Just a few days into 2021, International Game Technology (IGT) announced that it had successfully completed the final stage of Nevada regulatory approval for its Resort Wallet carded cashless module, part of the IGT ADVANTAGE casino management system.
"Getting the Nevada approval was really a milestone for us," Michael Ratner, IGT’s Director Product Management, Systems Commercialization, tells Yogonet in a video interview. "This product was sitting in the background for many, many years, and then all of a sudden Covid happened. Covid, I think, exposed the need to have contactless. And I think that's the keyword here, contactless, where customers can transfer funds in and out of the cashless wagering account without the need of touching anything, or at least touching anything foreign."
The leading gaming supplier submitted the carded product to the Nevada Gaming Commission for approval and it had to undergo a full trial, Ratner says, which underlines another keyword for him: cashless wagering account, which was also greenlighted by the regulator. "And that I think is the most important part here because, by extension, the cashless wagering account can then enable cardless cashless, with people using their phones to transfer money in and out of a slot machine."
The executive notes that IGT considers the Nevada Gaming Commission's requirements for gaming regulations as the gold standard, hence now other regulators around the world are looking at this approval, he says.
Resort Wallet consists of two components: the carded cashless and the cardless cashless modules, both of which enable funding of the cashless wagering account through cash deposits at the casino cashier, kiosks, and slot machines. "The IGTPay part of this Resort Wallet ecosystem allows you to now access an external funding source, like a bank account, a credit card, an e-wallet account. And this is what we regard as the Holy Grail, the ability for players to now decide to go to a casino and not have to withdraw cash," Ratner explains. Casino guests will be able to access their cashless wagering account to transfer money from their bank accounts, and then either use their plastic casino-branded loyalty card or mobile phones at the casino to transfer funds between slot machines.
IGT received the approval for cashless wagering at one of Las Vegas’ properties, and Ratner says there are other venues in the city that have committed to taking the Resort Wallet product in one form or another, including IGTPay. "So in terms of future deployments, I would say that in the next quarter, maybe quarter and a half, you will see quite a few deployments here in Las Vegas." Ratner points out that this product is already live throughout the world, especially in Asia-Pacific. In the US, Resorts World Catskills in New York decided to roll out the carded cashless product as soon as it reopened after the Covid shutdown.
"People walk out of the casino to go buy a cup of coffee with their phone, but then they walk back into the casino and it's like they're back in 1985 and they have to use bills and tickets and all this kind of old-fashioned funding of slot machines. Once people understand that this is legitimate, this is safe, this is an advanced technology for a casino environment, I think the adoption rate is going to dramatically increase," Ratner says.
And he continues: "The funny thing about our business is people are standing by to see who else is doing this. 'Is my competitor down the road doing something different that I should be doing today?' 'Does my competitor have a new bonusing module that is maybe attracting more players to the casino?' And the same goes with cashless. I think a lot of people are like, 'I think this cashless thing has got some opportunities, but I'm not quite sure how my players are going to adapt to it.' So everyone is watching everyone else. And it just takes one or two people to do this. I think once people start adopting us, and they see other people using it, I think it's going to be a landslide of adoption. It's like the old saying 'lemmings over the cliff'. As soon as one goes, they all go."
In that sense, Ratner highlights the need to convince the operators that it is a secure technology and to educate them and show the players that it is easy to use. He also notes that the product needs the help of the casino operator to educate the player base, and to educate the staff about how to use it. "We are partnering with our casino operators to make sure that if they are thinking about taking this technology, that they understand there is a need to get behind the product and to also invest in the product by marketing, promotions, education and so forth."
However, Ratner believes this is not going to replace cash, and sees the adoption rate of cashless technology in the United States as a slow ramp-up. "People will always use cash. People are going to pull a 20 dollar bill out of their back pocket and stick it in the slot machine, even though they might have funds in the cashless wagering account. People are still hesitant about Internet banking. There are still people that will go to a bank to do their banking transactions, even though there is a very sophisticated banking technology that they can use."
Ratner says it is a slow adoption and "eventually it just gets so popular that it's just going to take off. But again, it's not going to replace cash. It's going to be a supplement to the gaming cash and tickets and all that kind of stuff. But we are really excited, we're behind this 100 percent, and this is a major initiative for us," he concludes.