Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA), believes the adoption of digital payments has been key in the industry’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic but operators are still trying to figure out a future role for cryptocurrencies on the casino floor.
“[Our] members are trying to figure this out like most people in America,” said Miller. “It’s fascinating, but there’s also a dynamic involving anonymity and anonymity is somewhat problematic when you are trying to find source of funds.”
Miller said the gaming industry’s acceptance of cryptocurrency “is a process,” as most operators are focused on gaining regulatory approval to allow them to adopt digital payments on the gaming floor.
“Let’s get digital right first and then we’ll figure out crypto,” Miller told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in an interview last week at the East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City.
Currently, only Wyoming’s sports-betting law expressly allows gamblers to use cryptocurrency. The state’s law and regulations lets licensed operators, currently just BetMGM and DraftKings, accept “digital, crypto and virtual currencies,” so long as those payments methods can be converted to cash.
In contrast, eight states — California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, Oklahoma, Ohio and Pennsylvania — have adopted cashless gaming and digital payments for commercial and tribal land-based casinos. Miller said he expected that number to grow as the industry tries to lure new generations to their properties.
Miller has been an ardent supporter of modernizing payments in the U.S. gaming industry.
“My view is creating additional choice is never a bad thing,” Miller told VIXIO GamblingCompliance. “Particularly as millennials … Gen-Z don’t transact in cash. So, we must evolve and appreciate what consumer demand is. That’s the first and most important thing.”
Miller said there was a cost for casinos to count cash, a cost to move it and secure it, as well as the cost from people stealing it.
“You have to build buildings that are like fortresses to safeguard it,” he added.
Miller noted that digital payments and contactless transactions are what consumers have become accustomed to in their everyday lives, from tapping their smartphone to pay for coffee or ordering a ride with Uber or Lyft using their phones.
“We are going to be dinosaurs if we are one of the last places that conducts transactions only in cash,” Miller told conference attendees in his keynote speech. “We don’t want to be a dinosaur; we want to modernize with the rest of our industry.”
The use of digital payments also supports the gaming industry’s anti-money laundering (AML) efforts, he said.
“We hear it from our friends at FinCEN and other places that it is a heck of a lot easier to trace source of funds digitally than someone who brings a shoebox full of cash into a casino.”
Miller credited the industry with making good progress since he took over the AGA from his previous role as senior vice president of government relations with the Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C.
“I came here in 2019 and talked about the fact that there are only a couple of places in America that cash is the primary currency of transaction — flea markets, garage sales and the casino floor,” Miller said.
“This is a modern industry … in terms of consumer offerings. We are doing everything leading edge, except that you come into a property and pay for your room digitally, your restaurant digitally and go to a spa or retail and buy it digitally and then you walk onto the casino floor, and somebody tells you, you can’t do that.”
Miller told VIXIO GamblingCompliance he remembers going to the San Manuel tribal casino east of downtown Los Angeles shortly after being named AGA CEO when the facility was one of the only casinos in the U.S. that had enabled use of a card reader at a gaming table.
He said a lot has changed since then as gaming companies are now considering what the cost to them is in the short term to add cashless technology “and what’s its benefit long term and when that delta shrinks … you are going to be more inclined to go with it and do this.”
Miller added that the coronavirus pandemic has also accelerated that adoption.
“I think going forward for the operators who may have been resistant because of any number of reasons, the issuing banks, regulators and legislators as obstacles,” Miller said. “All the obstacles are being knocked down. So now the questions are, where do you see your business in 10, 20 or 30 years?”