Technology has been a continuous driver of evolution in a variety of industries, and casinos are no exception.
Technology drove the advent of cash and credits being possible in slots instead of just dropping coins, followed by ticket in, ticket out (TITO) technology. Players cards allowed for casinos to more precisely track play, and in turn improve casino offers to players in terms of accuracy.
Now, the industry is looking to two, somewhat related changes that put technology front and center.
The first is cardless gaming technology. Today, players have to have a card to play in a casino, and if you’re going to multiple casinos, owned by multiple entities or with multiple casino loyalty programs, you’ll need a card for each. Forgetting to bring a card, or losing your card, forces a wait in a players club line for a replacement.
However, casinos are beginning to experiment with cardless gaming options, where your phone becomes your players card. These sorts of technologies are similarly being rolled out by hotels to make your phone your room key.
The line of thinking is your phone will be more secure than a piece of plastic, it is more ecofriendly and cost friendly, and you’re less likely to lose your phone.
Of course, it’s unlikely the card slot will disappear anytime soon; not everyone has a compatible smartphone and not everyone is tech savvy, but over time you could save a lot of plastic, machine wear and tear and so on.
Similarly, cashless gaming is being tested by casino companies as a way to further reduce the friction around cash. Instead of putting cash or a ticket into a machine, your players card (or phone, as previously discussed) can have an account with a balance that you can deposit money into a machine, and withdraw out of a machine.
If you take your card out of a machine or sign out, it can automatically upload your remaining credits back to your account, eliminating the risk of you leaving a ticket behind or money in the machine.
For those who use markers today, this can be a helpful alternative, using the cash you already have and avoiding having to remember to pay back a casino.
The biggest disadvantage over cash is the fees. Because you’re basically getting an account to keep your money in, there’s various fees, just like any other banking mechanism. The largest of these is often a deposit fee (usually a small percentage of the money being deposited) that I’ve seen on a number of systems.
Here’s a video Vital Vegas posted showing an animation explaining the cashless technology they’re using, Play+, which also happens to be what Mohegan Sun has offered for some time here at home:
Notice that the video is 4:21, and while some of it slips in some marketing around the player’s card program and app, most is a complex explanation of setting up an account, loading the account, transferring funds at a slot or table, etc.
Of course, once it’s set up it will be faster, but it’s a lot of steps vs. just depositing cash into a slot, and of course there’s those pesky deposit fees (which the video doesn’t share, and I can’t find on their website so far).
For me, I’d rather pull money fee-free out of an ATM when possible, but many travel to places where their bank doesn’t have branches, so it may wash out in the end.
Like cardless gaming, this doesn’t have to be the only method of doing things, and as players get more acclimated to it, it could transition just like the move away from coins and towards TITOs was able to take place. And like cardless gaming, printing less tickets, having less cash deposited in slots and so forth can reduce wear and tear, along with how frequently paper needs replenishing or money drops need to take place, and so on. You’ll need less ticket eaters and cashiers over time, so there’s cost savings over time. That’s certainly an alluring prospect to the casinos.
The inevitable march forward of technology will continue, and the casino floor will continue to showcase new technology as it evolves.