“Security, security, security, and did I mention security?” said Robert J. Siemasko, vice president, innovation and product development for JCM Global. “That, combined with a near flawless first-time acceptance rate.”
Eric Fisher, vice president, gaming at MEI, pointed to validators as drivers of both profit and customer satisfaction.
“Casinos are driven by a need to create increased profitability,” he said. “The bill validator plays an important role as it is the interface between the player and the game. So, obviously, the first goal is to drive customer satisfaction. That is done by ensuring a high first-pass acceptance rate—so players can quickly interact with the game and aren’t deterred from spending additional time and money. The acceptance rate measure, which can have a significant impact on the bottom line, is one of the four metrics that drive a ROI; which also include jam rate, security and cost of operation. Implementing best-in-class performance on those metrics maximizes player satisfaction and drives operational efficiencies directly to the bottom line.”
And, said Bob Gibson, vice president, branch operations at Cummins Allison, customers also are looking for the validator to be a key component of their overall currency handling solution.
“Today’s gaming properties are looking to invest in cost-efficient, back-room technology—such as currency handling solutions—to elevate time-consuming manual processes into more efficient tasks,” he said. “Whether its smaller batch sorting and counting in the cage area, in the banks, or in the soft count room, today’s currency handling solutions can streamline the process for faster and more accurate results.
“With an all-inclusive currency processing solution, casinos can not only prepare their deposits quickly and easily, but they can also archive and manage their check images, process currency and even process and image tickets—all on one machine,” Gibson added. “Combing these functions into a single device not only saves space and costs associated with maintaining multiple pieces of equipment, but makes employees more efficient, enabling count room and main bank workers to be more productive and cage cashiers to accommodate more players.”
Bill validators made by JCM and MEI also are important part of cash handling systems, such as the XChange kiosks from Global Cash Access. The Jackpot XChange kiosk, for example, brings the capability to process jackpots quickly. It prints jackpot slips and W2-G tax forms, expedites employee pouch pays and is configurable for cash or ticket pays, including accepting multiple tickets for a single payout. Bill validators used in the integrated solution include JCM’s UBA and MEI’s Mars Cashflow.
Modern scanners must handle not only currency, and be adaptable for currency changes, but also read tickets from ticket in/ticket out game solutions. They must be adaptable for international currencies, and for currency changes such as the ongoing redesigns of U.S. notes.
“For obvious reasons, there is a high level of regulation in the casino industry,” Fisher said. “That impacts how software and hardware are distributed to the industry. The challenge specific to bill validators is the regularity of updates related to the numerous currencies used in a global marketplace. Not only is currency updated on a regular basis, but the media continues to change as well. The operator needs to be aware of not only breadth of currencies offered by bill validator companies, but also how they perform as individual note sets, how quickly they are updated and how well the product works with both paper and polymer notes. It is imperative to get it right the first time, as additional submissions can be costly and time consuming.”
The regulatory environment, Siemasko said, is a challenge that all manufacturers must meet.
“As we know, the casino industry is among the most regulated in the world, and the regulatory process to approve firmware can require additional certification and time to market that may not necessarily occur in other business environments,” he said. “Additionally, iVIZION’s ability to read barcodes for TITO tickets is specific to the casino environment.”
One vital piece of the package, Siemasko said, is in detection of counterfeit notes.
“Bill validators are a casino’s first line of defense against counterfeits and cheats,” he said. “Criminals have a strangely strong work ethic, and they work really, really hard at making better and better counterfeits and other illegal devices. That’s why we are constantly looking for and developing better technologies that keep our validation equipment and, therefore, our casino customers, ahead of counterfeiters and cheats. We use a highly advanced combination of magnetic and infrared sensors to validate currency, and we merge that with high-speed motors and processors to maintain a very high first-time acceptance rate.”
Siemasko said JCM’s UBA validator set industry standards when it was first introduced with a 98 percent acceptance rate; then raised the bar with its iVIZION solution that boasts a 99 percent acceptance rate. The iVIZION solution has won a number of industry awards, including a spot on Casino Journal’s 16th annual list of Top 20 Most Innovative Gaming Technology Products.
“What makes iVIZION different from every other bill validator in the industry is its Contact Image Sensor (CIS) technology that captures the full image of a note or ticket,” Siemasko said. “Another exciting element of CIS is that it provides operators with the ability to read currency serial numbers for countries with this requirement such as China and India. It reads bar codes in both directions, horizontal and vertical, providing the ability to read TITO and coupons.”
In addition to CIS, iVIZION’s has a RFID ICB cashbox with encrypted and web-enabled data, 64-megabit flash memory, a self-calibrating sensor package, modular component design, two high-speed processors, sealed 85-mm banknote path, patented removable stacker mechanism, blind mate and hot swap design and complete compatibility with all gaming protocols.
Integrating next-generation technology into established cash handling products is also important at MEI, where the SC Advance validator was designed as an evolutionary step from the Cashflow SC note acceptor, Fisher said.
“The SC Advance sets the industry standard for the metrics that matter most—acceptance rate, jam rate, security and cost of operation,” Fisher said. “More than 1.5 million SC units have now been deployed in the field, which illustrates the value created in the eyes of MEI customers. This value proposition has been further strengthened by the success of EASITRAX Soft Count, which has been installed in over 100,000 games, globally. Product extensions like EASITRAX Web and PPM Advance continue to drive innovation and operator profitability.”
Through EASITRAX Soft Count, information collected in the bill validator is compiled in a database that can be networked, making it accessible for slot performance analysis.
“As awareness of bill validators’ link to profitability has increased, so too have the portfolio of solutions that drive customization,” Fisher said. “In addition to EASITRAX Soft Count, which drives efficiencies by linking the slot floor to the back room, the SC portfolio also includes a variety of cashbox sizes, up to 600, 900, 1,200 and 2,200 notes, a bunch note feeder that allows up to 30 notes to be stacked at once and an increasing number of gaming protocols that offer newfound flexibility for uploads and downloads.”
“And, now, some smaller casinos are implementing note recycling,” Fisher added. “The industry’s success, combined with its willingness to implement new technology, has driven customization. MEI welcomes the interactive process to determine the right products for needs throughout the entire casino. In that sense, MEI has evolved from being a component supplier to an implementer of affordable, customized solutions.”
Not all bill validation comes directly at electronic gaming devices or player-accessible kiosks.
“Handling large quantities of cash, checks and tickets is a fact of life for casino operations, and these activities can take place throughout the gaming property—including the cage area, in the banks, or in the soft count room,” said Gibson, who pointed to Cummins Allison’s JetScan iFX product line as a flexible collection of solutions for casino use. “These areas often have space restrictions, making it important to select a currency handling solution that can scale up or down depending on the space restrictions.”
“Fraudulent activity is also a key concern in the gaming industry and can negatively impact a casino,” Gibson added. “Failing to address the potential for fraudulent notes can result in a loss to the casino and deteriorate the trust of patrons; making counterfeit note detection in all devices that accept cash a critical technology. Casinos are also pressed to adhere to compliance requirements—both internal and industry regulations—including Title 31 legislation, which pertains to improving accountability and reporting. Efforts to meet these requirements can be supported using today’s currency handling equipment.”
The JetScan iFX line, he said, uses breakthrough imaging technology to sort and count currency—plus image and process tickets and checks—with extreme accuracy, speed and efficiency. “Combined with less stopping and easy-to-read touch-screen operation, the JetScan iFX product line brings productivity to a new level,” Gibson said. “Smaller, faster and more flexible than other sorters, this line offers desktop units with full ticket image capture, check image capture and currency processing on one machine, eliminating operational redundancy and bringing processing efficiencies to even the most compact areas of casinos. The product line also includes flexible multi-pocket sortersdesigned to create up to nine pockets in a space-saving vertical confi guration barely larger than a desktop sorter.”