Casinos have a long tradition of issuing lines of credit to valued customers.
As the CEO of Ellis Island Hotel, Casino and Brewery in Las Vegas, Gary Ellis follows this practice. But occasionally he’s noticed a few players go to the cage and withdraw money using their lines of credit, only to leave immediately.
He reached a breaking point a few years ago when a customer withdrew $1,000 without even pretending to spend the funds at the casino.
“I watched him walk out the door, “Ellis says. “Now whether he went across the street to another casino, or took girlfriend or wife out to dinner, I don’t know. But it’s not just what the credit casino lines are intended for. I thought with all the technology we have, this certainly could be automated.”
Ellis went home and diagrammed how a frictionless marker system could work. The result is Marker Trax, a casino marker system that manages and issues cashless funds by way of a contactless, convenient, and frictionless process. It’s an upgrade of the marker credit process, which “has been around for 50 years and hasn’t been changed in 50 years, or longer.” Ellis says.
And for operators like Ellis, it keeps their monies in-house.
“It’s what the marker process was intended to be,” Ellis says.
Basically, Marker Trax works like this: Players, via an app, online, or at a casino, are evaluated and receive an approved line of credit issued by the operator. Ellis says that amount can be more than what a customer wants; in that case, the amount can be adjusted to the customer’s preferred level.
The player is then issued a Marker Trax card to be used in slot machines; currently, the platform does not work for table games. Players can then input the amount they want to wager without having to insert cash or a TITO ticket.
“You’re really playing on the house’s money, which is a thing that players like to do,” Ellis says. “It’s an optimistic way of going in and playing. It’s truly cashless.”
“There’s less friction and less frustration,” Ellis adds. “Gambling is a fun thing to do. People want to go into a casino, and they want to get on a machine and get some action. The less friction you create, the better. And you can play immediately and pay later.”
Of course, the money isn’t truly free. Players who lose playing with Marker Trax have to repay funds to the operators, either through ACH (automated clearing house), or through cash or TITO tickets inserted into slot machines, or payments made at the cage. There’s also a fee calculated daily based on 1% of the player’s maximum advance.
At casinos where the platform is deployed, casino hosts, players club personnel, or slot ambassadors are trained to assist players signing up for Marker Trax.
“There is somewhat of a learning process for people who haven’t accessed a line of credit,” Ellis says, noting Marker Trax is currently available at three casinos including Ellis Island. “But they learn pretty quickly.”
It might seem that a system that allows gamblers to tap lines of credit would lend itself to problem gambling. But Ellis insists that the safeguards built into the system – notably casinos evaluating customers and determining credit lines – actually inhibit problem gambling.
“We necessarily have to know the customer,” Ellis says. “We rate what the customer has on a credit score, their ability to pay, and certainly regulators understand that. We’ve had that conversation. And we now have an audit trail for a customer who may have a problem.”