Responsible Gaming At The Heart Of Cashless Payment Options Heading To PA Casinos

Written By Kevin Shelly on March 24, 2021

Initial acceptance of a limited form of cashless gaming at Pennsylvania’s retail casinos is on the horizon.

Joe Pappano, CEO of leading payment processor, Sightline Payments, told PlayPennsylvania this week he believes cashless payment options should arrive in the Keystone State by Q3 2021.

He attributed the slow acceptance to “a lack of understanding and awareness.”

Cashless gaming is the new shiny thing

Cashless wagering is available in the US only in pilot programs in select Boyd Gaming facilities in Nevada, Indiana, and Ohio using the company’s rewards card, BoydPay, which comes with a digital wallet. Using rewards cards facilitates an “end-to-end digital cashless ecosystem” when used with a digital wallet.

Some tribal casinos in California are also using various forms of cashless gambling, Pappano said.

Additional Nevada gaming operators are using a pin debit system supported by ACS PlayOn for cashless play.

As of July 1, Bank of America will allow its customers to use its cards in wagering transactions, said Pappano. That should increase the consumer demand for cashless gambling.

Pandemic increased cashless demand but also slowed acceptance

Wariness about implementing cashless gambling also includes concerns with maintaining responsible gaming standards. Also, there were delays and distractions due to COVID-19. And reduced capital spending due to decreased business during the pandemic.

Ironically, cashless gambling offers various means to increase responsible gaming safeguards. It also reduces the routine cross-handling of currency and coins.

Pappano said initially, the rollout of cashless wagering in brick-and-mortar casinos in PA will likely be limited to employing only debit cards. More sophisticated digital wallets attached to rewards cards will come later, he predicted.

PA regulator confirms state moving to rollout of cashless gaming

Kevin O’Toole, executive director for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, told PlayPennsylvania this week that his agency is working toward a cashless gaming rollout. He did not cite a timeline.

The state has already reviewed and approved a technology standard for online gambling. They will next try to apply them to land-based casinos, he added.

Valley Forge, Penn National, Rivers and Parx most interested

O’Toole said Boyd’s Valley Forge Casino Resort near Philly, and Penn National Gaming, with two physical casinos, appear most eager to use the technology in PA.

Pappano had the same read. He added Rush Street Gaming, with Rivers Casinos in Philly and Pittsburgh and Parx Casino near Philly, are also pursuing cashless wagering.

Penn National sees cashless gaming with one wallet as a major driver for its business. The company has more than 40 properties noted Pappano, whose company is based in Las Vegas.

Penn calls cashless gaming loyalty card a “priority”

A cashless loyalty card is a top priority, a Penn spokesman confirmed.

Eric Schippers, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, explained:

“The implementation of our cashless, cardless, and contactless (3 C’s) technology is a top priority for us at Penn National Gaming. The gaming industry is far behind other businesses, such as Starbucks, in this regard and the younger demographic has come to expect the ability to use their phone for their loyalty programs and to purchase goods and services, particularly since COVID-19.

“We recently launched our mychoice loyalty program mobile app, which will provide us with an environmentally friendly and more efficient way to communicate, interact, and engage with our guests. The 35 to 54 age group is currently the most engaged audience with the app, which is very encouraging as this group represents a growing segment of our different business channels.

Cashless can increase responsible gambling safeguards

While there is reticence about accepting cashless casino wagering due to concerns about problem gamblers, Seth Palansky of Conscious Gambling, an industry non-profit aimed at socially responsible gambling, said the anonymity of playing with cash presents inherent risks.

GeoComply underwrites the non-profit Conscious Gaming. The company tracks the location of those making wagers, key since online wagering is policed on the state-level.

With the digital tracking that also comes with cashless gaming, there is a record of all transactions. That makes it easy for either a company or a player to tap tools to limit wagering, including precautions such as time or spending limits, Palansky said.

“You can splice it any way you want,” he said of the limiting bumper-rails available to players. Cashless tracking also allows KYC (know your customers), he noted. KYC allows a casino to be aware of patterns of problem behavior.

To that end, a GeoComply feature dubbed PlayPause, which recently debuted in PA via BetMGM, allows a gambler to anonymously set limits on casino play without the potential stigma of joining a state exclusion list. And it works across multiple jurisdictions.

Players can set limits

O’Toole said cashless tech allows players to place limits on:

  • Time spent wagering
  • Deposit amounts and frequency
  • Caps on wagering and spending

Liz Lanza, director of the Office of Compulsive & Problem Gambling of the PGCB, spoke of the concerns at a recent webinar presented by Conscious Gaming. She explained she was cautious at first about cashless wagering but has come around to embrace the technology.

And as Pappano explains it: “Responsible gambling is at the heart of cashless gaming.”

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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