Digital payments: Southern California tribal casino to launch cashless gambling markers

December 2, 2020 12:30 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
December 2, 2020 12:30 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

Southern California’s Morongo Casino and Resort will introduce a new cashless wagering product early next year that will provide slot players with gambling markers. The platform, which runs through Morongo’s casino management system, is not a mobile wallet, since the funds rely on credit provided by the property.

Morongo, which is operated by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, is located near Palm Springs, roughly two-and-a-half-hours east of downtown Los Angeles. The property will be the first tribal casino in the state to offer cashless wagering markers.

“We started having discussions about cashless gaming over a year ago,” said Morongo Chief Operating Officer Richard St. Jean. “We think our industry is close to going completely cashless in the next five years. This is a huge step in making that happen.”

Marker Trax cashless slot credit platform pairs with Konami’s casino management system

St. Jean said Morongo would roll out the product on a limited basis, initially offered to some of the casino’s “top creditworthy slot players,” which will allow the property to easily follow all transactions through the management system.

“The slow rollout will allow us to fully understand how the program works,” St. Jean said. Morongo leaders plan to promote the cashless system in the property’s marketing efforts.

Since 2019, the American Gaming Association has advocated for the industry to adopt cashless or digital payment solutions to help modernize the industry. In the past year, spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, several changes have already taken place.

Regulators in Nevada and Pennsylvania approved new rules to permit digital payments in their casinos, and New Jersey, Indiana, and Iowa are expected to follow suit. Tribal casinos, such as Hard Rock in Florida and Southern California’s San Manuel, are already using digital payment technologies.

Morongo closed for two months due to the pandemic and is operating under COVID-19 health and safety protocols established by the tribe, but also through guidance from local, state, and federal officials.

St. Jean said the cashless wagering program was something customers wanted.

The platform for Morongo, developed by the Las Vegas-based Marker Trax, is the first to utilize markers rather than a customer’s debit card to fund the gaming activity.

Marker Trax Chief Operating Officer Charlie Skinner said the product quickly scores and approves players for credit. Players must be part of the Morongo player rewards system to access the platform.

Richard St. Jean, COO, Morongo Casino

“The system makes for a more efficient gaming experience for players,” Skinner said.

Once credit is established, the customer can play at any of Morongo’s 3,999 slot machines. Marker Trax can access players’ data analytics and retrieve players’ marker tracking. When the gambling session ends and the player wishes to withdraw from their cashless wagering account, the Marker Trax system settles any outstanding marker balance with the casino.

Marker Trax has a partnership agreement with Konami Gaming, which provides Morongo with its casino management system. Skinner said the company is in discussions with other gaming equipment providers to link the system.

The Marker Trax system is currently being used at a field trial in Las Vegas, at the off-Strip Ellis Island Casino, which is being overseen by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

“Clearly, Morongo will be our largest property to utilize the system,” Skinner said.

Marker Trax is a patented cashless wagering technology that allows casinos to issue funds digitally and securely.

Konami Chief Operating Officer Tom Jingoli said Morongo, a full-scale resort in Southern California, will provide a large venue to explore the product’s capability. He said the Konami management system’s integration capabilities “help deliver these types of collaborative tech opportunities to players and properties.”

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgaming.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.