Cashless systems make strides in casinos
Improved currency processing products inch casinos closer to bill-free operation
Not that banknotes and coin won’t still be around. They will still be present on the peripherals of gaming floors where players can convert cash into virtual currency to use on the floor in slot machines and at table games. Banknotes might even linger on the gaming floor as casinos, worrying that interrupted play might translate into less play, will continue to offer patrons the ability to insert a $20 bill into gaming devices so they don’t have to leave the floor quite yet to refill their player cards, said Andrew Reichlin, marketing director at Crane Payment Innovations (CPI).
At the center of the cashless revolution is the ubiquitous TITO (ticket-in/ticket-out) system that more than 15 years ago reduced that winner’s cascade of coins to a barcoded ticket. Over the years, a number of gaming suppliers have jumped into this marketplace, providing the products, systems and services needed to maintain a high-functioning TITO network. Many of these companies still tinker with their TITO technology, and are constantly introducing improved customer-facing and back-office devices designed to streamline and better-monetize the TITO process.
FIT TO PRINT
One such company offering customer-facing cash processing product is Slot-Tickets Worldwide, an originator and supplier of the TITO paper products, which now incorporates a variety of security features into its paper stock. The “White Phantom” security watermark feature may be customized with any casino logo. Custom ink jet printing of promotional or security numbering also is offered, said Tom Mitchell, company president. “While some players will cash in even penny TITOs, others will save the ticket to show they had visited that particular casino,” he added. “The fancier and more colorful the printing on the ticket when it emerges from the slot machine, the more likely it will be saved without redemption.”
Barcoding not only verifies the value of the ticket but also gives casinos a way to thwart scammers, either through their inability to figure out the numbering system or having casino servers programmed to accept a particular barcode only once, thereby discouraging photocopying of tickets, Mitchell said.
Ticket printer suppliers have also upgraded their products to better meet operator and consumer demands. To speed up the cash-out procedure at slot machines, JCM Global offers the PayCheck 4 thermal printer that can print a ticket in just 0.6 seconds. It also has 8 MBs of standard memory, which enables casinos to store more fonts, images, logos and barcodes, so they can more easily personalize the players’ gaming experience. And it has has a lifespan of about 640,000 TITOs.
Following in the footsteps of the very first TITO printer in gaming, the GEN3 Evolution printer is the latest generation of thermal ticket printer from FutureLogic. It features one of the industry’s largest standard paper capacities of 450 tickets, and a low paper sensor that eliminates paper waste by taking the ticket stack down to the last ticket, and at 8 inches per second, the GEN3 Evolution printer is one of the fastest printers in gaming, printing and presenting a ticket/coupon in less than one second, according to company literature. Moreover, operators can easily update firmware in a flash, by simply connecting a pre-loaded thumb drive to a printer while it’s still in the slot machine, yielding a significantly reduced down time for each and every slot machine on the casino floor.
Ticket printer manufacturers are also making products more flexible, so they can serve other uses on the slot floor, thereby increasing their value to operators. For example, by offering casino operators the ability to use the existing TITO infrastructure and player tracking system, FutureLogic’s PromoNet couponing solution allows operators to identify and reward high-value players (both carded and uncarded) instantly, right at the game without any delays. Moreover, by providing a vehicle for tangible awards for a participating player, the PromoNet solution can steer players to online sites, bridging the gap and acting as an affiliate program between land-based and online venues. The PromoNet solution also enables casinos to create, analyze, and modify highly customized promotions for optimum effectiveness and to conduct business analytics and generate reports—all of which helps casinos improve their bottom line.
Meanwhile, Epicentral, a promotion and bonusing software suite from TransAct Technologies, provides an enterprise-level solution for real-time delivery of targeted coupons and bonuses to players directly at the slot machine or electronic table game. Linked with TransAct’s ServerPort and Epic 950 ticket printer in each gaming device, Epicentral connects directly to all existing slot management systems, slot machines and electronic table games, regardless of manufacturer, providing casino marketing and operations teams with unmatched flexibility.
Using Epicentral, operators can easily design and run floor-wide promotions at the click of a button, eliminating the need for a visit to the gaming machine and vastly simplifying the process of attracting, rewarding and retaining players, explained Tracey Chernay, executive vice president of casino products at TransAct.
Fully compatible with the Epicentral system, the Epic 950 TITO ticket printer also can be easily integrated into all game types both old and new, and features TicketBurst technology that eliminates player/ticket interference.
Ticket stock and printers are only one part of the customer-facing TITO/cashless equation. Equally important are bill acceptors and validators, and much like their printer brethren, these devices are undergoing a constant technological evolution. One such example is the MEI Cashflow three-in-one, the latest cashless validator from CPI. The cashless bezel conveniently accepts magnetic stripe credit cards, cash and MEI coupons. Modular in design, it mounts to existing MEI Cashflow VN2700 validators or can be purchased as a total solution with a validator attached. A “recycler ready” solution, its compact footprint gives operators the ability and space to deploy both credit card and recycling technology in virtually any vending machine. To deploy recycling, operators need only to attach the VNR Recycler module to their existing VN2700 models, said CPI’s Reichlin.
LED lights on the bezel interact with consumers in real time to inform them which bills ($1 to $20) are being accepted. The attractive display and runway lighting also draw patrons and indicate where to swipe cards on the bezel. Transaction status is communicated on the two-line digital display, next to a visible button to cancel unwanted transactions.
When combined with the Advance 5000 telemeter, which is PCI-DSS certified, the Cashflow three-in-one gives casino operators a cashless solution that meets the industry standards for security, Reichlin added.
When performing its primary task, the iVIZION bill validator from JCM is powered by Contact Image Sensor (CIS) Technology that scans 75 times more data points than any competitive product and captures the full image of a banknote or a ticket, according to company literature. It optically centers banknotes and eliminates the need for mechanical centering, improving banknote-to-banknote processing speed. Security features include a combined optical and patented mechanical anti-stringing device that detects and prevents manipulation or mechanical cheating. This validator also is self-calibrating, accepts banknotes up to 85mm wide and has a sealed banknote path that blocks dirt and liquid, which reduces service-related downtime.
Recently, JCM unveiled its Dynamic Network Applications (DNA), which enhances the abilities of its iVIZION bill validator. Building on iVIZION’s foundation of intelligent validation, DNA empowers operators as well as regulators with real-time reporting, diagnostics and connectivity across the range of peripheral devices. DNA provides real-time health and event monitoring of all peripheral components used inside an EGM, utilizing either a wired or wireless connection to a local server. Peripherals that DNA can monitor are practically limitless and include bill validators on slots, table game validators, ticket printers, card readers, digital displays and coin acceptors, where utilized.
Some suppliers are linking the various cash management products to create a more all-encompassing customer-facing or back-office cash processing solution. One such product is QuikTicket, a cashless gaming solution from Global Cash Access (GCA), which provides players the option of a TITO ticket or cash when completing cash access transactions at GCA’s Xchange kiosks, said David Lopez, CEO at GCA. Requiring no special cards or processes, QuikTicket uses current TITO technology that is trusted, intuitive and easy for players to understand. With GCA’s patented three-in-one rollover technology, QuikTicket integrates with the cashless floor and improves the patrons experience by providing higher limits and eliminating wait times at the cage.
Combined with the CXC 4.0 kiosks, QuikTicket reduces handling costs and facilitates the velocity of gaming for our casinos operators, he noted.
In addition to its Xchange kiosks, GCA also offers TableXchange, a device that integrates with the QuikTicket product, and is available through a strategic alliance with FutureLogic. This product is designed to enable table game players a convenient buy-in with a TITO ticket and cash out with a TITO ticket, which is redeemable at an Xchange kiosk for cash.
By connecting table games to a casino’s existing TITO network, TableXchange allows for scanning and printing of TITO vouchers, thus creating a common currency across the casino that promotes crossover play between slots and tables. It also streamlines casino operations by eliminating the need to replenish chips at table games (less downtime), removes the risk of counterfeiting at the table game or cashier cage, and reduces operating expenses by minimizing cash handling, Lopez explained.
GCA has also taken a leap into the online gaming cash management realm with the recent introduction of Everi, an innovative payment and monetization solution that bridges the gap between land-based and online gaming through GCA’s extensive network of kiosks and land-based operations. The Everi product suite includes Everi Payments, a straight through payment wall; Everi Digital Wallet, a funds management system and payments solution; and Everi Productivity Suite, a comprehensive set of tools for increasing revenue through player monetization and customizable offer engines. All products in the Everi suite provide modular feature implementation, which allows operators to choose from a wide range of customizable options.
As part of the Everi offering, GCA provides the back-office services to satisfy the financial and gaming regulatory requirements for gaming operators.
Cummins Alison and NEWave also have an eye on back-office TITO and cashless processing solutions with Ticket Reconciliation Software (TRS), a jointly-developed program that via a casino’s host ticketing system collects ticket activity from cage, slot and kiosk transactions and imports and verifies the number and dollar amount reported by the host system for all tickets processed in a batch on a Cummins Allison JetScan iFX machine. The TRS program streamlines the balancing process and improves accuracy over manual entry, giving most tribal and traditional gaming jurisdictions the required verification of cage, kiosk and soft count ticket activity.
Cummins-Allison also has introduced a full line of LS series check scanners to speed processing of funds for gaming credits. Five models of scanners are available ranging from a reduced footprint version to full-featured, compact scanners for back-office applications. The JetScan iFX cash and check scanner complements this series by offering the ability to process large quantities of both checks and cash on the same device, at speeds of 400 checks per minute and 1,600 bills per minute.
Another component to Cummins’ back-office cash processing solution is the new Multi-Pocket Compact Strapper for the JetScan MPS 4200; a powerful, affordable, automatic strapping solution that provides greater flexibility in the casino count room or vault, plus faster currency processing in a smaller footprint. Automatic strapping eliminates the labor associated with strapping, reducing the number of machine stops for full-pocket conditions, and greatly increases processing efficiency and system productivity. The MPS 4200 with the new compact strapper offers casinos robust currency and ticket processing capabilities, advanced counterfeit options and now, smaller-footprint, lower-cost strapping options.
MAKING A STAND
An important element to any well-functioning TITO system is the kiosk, which can perform a wide variety of tasks from ticket redemption to coin processing. Some recent kiosk introductions turning operator and consumer heads include:
“Yet another advantage of having the Monroy Machine 2 on the gaming floor is that it enables patrons to convert the change in their pockets or households into wagering cash beyond what they originally planned,” said Bob Gibson, vice president of branch operations at Cummins-Allison.