Cash is King, and I’ve long been a loyal subject until a sign displayed in a small-town U.S. post office last year caused me to consider rebellion. It read, “Use your Debit or Credit card & save the USPS money. Yes, it’s about 1/2 the cost of handling cash. With some card brands you can earn flier miles and gift rewards points.”
I didn’t even know credit cards were accepted by the USPS, much less preferred. I was blinded by loyalty to the Cash King and his illusory benefits. Having lots of green paper stuffed into my wallet – and more in a secret place at home – provided a sense of security and independence that plastic cards and electronic accounts could not match. I now realize my allegiance was misplaced. Cash is hard to manage, easily stolen and his kingdom of influence is shrinking. It’s hard to rent a car and impossible to buy an airline drink using cash.
Watching how other people pay for everyday items: movie tickets, restaurant bills, convenience store purchases and such, I discovered age-related patterns. Very young people – those under 18 – tend to pay with cash, probably because they can’t get plastic. Older people – those over 50 – do the same, probably out of habit. Betweens use credit cards with amazing frequency, even for miniscule purchases.Any concerns about privacy or tracking are offset by the convenience, rebates and bonuses that tracking allows.
This “electronified” payment frontier is rapidly expanding. PayPal was created to streamline Internet transactions and continues to thrive. Other companies are building entirely new generations of payment technologies. Google’s “Wallet” initiative uses cell phones as secure personal identifiers. Their technology is called NFC and the payer simply waves or bumps her phone against a payment terminal – or even a product – to consummate the transaction. Receipts are electronic and the process efficient. The Wallet website (www.google.com/wallet) contains this statement: “In the past few thousand years, the way we pay has changed just three times – from coins, to paper money, to plastic cards. Now we are on the brink of the next big shift.”
Talk about feeling ancient, three revolutions in the past few thousand years – coins, paper money and plastic – and I’m emotionally stuck on the second. I’m not fully prepared for the fourth revolution and I’m not alone. Your casino has pledged loyalty to the Cash King too, after only recently rebelling against the God of Coin. Now that’s ancient!
Surveys suggest over 80 percent of casino wagers arrive in non-cash form. Check cashing is cumbersome players and risky for you. Credit card advances are inconvenient and quite expensive. We’re truly shortsighted to view such transactions as profit opportunities when they’re actually barriers to broader player appeal. At least 20 consumers walk away from additional spend for every one that completes a cash conversion. In that light, just think of the opportunities we’re missing to create new players.
Cash King assesses a heavy tax on his subjects. Bill acceptors and ticket printers comprise a significant portion of a new machine’s price, even before TITO fees are assessed. Expensive labor clears bill jams, replenishes ticket stock and collects, counts and redeploys that green paper. Used tickets are reconciled and stored in warehoused mountains of past transactions, just in case some auditor wants to check out a long-ago event. Costly supervision and surveillance is required to ensure the green stuff ends up at the proper destination.
Imagine how much simpler your Minimum Internal Controls and Policies and Procedures would be if the Cash King was banished. The world’s governments are already crusading to overthrow his reign to eliminate untraceable financial transactions. If they succeed, your Title 31, W-2G and W-9 reporting gets a lot simpler.
Casinos are in the business of consumer entertainment and your most powerful competitor is the Internet. Think what’ll happen when gambling is legalized there. With improved cashless efficiencies, payback percentages of 99 percent and more are attainable. Can you compete?
Revolution never comes easily, and blood will be shed. Regulators are hesitant about any change, and you’ll have to convince them of the merits of cashless. Problem gambling issues must be considered, and new technology must be deployed. If you don’t start the hard work of adapting efficient payment solutions to your casino now, how can you even hope to keep pace with consumer expectations? Your customer base is aging out. We’ve got to adapt to the preferences of the next generations.
Cash is King, but the King is dead. That’s truly a sign for our times. SM
John Acres is the founder and chief executive officer of Acres 4.0. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.