With a surge in server-based gaming, ticket-in/ticket-out (TITO) technology, swipe cards, intelligent kiosks and wireless communications, it seems that the slot floor is on the verge of becoming a completely cash-free environment.

However, that’s not to say that banknotes and coins will become obsolete. Cashless systems and products providers agree that these will still be present so that players may convert cash into virtual currency to use on the floor—and at the slot machines and table games of their choosing. Banknotes might even linger on the gaming floor as casinos, worrying that interrupted play might translate into less play, continue to offer patrons the ability to insert bills into devices so that they aren’t forced to leave the floor to refill those player cards.

“The current state of the cashless gaming system market is still in its infancy,” said Brenda Boudreaux, vice president of sales & business development for Prism Solutions, who works with JCM in the development of mobile payment solutions. “In the past year there have been some small strides in the marketplace due to regulation changes and the advent of iGaming and mobile sports betting in certain jurisdictions. This has brought the introduction of new ways to introduce money to the gaming industry, but there is still a long way to go.”

One thing is clear however—both operators and players want and have a need for the cashless revolution, so it’s doubtful the transition will show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

“As we know, the greatest operating expense within the land-based casino is the handling of cash, so everyone is motivated in the value chain to evolve to move towards a cashless society,” said Joe Pappano, senior vice president and managing director of Vantiv Gaming Solutions. “You’re seeing a number of what I would call the top slot manufacturers and slot systems integrating [cashless gaming] into this new technology that may in turn, attach some sort of financial instrument to the players card and really start to better-leverage data, analytics, credentials and information that they already have on their players today.”

FROM THE BEGINNING

At the center of gaming’s cashless evolution is the TITO system that a mere 15 years ago, reduced winner’s cascade of coins into a barcoded ticket. Since then, a number of gaming suppliers have jumped on the bandwagon, providing the products, systems and services needed to maintain a TITO network. Many of these companies still tinker with their TITO technology, constantly introducing improved customer-facing and back-office devices designed to streamline and better-monetize the TITO process.

Industry leaders are also recognizing the pros and cons that come with cashless gaming, but agree that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. According to Boudreaux, cashless gaming provides the customer with a better gaming experience over all. “Convenience and efficiency are two components that are beneficial for both the customer and casino operator,” she said. “As with any technology, a thoughtful approach allows for the acceptance and adherence to regulatory and other possible concerns.”

Some of these concerns are coming from players who say they want to remain anonymous and not be tracked by a casino; using cash gives them that option.

But most players are seeing the benefits of cashless gaming, and it eventually becomes natural for them. “From the player perspective, think about traditional commerce and how we conduct transactions in everyday life using a debit or credit card. Gaming is the only environment that is still being conducted in cash,” said Pappano. “To the operator, it’s creating better efficiencies, better understanding the player, better understanding their behaviors, so they can better incentivize.”

Wireless technology is also a hot button topic when talking cashless gaming. It provides equipment suppliers an opportunity to deliver solutions that are more efficient and customer friendly on and off the gaming floor.

“I think obviously the regulations are going to have to continue to evolve to allow for what I would call mobile [and wireless] gaming within the state or more importantly, the actual property,” said Pappano. “Wireless is critical…and I think it will continue to evolve with a focus on near field communication, incentivizing a player, while payments continue to be a piece of that.”

So where is this all going? It’s hard to say with technology and solutions adapting faster than they ever have before. Cashless gaming is definitely here to stay and grow—but will it completely take over the gaming floor? Wherever it’s going, it is leading to endless possibilities and opportunities for suppliers and operators alike, while bringing more convenience to players.

“Using the various technologies that are available today and looking towards the overall technology trends, it is an exciting time for the gaming industry to be able to provide customer cross-over and convenience no matter what gaming platform or experience they desire, “said Boudreaux. “The customer experience will be greatly enhanced by the use of technology such as iBeacons in the near future.”

Pappano noted that for the new generation of Millennials entering the casino floors, cashless gaming won’t be a new or unwanted technology. They weren’t a part of the cash-filled floors of the past and can help transition the floors into a new era of technology and cashless solutions seamlessly.

Cashless gaming goes hand-in-hand with new technology, new gaming content and online and mobile gaming. It is going to be a long and bountiful road for cashless to help drive significant change and innovation in the industry, according to Pappano.

 “Then you take a look at the connection points with everyone motivated, that value chain and being the next evolution of TITO. I believe cashless is going to be the new era of how people will want to conduct a transaction in gaming. Now do I believe cash will be completely eliminated in gaming? No, it’s going to take 7-10 years.”

These two complex, highly regulated industries, payments and gaming, are finally converging for the better. The gaming industry may have never experienced a greater evolution towards innovation than it is now with cashless gaming. “That’s where cashless becomes the heartbeat that will help drive innovation by enabling payments,” said Pappano.

The following is an update on the various cashless product offerings cashless capabilities currently available to slot departments:

CRANE PAYMENT INNOVATIONS (CPI)

According to press materials, CPI realizes that payment technologies are constantly evolving, and the company is committed to keeping up with the latest advancements both now and in the future

CPI’s MEI line of SC note acceptors were influential in the broad adoption of TITO. The latest product in this line, SC Advance, features evolutionary-applying new technology to make the product even better. SC Advance has performance features that directly impact operator profitability. It offers increased value via an improved recognition system, which provides proactive security by utilizing transmissive sensors that see all the way through notes in multiple wavelengths; faster bill-to-bill speed, which upgrades the player experience and speeds up transactions to expand throughput; expanded memory, which limits part numbers and submissions by allowing more notes to be recognized in a specific release of firmware; comprehensive barcode recognition, which processes barcode coupons in all four directions and improves acceptance on multi-width currencies; upgrade to USB 2.0, which speeds up communications with the host machine and even potentially expands functionality.

Further MEI solutions include the 4-in-1 and 3-in-1 bezels, the EasiChoice Bezel and EASITRAX Advance 5000.

JCM

Prism Solutions (PSI) is a mobile wallet solution provider that couples JCM’s iVIZION bill validator and GEN2 printer with a casino operator’s existing mobile application to allow for the integration of a wallet that allows virtual TITO, according to Boudreaux.

PSI uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology as part of its system to provide the casino operator with an enhanced mobile experience for their customers by providing a more efficient and customer friendly transaction. Additionally, it adds value to the existing JCM components while allowing operators to introduce new technology and convenience and enhance their existing mobile application.

Also from PSI are iBeacons, used for proximity marketing and customer communication, and near field communications (NFC), a set of protocols that allows Smartphones to radio communicate with one another.

EVERI HOLDINGS

Everi, who just completed an acquisition of Multimedia Games, is a Las Vegas-based producer of fully-integrated cash access solutions.  According to company press materials, their focus is on redefining the possibilities of cash access products and related services throughout the gaming industry—both in the U.S. and abroad. The technologies they create are the standard bearers for the entire industry, and they are continuing to blaze new trails in cashless gaming.

Noteworthy from Everi is a line of solutions aimed at streamlining the online cash processing needs of the entire land-based resort enterprise. Components include Everi Payments, a simple and sophisticated interactive payment wall that consolidates numerous payment options into one user interface. Everi Digital Wallet is a robust and streamlined account management tool for players that bridges disparate game and loyalty systems while providing operators a unique marketing opportunity to extend their brand beyond the interactive gaming experience. Everi Stored Value Card is a card program that will align with a property’s current marketing and loyalty programs while delivering rapid integration across various point-of-sale devices, revenue capture for enrolled point-of-sale locations, incremental revenue from the card itself and rapid issuance of cards for special events.

Everi also offers CashClub, which, using an intuitive interface, facilitates common cash access tasks such as PIN debit cash advance, credit card cash advance, and check warranty services, according to company press materials. Through feature enhancements that include receipt to printing and electronic storage of customer signatures and receipts, CashClub reduces the records retention burden currently placed on casino staff.

NEWave, a compliance, audit, document, data and efficiency software supplier it acquired by Everi in early 2014, includes the anti-money laundering package with a new business intelligence module; NEWave Audit Manager which scans, totals, balances and archives jackpot slips, table fill/credit slips, scrip, tax forms and tickets using digital images; and NEWave Check Prove software that enables immediate comparison of checks against business rules, check cashing history, visual check and customer ID comparisons to known good images, helping reduce fraud and protect the casino.

VANTIV GAMING SOLUTIONS

Thanks to a relationship with Sightline Payments, Vantiv has pioneered cashless gaming innovation in the U.S. casino market. Already a primary payment option for regulated iGaming and mobile platforms, their modern cashless solution offers casino operators efficient and personalized marketing opportunities using loyalty programs, prepaid and loyalty cards and integration to casino management systems.

“The great thing about Vantiv is that we are a technology company, we have all these assets, we also have about 1,500 banks and financial institutions that have outsourced their services to us,” said Pappano. “So we are this massive technology engine and we have hundreds and hundreds of hardware, software and gateway providers that have integrated into our platform. It gives us the ability to customize and tailor fit based on the specific needs of the operator.”

New and popular is Vantiv IQ, a comprehensive solution that gives actionable insights into running business more efficiently, according to company press materials. With Vantiv IQ, transaction data can be viewed and broken down by card types, gift transactions, chargebacks, and more. It delivers a customizable interface to enable convenience and secure access to business data.  As an enterprise-class reporting tool, it is designed for merchants of all sizes to help streamline workflows, handle large data sets, and deliver reports as needed.

DITRONICS

DiTRONICS Financial Services is a Las Vegas-based full service provider of cash access solutions for the gaming industry, offering next generation kiosk, ATM and cashless gaming technology for the casino floor.

According to company press materials, DiTRONICS can offer a comprehensive suite of services to support iGaming initiatives as well as a path to electronic wallets for cashless floor gaming. Not only do they offer straight transaction processing of credit cards and check warranty services, but through their partners, they facilitate identity verification, geo-location services and digital finger printing.

The all-new DFS-500 Kiosk from DiTRONICS is an “all in-one” solution that optimizes the player experience directly at the kiosk, cage and via DiTRONICS’ digital wallet. Housed in state of-the-art hardware, the DFS-500 Kiosk maximizes efficiency through exclusive software enhancements for ticket redemption, bill breaking, ATM, cash advance and check cashing transactions.

DiTRONICS’ Electronic Cash Advance System uses state of-the-art technology and provides a feature rich application with fast transaction time that effectively increases cash on the floor and significantly reduces labor cost, according to press materials. It supports credit and POS debit, electronic ID scan, digital signature capture and real time voids. Benefits include no drafts to deposit, labor savings, no paper records and, most importantly, improvement of the overall guest experience.