Between blowing on dice for luck, leaning shoulder-to-shoulder over card tables, and handing off paper bills to dealers -- casinos are not exactly the most sanitary places to visit as Covid-19 restrictions begin to lift around the world.
But the American Gaming Association (AGA), a national trade group representing the $261 billion U.S. casino industry, has a plan to change that by implementing an entirely digital payment system that would make handling paper bills at the casino a thing of the past.
In a report published this week, the AGA outlines seven recommendations for how to create a system of digital payments on the casino floor. While fear over new Covid-19 infections spreading through casinos as a result of cash-based payment was part of what sparked these changes, AGA CEO, Bill Miller, tells the Associated Press that moving toward a modern payment system has been in the cards for a long time.
"Advancing opportunities for digital payments has been one of our top priorities since my first day at the AGA,” said Miller. “The Covid-19 pandemic made it all the more important to advance our efforts to provide customers with the payment choice they are more comfortable with and have increasingly come to expect in their daily lives.”
While a few casinos in the country had begun using digital payment options prior to Covid-19, according to AP, cash still reigned king in many casinos across the nation -- with some even rejecting the use of credit cards. But cash has become less and less appealing these days after reports that the Covid-19 virus can linger on the surface of dollar bills.
AGA says that it found in a private survey of casino goers that 59 percent claimed to be less likely to use cash because of the Covid-19 pandemic and that 57 percent wanted a safer, digital alternative to cash payments because of the virus.
To answer these concerns, in its report the AGA outlines seven steps that can be taken toward the implementation of digital payment options like Google and Apple pay.
In regards to customers, the principles include: equipping customers with more payment options that will help them wager safely and responsibly and giving customers more convenience with their options.
In its rationale of these steps, the AGA says that providing options such as "credit cards, debit cards, or debit-enabled forms of payment such as mobile payment apps, player reward cards, or digital wallets" can not only provide customers peace of mind when it comes to the virus but can also provide better integration between payment systems in casinos and payment systems at their surrounding resorts.
The AGA says that having a digital interface for customers to track their payments could also help prevent instances of spending beyond their limits. However, scientific reports have shown that more digitized forms of gambling come with their own potential for abuse as well.
In particular, research from OpenUp, a behavioral research start-up based in New York, found that consumers who spent money digitally bought twice as many goods as they thought they did. This is due in part to the purposefully designed frictionless spending environment created by digital wallet interfaces.
This ease of spending could negatively affect the already estimated two million adults in the U.S. who have a gambling addiction, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling,
And just because digital payment may be easier, doesn't mean its always necessarily safer when it comes to privacy protection. To that aim, the AGA also suggests casinos ensure that all digital payment options used should meet modern data-protection standards before implementing them as part of their digital payment infrastructure.
There's no timeline as of yet for how casinos across the nation will begin implementing these systems -- or even exactly which systems will be used -- but with 621 casinos already reopened across the country, quickly implementing these new systems is becoming increasingly urgent.