Why is cashless gaming such a prominent topic right now?
Cashless has, in my view, always been a prominent topic, quite simply because that's what we do here at DR Gaming Technology.
I think, though, what is coming more to the fore is cashless gaming in its truest form, where players not only no longer need to touch coins or cash, but also tickets (TITO) and player cards as well. It’s a solution where NFC or RFID technology enables players to only ever have to touch their own personalised player cards or their phone (via an app) to add or remove cash from slot machines, buy-in or cash-out from live tables games, or even purchase drinks, a show ticket, or book a hotel room.
You list a couple of value-adds there, but what are the main benefits of cashless gaming?
Specifically, in respect of the current state of affairs, it limits the shared touching of any cash, tickets, or cards– so solely from a hygiene, health andsocial responsibility point of view, it offers a lot of value. Notwithstanding these benefits, the purely operational and player-related value is almost unquantifiable.
What cashless gaming offers operatorsis direct cost savings in respect of the tickets themselves; a reduction in repair and maintenance costs due to the removal (in time) of physical cash handling equipment like hoppers, ticket readers, ticket printers and the like; andthere's better tracking and assigning of gameplay data to specific players. As a result, the capture of invaluable data that, if mined correctly, will result in the creation of such valuable player-centric offers that customers will have absolutely zero inclination to share their custom with anyone else.
In turn, what it offers players is increased security, unprecedented convenience, and an all-round enhanced gaming experience. There are no queues to cash-in or cash-out, no waiting for hand pays, tailored promotions and bonuses ‘just for me’, as well as rewards and benefits linked directly to ‘my custom’ and served at a time that best suits me.
One of the key benefits of going cashless you mentioned was the elimination of many of the physical cash handling costs. Even so, cash remains on offer as a payment option at many casinos, some of which also offer cashless in some form or another. Why do you think this is?
While we believe the most cost-effective way to manage a casino is via cashless technology, one can never forget the wants and needs of players – they must come first.
As consumers, we no longer accept being told what to do, where to do it, and how to do it. We want and expect choice, and if we are faced with no choice, we will invariably take our business to a vendor who is prepared to give us that choice.
Players will no doubt want alternate choices in the future, but for now it is cash or cashless, or a hybrid of the two.
How cost-effective is it?
Well, SMART card technology initially replaced cash and coin gaming; it was then replaced by RFID and NFC card technology, a solution that already affords operators about a 50% saving per card. In addition, in terms of a TITO to RFID card migration, our view is that the expense of issuing players with RFID cards is off-set after what would have been the issue of no more than 100 tickets.
Furthermore, RFID cards don’t have to be replaced after every transaction (like a ticket), and then ultimately, when true cardless technology is embraced, there will be absolutely nothing to print and, as a result, nothing to throw away either.
How has the pandemic affected your company, and how do you believe it has accelerated the drive towards cashless gaming?
Covid-19 has affected us all, directly or indirectly, and for some unfortunately on a personal level too. That said, we were, and remain, in the fortunate position of being almost debt-free, and as a result able to manage, as best possible, the effect of the closure and or limits to trading hours of many of our customers’ establishments during the various stages, and levels of lockdown implemented across the globe.
Then with regard to the pandemic accelerating the drive towards cashless, operators have always seen the value therein, with most of them also always willing to embrace and adopt any new technology that can make their lives easier and more efficient, and similarly the lives and the overall gaming experience of their players. That said, casinos are businesses, and businesses that operate within a highly regulated industry. As such, the ‘adoption barrier’ has at times been financial, and at other times regulatory, or simply operational.
What the pandemic has taught everyone, though – and our CEO Jurgen De Munck alluded to this in his response to a similar question recently – is that change can be affected, in whatever sphere of business or life, a lot quicker than we all thought, and if an accelerated drive towards cashless is what one such change is, we’re both willing and able to embrace it wholeheartedly.
How soon do you think it will be before all operations within the industry are cashless?
Our view, as stated many times previously, remains that both TITO and player cards will become a technology of the past, in that order, over the next five to 10 years. In addition to the current pandemic and its associated risks, TITO ticket costs are also becoming more prohibitive. The move to RFID cards, and ultimately cardless gaming, makes both practical and commercial sense.
Cashless solutions, through electronic fund transfers (via either a player card or an aforementioned app), are without a doubt the future. It is a safer, simpler and easier-to-manage solution for players and operators alike.