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Accepted wisdom: managing gaming’s legacy infrastructure

By - 14 October 2020

CPI’s VP of Gaming, Brian Wedderspoon, and VP of connectivity, Doug Haddon, detail the impact of Covid-19 on the payments landscape and offer their thoughts on whether the future of payments is amongst the current crop of available solutions. They challenge some of the percieved wisdom in regards to payment solutions, especially in terms of global acceptance.

What solutions are available for operators to enable mobile or app-based payments?

Brian: With the current health situation, operators are increasingly seeking out alternative payments including mobile and app-based solutions that can be implemented quickly without significant costs. The attractiveness of our solution, which includes mobile payments enabled by Bluetooth technology, is that it does not come with the costly expense of replacing or upgrading the existing CMS system. It is a simple hardware upgrade to the existing CPI cash payment systems used at casinos around the world. Through our security and regulatory know-how, our solution rides the rails of existing infrastructure to bring payment options to gaming operators.

Doug: If you are looking at something inexpensive rather than a full EMV-based system, it must be through BLE and/or cloud-based solutions. These technologies are the enablers to remotely put credit onto the machine through a mobile app connected to the cloud. We are already seeing solutions in the market that generate and receive electronic TITO tickets via BLE technology.

Are operators doing enough to ensure customers are fully aware of their payment options and that they are being used correctly?

Doug: There are a couple of points here. For instance, in the UK and Western Europe, everyone knows about contactless. In the US, this is not the case due to our infrastructure – you can walk into ten different retailers and not know if any of them accept contactless. There is a lot of education required to make it second nature. Across in the Asian market, there are new payment types emerging that could also be accepted in gaming. Ultimately, the answer to this question depends on a number of elements, namely the end consumers’ familiarity with the various payment types available.

Brian: The awareness of payment types is driven by industry associations such as the American Gaming Association (AGA) and the Gaming supply base. Operators are evaluating the options available to them right now because it is new to the gaming world. Although the cashless system has been in the existing infrastructure for years, it has not been widely implemented. Operators are looking for investment worthy systems that players will actually adopt and solutions that will gain traction and can use as a means to attract players.

How can operators stay on top of regulations concerning ePayments?

Brian: Operators and supplier have their legal and compliance divisions so they will be keenly aware of what is going on across jurisdictions. Different states are looking at Nevada where they can replicate adoption or changes in regulation. Nevada recently changed their regulation regarding cashless and debit instruments and there is now talk in other jurisdictions around the US about doing the same thing.

Doug: ePayments in the gaming space will move quicker than other technologies in the past and I do not know if operators are going to be able to keep up. From a CPI perspective, our focus is staying on top of regulations about ePayments to ensure our customers are educated about what is going on. We take this as our responsibility.

The coronavirus has heightened concerns about the hygienic consequences of cash handling. Should operators attempt to tackle customer’s new perception of cash or adapt to it?

Doug: Because we deal with both ePayments and cash, we’re keenly aware of this perception. Studies show that it is more myth than reality, when it comes to the safety of cash. If you look at the paper and polymers on cash, it is designed so that germs sink in, and this actually reduces the spread of contagions from the paper to skin, versus credit cards, where germs sit on top of the plastic and are easily transferable.

In this way, credit cards are actually dirtier than cash, but that is going to be difficult for people to understand. From a customer’s viewpoint, you are taking a credit card out of your wallet, tapping it, and keeping full possession whereas cash is being transacted from one person to another. Should operators attempt to tackle it? Yes. I think it is important. However, if I gave you an answer today about how they can handle that perception and fast forward two or three months, I bet my answer would be different.

Why is that?

Doug: I continually monitor customer behaviour. A couple of months ago, everyone was avoiding using pens and keypads, and wiping down equipment. Now they are not doing that anymore. It is almost like many people have gone back to normal particularly in stores where behaviours are going back to pre-Covid.

Brian: Operators are best served to have both cash and cashless options. When some of the lockdown restrictions were lifted, there was quite an uptick in play. People came in as they wanted something to do after such a lengthy lockdown. Frequent customers may act differently compared to the occasional visitor, but having an option for both cash and cashless is the right approach.

Where do you stand on the cashless debate? Has the pandemic expedited the transition towards a cashless society or are these assertions excessive?

Brian: I am of the mind for cash and cashless payment options, and maintain that we are in a transition period. A cashless payment feature gives operators the ability to offer their customers a payment vehicle choice between cash and cashless. The cashless options, via mobile phone apps, provide additional value with respect to KYC, responsible gaming and enhanced marketing actions. Cash payments remain in place for those players not yet ready to make the move to cashless.

Doug: In the United States, you are going to see the contactless infrastructure built up and the adoption of contactless payment (versus cashless payment as a whole) accelerated. Electronic payments for home delivery services are on the rise. Is that going from cash to cashless? It can be debatable. I expect to see the share of contactless payments continue to rise by share and Covid has only accelerated the acceptance of contactless and mobile solutions.

Alio is designed for players who do not carry cash. Could you tell us more about the product and the importance of user customisation in smart solutions?

Doug: Alio is a play on ‘all-in-one’. The Alio Pro, the first variant to be released, is a 4.3-inch all-in-one reader, meaning it can fully replace the traditional four separate components needed for unattended card payment: the screen, contact reader, contactless reader, and pin entry. The evolution of PIN on glass has enabled us to pull everything into one device so it supports magstripe, contactless and contact payments in a pin-based solution. It can display QR codes, attach QR readers and has BLE technology built in.

The goal with Alio was to enable all the different payment types whether it be cloud payments, traditional cards, digital wallet, and QR codes, all in the convenience of a single, compact device. This is the value we looked at – a single consolidated solution that can enable any payment type available on the market today.

An important function of Alio is the customisable user interface. With this feature, we give the operator the option to switch between the predetermined payment workflow and custom user interfaces that the operator can design and implement themselves (supported by a full software design kit that CPI provides to the operator).

The payment terminal is then easily able to switch between payment modes designed by CPI, and other functional modes (like ticket purchasing) run by the host machine, be it a slot machine or ticket kiosk. For a market like casino gaming, this customization gives them a new way to engage their customers and drive custom, digital messaging.

We derived a lot of our inspiration for the customisation of this product from over 20 years’ experience in delivering cashless payment solutions to the unattended convenience services and vending spaces. We’ve worked closely with operators to understand what is required to successfully facilitate cashless payment at unattended locations. We believe this experience paired with our knowledge of the gaming industry will allow for success in delivering a plug and play solution for at-machine electronic wagering.

Finally, there has been a proliferation in the number of payment methods available to customers. Is the future of payments amongst the current crop of payment options, or do you foresee a new technology paving the way in the years to come?

Doug: It is a good question. I think you need a medium available that can get a payment type onto a machine. NFC and BLE payments will remain mediums. In the future, biometrics will play a role – be it eye, fingerprint, or palm scans and facial recognition. Ultimately, people are trying to get to a point where the point of payment is seamless.

How you get there is going to take a bit of time and comes down to the medium. You have still got to identify and verify customers so a lot of these payment methods are going to continue riding in parallel – older players will want to carry on using cash and traditional credit cards. Some of these new payment methods that are emerging will take a while to become mainstream.

Brian: Top of mind for regulators and operators will be security and responsible gaming and any solution is going to need those elements built into the solution. As operators and regulators dive into adding cashless payments, that security of knowing the customer is all-important. In gaming, you must deal with the legacy infrastructure, so the cost and ease of implementation needs to be considered.

There is also an economics piece to this Rubik’s Cube in that a solution in the near-term must consider security and fit into the existing ecosystem. In the near term, solutions we are putting forward that piggyback on the existing infrastructure seamlessly are the way forward. As the infrastructure gets more mature, you will begin to see more of the cashless experiences from retail moving into the gaming space.

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