OPINION: Credit – The past, present and future of gaming

April 10, 2023 8:30 PM
  • Charlie Skinner, President, Marker Trax
April 10, 2023 8:30 PM
  • Charlie Skinner, President, Marker Trax

Casino operators have long wrestled with a daunting, practical concern: How do you attract, and retain, the very top customers, the “high rollers,” without asking them to carry large amounts of cash from the plane, to the hotel, to the gaming floor?

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Certainly, you can carry thousands of dollars in cash on you – but this can cause headaches for all sides: There are the obvious, understandable safety concerns the player may have, and operators must diligently follow our industry’s strict compliance and anti-money-laundering protocols that dictate, in part, extra scrutiny be in place when large sums of cash are involved.

The better answer, though, and the one that built Las Vegas and the gaming industry as we know it? Credit.

Broadly speaking, credit in gaming solves the immediate problem: It allows high-value customers to gamble at their preferred level without requiring them to carry large amounts of cash, and it reduces compliance concerns for the operator, while at the same time helping them build a larger, more loyal customer base who appreciate the convenience.

The unfortunate reality, though, is that while credit use is a convenient solution for the player, everything that comes before and after is anything but.

The application process, to begin with, is a complicated, frankly tedious one. Players traditionally have to fill out an arduous amount of paperwork, disclosing a trove of banking and other personal information, which is then sent to third-party companies to review and, hopefully, approve. At its most efficient, the process can take a few days. Normally, though, it can take a week, or longer.

And none of that even touches on the burden it places on operators’ existing infrastructure. To be blunt, casinos have always been designed to operate not as credit agencies, but as, well, casinos. Every transaction at a casino takes place at the casino cage, and like any area of any business, the cage has a finite amount of bandwidth and resources – both human and otherwise. So even at its best, when everything is running smoothly and exactly as intended, issuing credit, monitoring credit accounts, and managing collections has never been as operationally efficient as it could be – for operators or players.

Enter Marker Trax.

With cashless credit, or markers, to use the industry term, that high-value player, so instrumental to our industry’s continued success, can go from sign-up to approval to play in 10 minutes, through a process that is entirely digital, using a mobile device. That means our cage operators can go back to being cage operators, and high rollers don’t have to tack an extra week on to their Vegas trip just to account for how long it will take to get their marker approved.

Not only that, but by expanding credit into the digital landscape, we’re able to open the world of credit up to more qualified players than ever before. It’s important to stress the word qualified, too: While it’s true that a high roller will typically be eligible for a higher credit line, the reality is that more moderate-level gamers may be invited into the fold, too – players who have always been eligible for credit, but who may have not pursued the convenience of a credit line at their favorite resort, discouraged by the drawn-out application and approval process. At the same time, operators haven’t traditionally marketed to these customers, either. Again, working with finite resources and bandwidth, they’ve constrained themselves to high rollers. Digital credit can change that.

Cashless markers also solve what’s long been the biggest problem in issuing and managing casino credit: Walking with the money (literally).

With traditional markers, there’s nothing to prevent a player from getting their credit line, cashing it in, and then just… walking out the door. Although most will play, the risk is there nonetheless, as even a small number of credit players not spending their credit line at the casino – or, walking with the funds – can have a negative impact on a resort’s bottom line. But cashless markers can be restricted to the property of origin, and the player’s individual account.

With Marker Trax, the credit line is tied directly to the player’s loyalty card, and can only be utilized by transferring funds directly from that card to the gaming device. Away from the machine, or table, or property, those funds have no value. There’s simply no money to walk.

As with any emerging technology, of course, there are still challenges to overcome. We’re integrating with multiple parties and systems – technology companies, regulatory bodies, resort infrastructures – and maturing through this process together.

Ensuring and promoting responsible gaming practices, as is the case in all sectors of gaming, are top concerns, as well. This is especially true when dealing in the realm of credit.

From cashless credit to traditional credit, and from slot and table games marketing to sportsbooks, there are many players in the gaming resort space. And as cashless credit continues to evolve, I’ve no doubt more companies will try to bring their own vision to the market. But despite many intrinsic differences, we share the common goal of ensuring responsible gaming safeguards. The Marker Trax platform, in fact, extends more responsible gaming avenues to the operator, to help them better manage their players and their credit. We work side-by-side with the operators, not only through the underwriting process, but in helping them craft the underwriting parameters themselves, toward the goal of never overextending players. And once all those parameters are put into place, with our Marker Trax dashboard, payback activities are closely monitored, so that both sides are on solid footing and risks are minimized.

The gaming industry as a whole is moving steadily, inevitably, toward a cashless future. Players are accustomed to credit and cashless solutions in every other facet of their lives, and more and more of them are demanding those same solutions in their gaming environment.

At the same time, though, the industry overall has remained rather sedentary for the last half-century or more. While major technological advances are introduced to the world at large on a seemingly weekly basis, the ticket-in-ticket-out process was one of the last, major innovations to hit casino floors.

Marker Trax is helping the gaming industry dramatically improve a key part of its operations, for the ultimate benefit of the player, and for casino operators.