problems is one of the criteria for gambling disorder. Increasing losses may lead to chasing, intensifying a cycle of desperation “often driven by irrational and erroneous cognitions.” Digital payments may increase these problems by allowing gamblers greater access to their funds more quickly. Each type of payment used for gambling—from cash to debit cards to e-wallets—can impact how quickly and easily individuals may access more money, how much they can obtain at a time, and add additional costs, such as ATM fees or interest charges. Electronic funds may not be seen as “real” money, resulting in higher spending. These negative impacts may be particularly pronounced among people with gambling problems.

Q:  What consumer protections are in place to help those who struggle with gambling problems when cashless wagering can trigger those problems?

  • One solution is to increase responsible gambling measures. Payments systems must allow individuals to set responsible limits for themselves and allow for vital tools such as self-exclusion to be accessed more easily than ever before. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has published Guidelines for Payments Processing that highlights pertinent requirements for all regulators to consider when implementing protocols for cashless systems. These guidelines detailed below cover limits, KYC, exclusion, information, and research in order to mitigate risk and reduce harm associated with cashless wagering.

Q:  The American Gaming Association (AGA) has created a set of principles for regulators considering cashless transactions in casinos.  It states:  “Equip customers with more tools to wager responsibly.”  What are those tools; what’s available now and what’s being developed for the future? 

  • While the AGA principles don’t have much specificity, tools would include limit setting, self exclusion and other options outlined in our RG Payments Guidelines.

Q:  What safeguards – what consumer protections are being put in place upfront – now – to ensure a safe environment that addresses responsible gambling issues?  Isn’t it important to put these in place before the cashless options are offered?  Won’t it be harder to add them later?

  • Yes, NCPG strongly believes strong protections must be put in place in advance. Also important to know that Responsible Gambling protections around payments are only a small part of a comprehensive public health solution that includes prevention, education, treatment, enforcement, research, responsible gambling and recovery programs.

Q: Will the casino set limits or the player?  What other responsible gambling tools will be available to players and how do they learn about them and how to implement them?

  • Depends on the jurisdiction, company, property, and vendor. Tools can be required or optional, limits can be opt-in or opt-out, they can be highly visible or hidden in legalese.  Casinos like in Massachusetts could even promote the utilization of limit setting tools by rewarding players. 

Q: What data will be accessed through this new system?  Play time; player behavior; amount spent: etc. Who will have access to the data?  Will it be shared (without player identification) with researchers working on gambling disorder issues?

  • It is our understanding that these systems will collect extensive data, which will likely be merged with additional data collected by the casino, such as loyalty card usage, and perhaps even data purchased from third-party vendors on non-casino transactions. NCPG strongly suggests that companies voluntarily share anonymized data with researchers, consistent with privacy protection laws, and that regulators require such sharing.

Q:  Will there be a certain threshold or limit at which prize money MUST include identification to collect instead of direct transfer to account? For instance, will casinos check for back, unpaid child support or other debts prior to awarding payments directly to a player’s account?

  • We understand ID checks (part of the Know Your Customer, or KYC, protocols) are requested at $1,000 transactions and required at $2,000 and above.

Watch the complete episode here: ECPG LIVE! Cashless Casinos

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