Gaming has lagged other industries in adopting cashless transactions, but payments veteran Scott Carcillo sees casino operators quickly shifting into digital overdrive.
“There’s going to be significant momentum based on demographics and on convenience,” said Carcillo, who brought more than 25 years of experience in the payments industry to his recent appointment as chief commercial officer for Koin Payments, a Las Vegas-based provider of digital wallets designed for casinos. On the demographic front, he said anyone born since about 1990 is a “digital native” who expects a cashless experience. “In casinos or online, that age group is increasingly where the spend is,” he added. On the convenience side, digital wallets provide operators and players with options and controls not possible with cash.
As almost anyone who has visited a Starbucks knows, more and more consumers prefer digital payments. A July 2022 survey by Pew Research Center found that 41 percent of Americans did not use cash for any purchases in a typical week. That share had grown from 29 percent in 2018 and 24 percent in 2015. The cashless preference was even more pronounced among higher-income households: 59 percent of those making more than $100,000 a year did not use cash, as did 45 percent of those making between $50,000 and $100,000.
Koin says players need only 3 minutes to set up and fund the company’s wallet on a smartphone. Users can register with a Koin client by inputting their players club card number, and can fund their wallets through credit or debit cards, PayPal, Venmo, Google Pay, Apple Pay, or bank transfers. The wallet also works with Marker Trax, a sister company that allows operators to issue digital markers.
With the wallet, players at a Koin client can buy in and cash out at slots, table games, sportsbooks or kiosks, and online. They also can use the wallet to pay for food, entertainment, or other purchases. “That sort of ubiquity makes a big difference,” Carcillo said.
He said the Koin wallet works with about 70 percent of the casino management systems used in the United States, and the company expects it to be compatible with the remainder in the first quarter of 2024. An operator with multiple casinos can deploy the Koin wallet at each location, allowing players to use the same wallet at all of them.
He said that in addition to allowing players to access all types of gambling, the Koin wallet enables operators to track and secure the transactions, provide stronger Responsible Gaming tools, and increase efficiency in compliance reports. Players can monitor how much money they’ve spent and set their own limits.
“As a byproduct of that fully integrated cashless experience, you can have better insights into how players are participating,” Carcillo said. “You can then enrich your player loyalty programs. And you have the opportunity for upside in their play.”
He told of one client who reported that roughly 70 percent of players who signed up for Koin have stayed active by restocking their wallet. In addition, the number of new registrations has grown by 4 percent or 5 percent a month throughout the year – all without marketing or promotions.
While some players – maybe 20 percent to 30 percent – will stick to using cash, Carcillo said operators embracing digital payments will be able to provide service and support to the holdouts as well as their cashless counterparts without increasing staff. “There are challenges in getting and keeping staff, so you have to become more efficient as an operator. If cashless becomes a path, it’s not to replace jobs. It’s to handle volume and allow you to take the critical staff you have and focus them on continually delighting the players.”
In addition to payment expertise, Carcillo has a gaming background. He was CIO for Wynn Resorts, helping open its Macau facility and start development of Encore in Las Vegas. Koin’s co-founder is Gary Ellis, who also founded Ellis Island Casino in Las Vegas.
Koin’s core partners include Euronet, a global real-time digital and cash payments network; FIS, a global leader in financial services technology; Plaid, which maintains secure connections to more than 12,000 financial institutions globally; and Shift4 Payments, which powers billions of transactions annually for hundreds of thousands of businesses.
“We’re here for the long haul,” Carcillo said.