Whether casino patrons are ready to give up cash is a major question that will begin to be answered when the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas casino-resort opens on the north end of the Strip on June 24.
Developed by Malaysian-based Genting Berhad on the site of the old Stardust casino, the luxury Resorts World promises to be “the most technologically advanced casino in the world,” according to an executive of a company that’s helping the newest kid on the famous Vegas block be a 21st-century gaming leader. And that includes doing away with — as much as possible — old-fashioned physical moolah.
Jonathan Michaels, senior vice president for strategic development and government affairs at Sightline Payments, a financial technology company, explained that Sightline’s methods of moving money would provide customers with a seamless convenience that will enhance the overall casino experience.
To be clear, along with Sightline, a host of tech and gaming companies have collaborated on bringing the cashless experience to Resorts World, a complex with 3,500 rooms and suites, and 117,000 square feet of gaming space on 88 acres.
To borrow a phrase from an old credit card commercial, the Resorts World Las Vegas app you download onto your smartphone is being touted as something you won’t want to leave home without.
“So before going to Resorts World Las Vegas, you download the app,” Michaels explained. “Once you get to Las Vegas, you go to a loyalty lounge and sign up for a loyalty card. An ambassador will be there to help you out and right there, you can fund it. Once you do that and load the funds into your (virtual) wallet, you can use it anywhere across the resort. Slot machines. Tables games. Retail. Entertainment. Restaurants. Essentially, if you’re going to Las Vegas, you don’t need to bring cash if you’re going to Resorts World Las Vegas.”
A requirement in Nevada is that customers have to fund the app in person at the casino. As mentioned, there will be “ambassadors” on hand to help with account registration.
The opening of the new casino comes at a time when Las Vegas casinos are being allowed to run at 100% capacity again. The spread of coronavirus led to the shutdown of casinos nationwide just over a year ago.
It also comes at a time when casinos are changing hands. Bally’s announced in mid-April that it has agreed to purchase the Tropicana Las Vegas casino from Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc., a publicly-traded gaming-focused real estate investment trust.
The movement to cashless commerce in the casino industry had been discussed for a while. The American Gaming Association, the organization representing the industry, has been a big booster of the concept. And certainly, anyone who has placed a bet online, whether online casino games or sports betting or internet poker is familiar with wagering without actual cash involved. What makes the Resorts World LV app different is how deeply integrated it will be with just about every facet of the casino experience.
Customers will not only be able to fund their app — say from a checking account, credit card or other alternative method, such as PayPal — and then use that money at a slot machine or even a table game, but they’ll also pay for anything available as Resorts World, from food and drink to spa services. In addition, the app will also host the resort’s global loyalty program, Genting Rewards. Customers will be able to track their points and special offers in real-time on the app. For patrons attached to the analogue world, there may be comfort in knowing that traditional loyalty club cards will still be handed out but they won’t have the functionality of storing and spending money, like the app.
For most folks, the real-world practicality of cashless interaction in a casino will be on the gaming floor. The process will be simple on slot machines, just flash the app on the phone at the designated area on the machine and load as many credits as desired. On leaving the machine, a simple contactless motion will send the remaining credits/money back into the player’s digital wallet on the smartphone.
It’s at table games where players will be in for a significantly new experience. There, they’ll pass their phone across a QR Code placed at the table and basically tell “the game” how much they want in chips. That will inform the dealer who passes along the cheques to the player. When finished playing, the customer reverses the process and the value of the remaining chips is loaded back on the app. Allowing all this to happen is that RFID technology is built into the gambling chips.
A question is that while most folks are familiar with waving a phone app at a cashier’s scanner to pay for a $4 cup of coffee in everyday life (think Starbucks), how will gamblers feel about buying in for a few hundred dollars in chips from an app and being reimbursed similarly rather than going to a cashier’s cage and collecting folding money?
Michaels said that at the AGA, where he worked previously, a survey of public appetite regarding cashless indicated that casino-goers were more inclined than average consumers to favor cashless commerce and that the pandemic had made people more concerned about handling physical money. It should be noted that customers will still be handling gaming chips and it remains to be seen whether hesitancy about personal contact lingers as pandemic concerns subside.
However, the app has other uses as well. Essentially, it will be tracking customer movements and behaviors as she or he moves through the resort. That can lead to a more personal interaction between the casino and the customer. For instance, notice how it seems Amazon knows about your purchasing habits and touts products akin to ones you’ve already bought.
“Through that app, (the casino) will know what you care to do on property, whether it’s sit at a blackjack table, play a slot machine, relax in the spa, go to happy hour every day, eat a late breakfast -- whatever it may be, and tailor the offers to what you like to do,” Michaels said.
In another vein, the app has the potential to be of assistance in addressing dysfunctional gambling.
“What you see on the digital environment (meaning current online gaming) is that players can set time limits, deposit amounts, spend limits,” Michaels noted. “All that functionality will be built into the Resorts World Las Vegas solution. The other thing that is important (in that regard), you are able to see what you’ve spent and what you’ve lost in real-time.”
The key to the cashless approach’s success will be educating the public and whether the cashless experience proves to be as convenient as other cashless commerce people already conduct in their lives. To take a historical view, there was some significant pushback when slots went from coins to ticket-in, ticket-out because people loved the tactile and auditory experience of the coins. But in time, the nostalgia of hard currency hitting the slot tray was trumped by the convenience of handling paper vouchers.
So maybe folks will eventually be OK with saying goodbye to the Benjamins and content with carrying their “cash” on their smartphones — along with everything else in their lives.