Nevada Gaming Commission Approves ‘First Step’ To Expand Cashless Wagering at Casinos

The Nevada Gaming Commission Thursday backed several rule changes to encourage use of cashless wagering systems at the state’s gaming properties despite hearing numerous concerns.

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ACS PlayOn, a cashless wagering system seen on a gaming table at right during January at The D in Las Vegas. Nevada regulators approved new rules this week that will expand cashless gaming. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Under updated regulations and definitions, commissioners eliminated a basic “prohibition” on the use of cashless wagering systems. But before new forms of the technology can be used in casinos, they must be tested and approved by Nevada Gaming Control Board staff, according to Gaming Commissioner Deborah Fuetsch, a veteran banker.

“It’s a monumental first step in cashless wagering systems,” Commissioner Steve Cohen, a Las Vegas-based attorney, said before voting for the changes.

With a unanimous vote, the four commissioners approved eight largely technical amendments to state rules on cashless gaming systems. The changes take effect immediately and will make it easier for casino players to transfer money electronically from bank accounts by using the technology.

It’s going to be good for the industry. It’s going to be good for the patrons,” predicted Acting Commission Chairman John Moran, who is also an attorney in Nevada. He added that some of the changes will “enhance the gaming experience.”

The Gaming Commission apparently still wants to ban direct transfers of money from a player’s bank account to a casino gaming device. With the updated rules, money transfers can be made via digital wallets or other approved systems in order to play slot machines or gaming tables, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The Gaming Commission earlier allowed the use of printed tickets in casinos which carried a specific cash amount that patrons could use in slot machines. Players would later cash out the tickets.

Cashless gaming typically used existing ticket-out/ticket-in technology between slot machines (which dispense the ticket) and kiosks (which suck in the ticket, read a bar code, and dispense cash). Newer technology, such as Everi Holdings’ CashClub Wallet, has expanded this approach. Players can get winnings deposited into a digital wallet when tickets are taken to kiosks.

Vocal Dissent

Before the Gaming Commission voted on Thursday, multiple concerns were raised in letters sent to the commissioners. These range from worries about increased frequency of problem gaming to more risk of fraud. Concerns could also arise over hacking, as well as the potential for players’ cards being accidentally left in machines and subsequent theft.

But Gaming Board member Phil Katsaros, who previously worked as an investigator on the board and later as an executive for gaming companies, pointed out that “We regulate cashless gaming already” and the updated regulations provide “wider use.”

When it comes to controls to limit money laundering and similar legal violations, Katsaros said the Gaming Board and Gaming Commission did not limit requirements on operators. “They still need to adhere to these requirements,” Katsaros said. “They still need to comply.”

When asked about using prepaid cards at casinos, Jim Barbee, chief of the Technology Division at the Gaming Control Board, said they can be used currently, and described it as a “form of debit card.”

Commissioner John Moran added that the Nevada Gaming Control Board later can have workshops for stakeholders on the regulatory changes. These workshops would help clarify the new rules.

During Thursday’s commission meeting, state officials further pointed out that by using instruments such as debit cards as opposed to currency, they provide a paper trail on the source of the money if an investigation is ever required at a casino.

Continued Quest for Regulatory Approvals

Commercial providers of the cashless gaming technology are continuing their efforts to get systems approved by regulators and sold to casinos in jurisdictions where they are permitted.

Earlier this month, the American Gaming Association (AGA) said after 18 months of review it developed seven principles to modernize payments inside casinos. The AGA believes allowing casinos to move from a largely cash-based environment to a digital one is in the best interest of the house, customer, security, and law enforcement.

Concerns about the spread of coronavirus are also leading regulators to approve digital payment systems, as opposed to exchanging currency at casinos.

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