The current year has been an exciting one for Acres Manufacturing Company (AMC) thus far. The casino loyalty and technology expert has deployed a number of innovative solutions for the land-based casino industry, with the latest now being Cashless Casino, a new application that enables operators to deploy "the industry's best-of-breed cashless gaming and loyalty solution within 15 weeks of order."
Unveiled on Tuesday, Cashless Casino is powered by Acres' Foundation CMS, which is capable of processing both real-time gaming data and conducting cashless transfers to and from any slot machine or table. Through its latest launch, Acres' efforts seek to enable a more intuitive adoption of casino tech, setting the stage for the option of a completely cashless gaming floor within a few years, driving a better player experience.
"All a casino needs to go cashless with us is to select a mobile app and to select a payment processor. We can handle the rest," Noah Acres of Acres Manufacturing tells Yogonet in an exclusive interview. "From what I see, a lot of casinos are putting cashless on the budget for next year, and we hope to be in a good position with that."
How does Cashless Casino work and what are its main features?
The main feature of Cashless Casino is just its simplicity. If a casino wants to go cashless, all it needs to do is to select a payment processor and select the mobile app. We can connect our entire cashless system to the mobile app to make the funding transfer easily from it to any slot machine or table game.
That includes all the different regulatory reporting, audit features and safeguards that are required, so it’s a one size fits all solution that could work in any casino environment.
This new solution is powered by Acres’ Foundation CMS. How does this integration work, and what are the synergies between both?
Foundation is a piece of hardware that goes into any slot machine, and it has the ability to deliver casinos the real-time transactions from the machine. It’s the only technology in the entire industry that’s able to deliver the entire real-time data stream. It also has the ability to change the credit meter on command, and it can interface with any outside system.
We can connect through Foundation any payment processor, any analytics tool, any bonusing system - whatever it is that you want to both digest the real-time data and change the credit meter. So for Cashless Casino, we have these built-in interfaces to a wide variety of payment processors, and we can connect that processor’s funding account to the actual slot machine. That allows the player to download an app the casino has, fund the wallet through the processor, and move money from the app to any slot machine. It’s a very easy process.
You said on past occasions that despite widespread interest in cashless technology, casino operators are often struggling to deploy these solutions because of limitations in the legacy CMS technologies. How does Cashless Casino avoid this “complexity of installation” problem?
If you’re a casino and you have a legacy system provider as all do, your choice is simply to implement cashless gaming through the legacy system’s provider’s hardware upgrade, or to select a device like Foundation. And Foundation is about half the price of what the legacy CMS providers offer, and it’s a much more capable system.
We’re live today on over 13,000 games, we’re the market leader in terms of cashless gaming, and our solution is recognized almost universally as the best-of-breed solution in the industry. And what we’ve learned is that a lot of the things that we were able to deploy early on with Penn National were not scalable to other casinos because there are things that were available to us in Pennsylvania, certain systems that maybe Penn already had, that other casinos don’t. We’ve now gone through and developed all the things that any casino would need to go cashless.
All a casino needs to go cashless with us is to select a mobile app and to select a payment processor. We can handle the rest. Once you install Foundation -well, actually from the time that a casino would place an order- we could be live floor wide with Cashless within 15 weeks, which is about 100 days. A very, very easy process for us.
The Cashless Casino app can work with slot machines and tables connected to CMS from other companies. What role would Foundation play in this scenario? And what would happen if a casino then decides to migrate all CMS functionality to Foundation?
Because Foundation is able to collect all the data from a slot machine, migrating all of the CMS functionality over to Foundation is definitely an achievable goal. That’s something that most of the casinos we’re talking to definitely want to do within a year or so, and we’re working to provide that service.
We invented a technology -we call it SAS sharing- that enables Foundation to connect directly to the slot machine’s primary SAS port and act as a pass-through device to the legacy system. We already are successfully passing through data to Light and Wonder, IGT, Konami and Aristocrat, and what happens is that when a player makes a cashless transaction, it is reported to the game.
Foundation then collects that report and passes it on to the legacy system, and that legacy system is able to report the transaction so the casino gets, without any disruption at all, a full cashless solution reported from their system in the exact same way that their reports work today. It’s a very non-intrusive product to deploy.
What options does the Cashless Casino app provide in terms of customization in order to adapt to a casino’s own branding? And how do the points and free point features work within it?
The casino can select any mobile app that they want. Some are starting very basic, with just the ability to move cash to and from the game, while others are implementing what we call the Acres wallet. We call it ELA internally, which stands for Electronic Ledger Accounts. So these electronic ledger accounts account for much more than just cash: we can do points, we can do free play, and we can do Marker Trax, which is like a casino credit system.
All of those values can be transferred from the mobile app to the game and back. One of the really cool things about our system is that it’s smart. When we send money to the game -let’s say that it’s just regular cash- the player can do what they want with it. If they want to cash it out, they can hit the title print button and walk out with the title ticket and get cash for it.
But if it’s free play, or casino credit, we can mark when the transfer is made to the machine so it knows the player cannot cash that out. They’re not free to walk with that money or funding if they want to withdraw it from the machine. It’s only going to go back to the corresponding value category of their mobile wallet. If I put 10 bucks of free play on the game and I want to withdraw it, it is only going to go back to the free play value category of my wallet.
The product has just been announced and it may be very early to ask this, but what are some new developments you have in mind for later stages?
What we’re most excited about doing is beyond this initial rollout of just cashless. It’s very important that casinos deploy cashless in a fairly basic form, just to get the customers up to speed and learn how to service and support. But what we’re really looking forward to is utilizing the real-time data that Foundation is able to collect, seeing real-time information on the players, and then being able to respond with a message or a bonus. Or building different bonuses or different tools into the app. That’s really where we’re going with this.
Has the company already started talks about this product with some of its existing customers? And in terms of rollout and industry interest, what are some of your immediate expectations?
I expect that we’ll bring up a couple of casinos this year on the Cashless Casino system, but what I’m really seeing is a lot of interest going into the next year. I think that 2022 was the year for operators to look around and see that a lot of systems frankly did not work. But ours did. It is probably the only one that really works well, and we’re getting a lot of credit for that. From what I see, a lot of casinos are putting cashless on the budget for next year, and we hope to be in a good position with that. We have what’s universally recognized as the best-of-breed customer experience, the best pricing, and the product that gets all the real-time data and has the most utility for the future.
It’s really important for casinos to know why they should be going cashless. It’s not just something that they need to do because others are doing it, or because it’s something that people are talking about. If you look at customers in the United States, 96% of people under 50 own a smartphone. And if you go to age 65, it’s, I think, at 87% or something like that. Virtually everybody owns a smartphone, and they’re using them to make payments every day.
You go to Starbucks, you go to McDonald’s - all these businesses in the wider consumer economy have payment systems built into their apps. And casinos should do so too. We always talk about in our industry of how to reach younger players, and cashless is going to be an absolute necessity to attract them. That’s what we’re delivering through Cashless Casino.
This has been quite an exciting year thus far for Acres, with the launch of the Foundation app store, the new Precision Bonusing platform… How do all these new developments work within this new ecosystem that the company is building, and what has the reception been like to what has already been launched?
We get a lot of credit for our creativity and our ideas, and the great thing about the Foundation platform is that all the applications -the Precision Bonusing, the analytics, the Cashless Casino- tie into Foundation. Everything is as plug-and-play as possible, so the operator can choose: “Do I want Cashless Casino, do I want Precision Bonusing, or do I want both?” They’re all integrated into Foundation very, very easily.
I think that we’re going to get to the point where all of them kind of become one ecosystem. So you’re doing bonusing and analytics on the app, and you have the ability to pay the person on any value category of their wallet. Then they can send that value category directly to the game. That’s when we get to be in a really cool place.
If you look at where casinos are going outside of the brick-and-mortar gaming space, with the iGaming and sports betting, there are millions of dollars that they’re spending on that technology and customer acquisition. But they have no ability to tie those apps back to the brick-and-mortar business.
Foundation is the perfect tool for cross-platform gaming, and the smart operators -the ones concerned about brick-and-mortar plus iGaming and sports betting- are really picking up on it as the tool that’s necessary to drive their business forward. There’s nothing else like it in the industry that has real-time data in the open interfaces.
Watch the full video interview with Noah Acres on our YouTube channel.