US casinos lobbying for cashless payments to address COVID-19 fears


America’s casino industry group is calling on state gaming regulators to consider allowing operators to accept more cashless payments to lessen the risk of further COVID-19 transmission.

On Tuesday, the American Gaming Association (AGA) released its new Payments Modernization Policy Principles, a seven-point plan for reducing the need for casino operators to handle the majority of their financial transactions using what is now widely regarded as even filthier lucre in the form of paper bank notes.

The AGA announced last week that over 60% of US casinos have reopened following their lengthy pandemic shutdowns. Business to date at these reopened casinos has been hindered by (not always observed) social distancing requirements and AGA survey data shows 57% of casino visitors want the option of being able to avoid handling cash during their visit.

The AGA also believes that digital payment options will allow gamblers to set spending limits in advance and better monitor their gambling activity. Providing customers with more payment options will also help “reduce the current friction between gaming and non-gaming segments of an integrated resort.”

On the regulatory side, the AGA wants state regulators to craft new rules that “align with relevant federal regulations” to both simplify industry compliance and allow regulators to better oversee a “consistent, transparent framework.” The AGA also believes digital payments will enable law enforcement to better identify financial offenders.

A few Nevada casinos have done trial runs of cashless payments on their gaming floors through Automated Cashless Systems’ PlayOn gaming table-based ATM system, which has been approved for use by state gaming regulators. PlayOn allows users to set limits in advance and to monitor their gambling spending.

While Vegas casino patrons may fear catching cash-cooties, they appear  largely unconcerned by the patrons around them pumping COVID-19 droplets into the surrounding air. Since Nevada casinos’ reopening earlier this month, masks are widespread among casino staff but customers wearing masks are reported to be a distinct minority of casino guests.

On Monday, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak confirmed that customers’ mask use would, for the time being, be pursued “on a voluntary basis.” Sisolak said casinos were “going out of their way” to encourage mask use but he noted that some companies “are doing better than others” on this front.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board continues to “strongly encourage” casino guests to wear masks but warned that the policy could become mandatory if Nevada’s COVID-19 infection rates showed a sudden spike.