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[The Strip Sense]

Cash is still king

Calling BS on Global Cash’s “cashless gaming” proposal

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Global Cash’s proposal to have ATMs dispense slot machine vouchers has Steve Friess crying foul.
Photo: Aaron Mayes

Many are the mornings I’ve busted out laughing while rolling through my morning newspaper. Usually, I’m amused reading about an allegedly God-fearing senatorial candidate who doesn’t see the sin in misrepresenting her own well-documented views. That Wednesday column in which readers ask one another where to buy, say, anise-flavored peanut butter is always good for a smile, too. Bizarro usually cracks me up.

Where I rarely get a good kick in the pants is in the business section. In fact, given the way things have been going lately, those headlines are why I save the comics for last.

But boy, I nearly busted a gut reading remarks from folks representing Global Cash, a company that owns and operates ATM machines inside casinos. They want the Nevada Gaming Commission later this month to let them dispense not just cash but ticket-in, ticket-out vouchers ready to use in slot machines.

“As we move toward the cashless gaming process, you will have less people handling cash,” reasoned Global Cash Chief Executive Officer Scott Betts to the Review-Journal. “This reduces the opportunity for theft or fraud.”

Why, that’s hilarious! The ATM dude is all about you!

He’s kidding, right? Well, no.

First, how are we moving toward a “cashless gaming process”? Other than the elimination of coins, which is now about a decade old, what other cashless innovations have we seen? You can’t even load money onto your player’s club card! Casinos and slot makers have invested billions equipping every machine to accept bills of all denominations. They sure don’t seem to be planning for your fake eventuality, Mr. Betts.

And how, exactly, does streamlining the process of converting a gambler’s currency into a skimpy piece of casino paper that probably expires reduce the opportunity for theft or fraud? Whether I take $100 in cash or a $100 voucher, I still have in my possession something irreplaceable that I could lose or have stolen from me. It’s not like I can cancel the voucher if I get heisted by one of the many thugs that Global Cash evidently believes stalk the Bellagio.

The company makes the argument that this will save casinos on the cost of handling cash on the slot floor and “increase operating efficiencies.” Translation: We can help lay off more people during our worst recession ever. Charming!

But the very best one-liner came, not surprisingly, from Global Cash’s lawyer. There is no data, she argued, “that concludes that when a patron takes cash compared to a ticket on an ATM device that they lose the sense that they are gambling with real money.” Well, shit, there’s also no data showing whether dogs like to lick themselves.

Actually, though, we do know people are more conservative with actual cash. Every shopkeeper has heard the pitch from credit companies that accepting their cards increases per-sale spending averages. The more detached people are from money, the easier it is to spend more of it, which is precisely how this country ended up in this debt mess. That’s doubly true when we’ve already lost more in Vegas than we promised the wife, and we really, really need to try to win some of it back.

I recall the debate back when ATMs were first allowed in casinos. Many worried about increasing easy access to cash; the Nevada Gaming Commission insisted safeguards would be in place. People still must decide with greenbacks in their hands, we were told, whether to give it away. Global Cash knows as well as anyone what eliminating that modest safeguard will do.

They also better be careful what they wish for. The best way to facilitate the “cashless gaming process” and reduce “the opportunity for theft and fraud” would be to let people use their credit cards in the slot machines themselves. When that happens, there won’t really be much need for Global Cash at all, will there?

Follow Steve on Twitter at TheStripPodcast or head to VegasHappensHere.com for his blog and weekly celeb-interview podcast, The Strip. E-mail him at SteveFriess@aol.com.
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