Frank Floor Talk: A charitable solution to an old problem

November 28, 2023 8:00 AM
  • Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports
November 28, 2023 8:00 AM
  • Buddy Frank, CDC Gaming Reports

Have you heard the idiom, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is?” Of course you have. And you know it is almost always, always true.

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Whether it was Sam Bankman-Fried and Tom Brady telling you that crypto currency was safe and secure, or pundits urging you in 2020 to buy more “Skill- Based” games. In the back of your mind, you knew that the “buyer beware” idiom was also applicable.

But maybe we overlooked something that isn’t truly too good to be true. It is called the “Everi Cares Giving Module”. It is a way of turning small TITO tickets into charitable donations. You needn’t worry about the “buyer beware” part, because this module is free (that’s not completely accurate, but more on that later).

First, some background. When slot machines still used coins, if any of them were mistakenly left in trays or accidentally dropped on the floor, they were picked up by “customers”. While a few of those coin collectors were well-meaning players, most were affectionately dubbed by casino staff as fleas, bums, scammers or tweakers. Since early slot machines were only legal in Nevada, these prospectors were originally dubbed “silver miners”. They loved finding the occasional lost silver dollar amongst the displaced nickels and quarters.

Eventually coins and tokens went away, but not the silver miners. Instead, they evolved and became “ticket miners”. With TITO (ticket in/ticket out) and the evolution of the penny machines, there are now hundreds of discarded tickets daily littering casino floors. Even a few tickets below a fixed amount like $5, $10 or $20 are discarded; but by far the most common ticket left behind is anything less than $1.

On the “The Wizard of Vegas” website, which seems to cater to high-repeat gamers, advantage players and “tweakers”, a recent poster said, “I have a rule that I’m not allowed to leave the casino until I scavenge at least one abandoned slot machine ticket … I average finding 70 cents worth of abandoned tickets per casino visit. I visit the casino twice a day, every day. If you add that up over the course of a year, that’s no joke! It’s an extra $511.00 a year!”

Those cents left on tickets clearly mount up. It’s certain that before Everi Cares, the bulk of those funds probably went to the least desirable audience. Everi set out to change that.

In addition to building slot machines, they are one of the industry’s largest suppliers of ATM/TITO kiosks. A few years back, they came up with a software module that allows customers and/or team members to insert those lost, unwanted or discarded tickets into their kiosks. At that point, the user had the option of selecting one of four charities listed to donate those funds to instead of receiving their coins.

Darren Simmons, Everi’s Executive Vice President and FinTech Business Leader, is in charge of their program. He couldn’t cite specific amounts donated each year without the consent from the charities involved, but he acknowledged that the program has handled “millions of dollars”.

The participating casino can select one or more (up to four) charities from a list of over 100 that Everi supports. Perhaps surprisingly, Everi passes 100% of the money specified to the charities. They absorb the cost of accounting and distribution internally. When a new cause arises (like the fires on Maui), they can quickly add a category, if it is not already supported by one of their existing charities.

At the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, the annual total shown on Thanksgiving Day was $313,770.15. Likewise, the team at Pechanga Resort Casino in southern California said it is typical to do $10,000 to $12,000 per month in donations there.

When we said the program is “free”, that is a little incorrect. First, the casino needs to be an Everi client for their ATM/TITO services. However, these types of kiosks are almost mandatory today, and the fees are similar among all vendors.

Secondly, there’s the question of where all that money goes if it doesn’t end up with charities. Most operators list an expiration date on their tickets. It is generally set from 30 days to one year. Theoretically, after that date, the casino could write off those amounts and return the funds to their balance sheet on unclaimed tickets.

In practice, that can be more trouble and expense than joining Everi Cares. First, most casinos not in the program encourage team members to collect these discarded tickets and deposit them in designated drop boxes. That generates additional trips for slot attendants and others. It is definitely not something most staffers enjoy. Without such a program, it was (is) not uncommon to see some attendants ignoring or avoiding the discarded tickets. (NOTE: Knowing that the money could go to a charity, collecting these tickets and inserting them in a kiosk becomes more meaningful to workers. Thus, the floor has a lot less trash. Many attendants said that they now look forward to the task.)

Tickets deposited in those manual drop boxes must be collected and tabulated by the Drop crew and then Audit to match them to the ticket ledger. This, too, generates additional labor costs.

When customers (and the tweakers) have kiosks dispense their small coins, they also create additional fills to replenish the internal coin hoppers. For Accounting, this means the imprest amounts on the floor for a given period are much higher than before Everi Cares was in place. Most executives interviewed for this story cited fewer fills casino-wide once the program was activated. And most said they thought the revenue from expired tickets was easily offset by the reduced time and labor costs. And the increased team morale.

That goes for Everi too. Simmons said, “It’s an expense to us at the end of the day. But we felt like this was an opportunity for us and the operators to give back to the community.”

As mentioned, Everi is a leading supplier of these types of kiosks, but only about 20% of their customers have signed up for this program, which they offer at no charge. They had no explanation for the low rate of participation, as they agreed that the costs were probably a wash for most participants.

‘Tis the season (in our mind) that a lot more folks should sign up for Everi Cares. And we would encourage the other kiosk vendors to explore offering similar programs.