The coronavirus pandemic interrupted business for casinos and sportsbooks, but it also accelerating digital transformation in the industry.
That’s according to Christopher Justice, President of Global Payments Gaming Solutions.
The gaming side is a small piece of what payment technology provider Global Payments does on an international level. The company provides payment solutions for more than 2.5 million businesses and processes 17 billion transactions annually.
That kind of experience could be useful to the gaming industry, which until recently seemed stuck in its old ways of paper money and hand-to-hand transactions. The American Gaming Association last week proposed a framework for continuing this transition.
Justice expects to see many more options to let guests play in ways that will fit their new personal preferences. That should include more contactless and mobile solutions for casinos and sports betting, he added.
LSR: Gaming is probably going to look a lot different as casinos begin to reopen. What should we expect when it comes to how these casinos and sportsbooks might operate with social distancing in mind?
Justice: Casino and sportsbooks have been carefully evaluating necessary operational changes and updates while social distance measures remain in place. The most obvious strategies will include reducing the capacity of the tables, requiring guests to sit further apart, potentially staggering the operation of individual machines, and aggressively, regularly disinfecting machines throughout the casino.
A March 23 survey by RTi Research was reported in Payments Journal that indicates 29% of consumers are worried about catching the virus from cash. Thirty percent have converted to contactless forms of payment. Those perceptions are further fueled by news reports that the Fed is quarantining cash for seven to 10 days to try and slow the spread.
Macro trends in consumer behavior require digital transformation of the casino environment for the guest to gain a core feeling of safety. We will see more implementations of contactless and mobile solutions on the gaming floor as well as across the resort.
LSR: What does the reopening of these casinos even look like? How difficult could it be to bring all of the technology back online? What’s the data security risk in that process?
Justice: Operators managed through the shutdown in a variety of ways, that may have included everything from furloughing employees to turning off the power completely. Unfortunately, fraudsters have viewed the crisis as an opportunity. Google reported seeing more than 18 million daily malware and phishing emails in April.
Operators will give special attention to all technologies across the casino including software patch management, password security, and access rights. These actions will ensure that software is no longer vulnerable to new attack vectors and secured with current protections to reduce intrusion and access by those uninvolved with the operation.
The Global Payments team is actively working with operators and other solution providers to collaborate well in advance of reopening to ensure that the processes and procedures needed to bring these solutions back online are correctly executed.
To facilitate the process, we have prepared a set of resources that can be found on our website that casinos can use for their reopening planning.
LSR: Global Payments has a Cashless Gaming product that lets consumers control their money in the casino through their mobile device. Have conversations about utilizing this increased?
Justice: Global Payments Gaming Solutions’ VIP Mobility is a seamless, digital experience from funding through cash-out. It leverages existing casino systems and infrastructure to enable guests to easily fund the casino from their personal account, play slots and tables using digital vouchers, and cash out in several self-service ways to create a contactless commerce environment that supports proper social distancing.
Conversations have certainly increased at the operator and regulator level. Guests need to feel safe before they will return. Given the public health mandate to touch as little as possible, there is a compelling argument to be made that mobile and contactless experiences are a necessity.
Consumer trends across the nation show that two-thirds of consumers now use unattended solutions to conduct commerce and there’s significant demand for methods that enable them to use their own device, where they feel most comfortable.
LSR: Kiosks are a big part of the retail sports betting experience. Do you expect that to change now with hygiene high on everyone’s priority lists? What could be some potential pivots for sportsbook operators?
Justice: We live in a society where we want what we want, when we want it, how we want it. Consumers prefer self-service. It’s a trend that remains strong across all other industries. Operators will provide proper attention to hygiene to reduce the health concerns of their guests, and kiosks will remain a large part of the retail sports betting experience.
Furthermore, we can expect greater interest [in] mobile sports betting as well. Consumer preference to use their own device to interact with a user-friendly site will drive higher revenues that the traditional sportsbook alone, whether regulations allow only on-premise mobile or something more expansive.
LSR: Do you envision a big shift coming in the next year or two for states that were previously on the fence or against online gambling given the lost tax revenue from casino closures?
Justice: COVID-19 created the most dramatic market decline in world history. The financial impact on state budgets has been enormous, and legislators are forced to slash spending on a variety of important programs to balance their budgets.
During the same time, iGaming volumes have grown and provided stable job growth and tax revenues. Numerous states are considering legislation that enables digital forms of gaming as a needed diversification of their overall economic planning.