Cashless casinos: It may seem like an oxymoron, but amid COVID-19 concerns over the cleanliness of cash, industry leaders are pushing for casinos to make the switch.  

In a recent statement, the American Gaming Association (AGA) encouraged regulators in states where gambling is legal to adjust their regulations and rules so that gamblers can make cashless transactions. The push follows an 18-month study of digital payments in both commercial and tribal casinos, a movement only accelerated by the health concerns surrounding casino reopening. 

Industry leaders have tried to encourage more digital payment options in an attempt to modernize one of the last cash-based industries in the U.S, but few casinos have adopted such technologies. Some executives cite state legislator and industry leader regulations as the reason for not adopting such technologies. However, some casino management systems have already outfitted their technology with cashless options, and they are eager for casinos to make the switch.  

Existing Innovations 

Casino management supplier International Game Technology (IGT) has released a mobile interface system called “Resort Wallet” where players can easily manage funds through a secure digital wallet. Players can transfer funds between their mobile wallet and casino games, pay for casino entertainment, and manage their slot, sport and online balances. Combined with IGT’s Cardless Connect technology, which acts as a mobile loyalty card, players can experience the casino from the convenience of their smartphone, avoiding unnecessary contact with shared surfaces.  

The Unified Wallet from Scientific Games allows for cashless payments with both in-person slot machines and online gaming. Those playing can use debit, credit or Automated Clearing House payment methods to load their Unified Wallet. For on-site gaming, the Unified Wallet’s mobile app uses Bluetooth technology to connect with slot machines, and players can reload any unused money from the machines back into their wallet.  

Appealing to New Audiences 

Digital payment technologies may help casinos appeal to younger audiences that do not frequently use cash. About 1 in 10 millennials use their mobile wallet for every single purchase, using credit, debit and digital payments more often, including Apple Pay and Venmo. As younger people enter the gaming scene, casinos will want to appeal to those who may not even use cash at all.  

Cashless options are not only convenient, but they may also be safer and more sustainable by preventing people from overspending. Since digital payments would make the transference of funds easier than ever, gaming experts acknowledge that there will need to be financial safeguards in place since players may run the risk of depleting accounts or accumulating credit-card debt. The AGA claimed that cashless technologies would allow players to more easily set limits for themselves and manage their gambling activity.  

Modernizing an Already Growing Industry  

Prior to the pandemic, the gambling industry experienced strong economic growth in the past years, reaching record high revenue in 2019. Even during quarantine, the number of people playing online poker surged to new highs, with Google searches for “online poker” increasing the same week most sport leagues shut down.  

People clearly miss gambling. Online betting, however, has not and likely will not be able to offset the industry’s losses. As casinos reopen, people will expect certain precautions in place to protect their health and safety, including fewer human and surface points of contact. Contactless payment solutions will not only enable casinos to transition into a safer post-COVID world, but they will usher the gambling industry into the future with cash-free casinos.