This week The Drop spent some time with John van Waard, IGT’s Director of Systems Product & Sales for the Asia Pacific region, and Laura Skinner, IGT’s Advantage Club Product Manager, who are currently working closely with Club York in Sydney, on the IGT Digital Wallet trial.
I had the opportunity to dig into some of the operational questions that industry managers are asking and to clarify some rumours about the way IGT’s digital wallet will work.
These questions are becoming more important as we get closer to approval in NSW.
A focus on simplicity of use and intuitiveness.
IGT’s digital wallet has been working overseas for some time so the technology is not new to them. However, there are some significant differences in how the digital wallet will work in Australia. John van Waard believes that “it is important to ensure that digital wallets work in a way Aussies are already used to, and that is to replicate the payment process already in use on sports betting apps”. The money flow process in IGT’s localised version, has one less step for players than existing international Resort Wallets and makes the system really simple and intuitive.
Initially, players simply link a debit card (their bank account) through a one-off secure connection, and they can then transfer money to and from their bank account and the gaming account.
Each player can nominate their preferred transfer amount. To transfer money from their account to a machine the player simply holds their phone near the card reader on the machine, where a Bluetooth antenna installed in the card reader, facilitates the transfer. A colour change on the card reader notifies players that they are connecting, and the players nominated credit amount (which can be changed at this point if the player wants to) moves on to the machine and a PIN is requested to confirm the transfer. So simple and direct. There’s no transferring from a bank account to a club account, and then a second transfer to a “gambling account” and then to the machine, as is the case in many other digital wallet systems.
Flexibility of use for the player
When a player leaves the machine, they simply hit the card-out button and the credits are transferred back to the account. The player can then move on to another machine or leave the gaming floor.
The biggest potential issue with digital cards is when a player walks away forgetting to cash out their credits. With IGT’s solution there is a safety net. If another player tries to claim the player’s credits using a different card, the credits will transfer back to the original account – not the new card. So, the player’s money can’t be stolen, and the players don’t leave forgetting to take their credits with them.
Who holds the Player Account?
In Australia, cashless card systems have been approved and operating since the 90s, so the Player Account process is not new – in fact it is a defined term in the NSW Gaming Act and Regs. It’s just the digital funding of the Player Account that is not approved yet and that is what the sandbox trials are testing. The cashless EGM payment system itself, transferring money from a Player Account to and from EGMs, has been around for 10 years.
The way IGT enables the funding process is utilising a club app. There are significant advantages to this as clubs can choose what functionality to offer on the app depending on the way they want it to work for their members. It is possible to include information such as rewards programs, point balances, event tickets, food vouchers, and promotion information. However, it is also possible to simply facilitate the digital card and funding process, each venue has the ability to choose.
There are rumours that it takes too long to sign up a player account.
I questioned John and Laura about rumours I have heard that it is fiddly and time-consuming to sign players up. John confirmed that is just related to the requirements of the government appointed independent researchers for the trial only where players are asked to fill out forms that require additional information.
For any club member, it will be super easy. Members download the club app and hold their phone near a puck at the front desk that connects and downloads their membership data and issues the account. It sends a one-time code to validate the account and the whole process is barely a few minutes.
Laura, who has been working closely with Club York, confirmed that most of the questions they are getting from players are just questions about the signup issues directly related only to the trial as there are lots of forms to complete for researchers.
There has not been one single question from players on how to use the digital wallet at the machines because it is so simple and intuitive.
Is the IGT digital wallet trial underway?
All 112 machines at Club York are running the IGT Digital Wallet trial, with a minimum of 100 players required to be included in the trial. This is set by the researchers who need to ensure they have enough information to be able to provide information to the government backed by statistically robust data. The trial will run for a minimum of three months to ensure they have a good data pack. After that the researchers aim to complete their report to government in a further 3 months.
At this stage the trial is referred to as a “sandbox trial” which is designed to gain guidance on what the regulations will be and to define the best practice operation of digital wallets for the club and the players with high operational integrity.
Once the researchers report goes to the government regulator it will still go through their process of defining and writing up the regulations. For all manufacturers, it is not an automatic “once the trial is done …and the researchers have reported …digital wallets are approved” situation. It still has a government regulatory process to go through.
All the digital wallet systems suppliers are in the same boat here, so none of them are able to give a definitive date on when it will be approved. It is out of their hands.
IGT’s Digital Wallet solves some key problems.
John van Waard discussed one of the concerns with digital wallet development is that there are multiple tech providers involved (such as banks, app developers, marketing specialists) who all want to own the customer journey instead of concentrating on what the customer wants. IGT decided it’s focus should be on the customer and has designed their digital wallet to work as simply and as directly as possible with player needs:
- No secondary transfer from a player account, then to the digital wallet, then to the machine is included. IGT’s Digital Wallet has one money transfer only, with money immediately moved from player account to the machine.
- With other systems players will need to move off the geofenced gaming floor to transfer money which is designed to get players to take a break before adding additional funds. With IGT instead there is a delay on that deposit transfer (5 minutes is currently on trial). This gives the player that same break to reconsider their spend but it means there is no requirement to leave the gaming floor.
- The IGT Digital Wallet facilitates self-exclusion, which must be a face-to-face process, through the app. A player can nominate for self-exclusion which generates an email to the gaming host or manager who can start the process and have a conversation the next time they are in. It means players can do this even if they have left the club and are on their way home, not just while they are there.
- In the IGT Digital Wallet the deposit limits are actual daily spend limits. Daily or monthly spend limits are chosen by the player, (or not, at this stage). It’s entirely up to them. The player can set their limit at, for example $1000 per day and, as they are playing, this updates in real time. They can check their spend / budget through the app and it will tell them if they are, for example, 50% through their nominated limit.
A cashless world.
As a Gaming Specialist I have concerns for clubs and hotels that move too late to cashless and digital wallets. In the case of digital wallets, once they are approved in NSW their use will not be mandatory up until July 2028. At that stage the NSW government is expected to enforce the move to cashless gaming and digital wallets only as a way of removing cash, money laundering and tax evasion, from the gambling industry.
With clubs holding their members players account, players will not want to sign up to five different accounts that all hold money on them, in the same way that they don’t have five sports betting accounts. Clubs and pubs that wait too long may find that players are hard to sign up as we near the 2028 date for mandatory cashless with players already holding a few accounts with other venues. So, venues who jump in early and allow players to learn the system and build familiarity with it before it becomes compulsory, will be in a stronger position.
There is some resistance to the new cashless plans from industry managers mainly due to the costs involved, and the potential to lose incidental play. Either way we won’t have a choice by 2028. However, there are also some significant cost savings that are involved in a completely cashless world. There will be no clearances, no cashflows with errors, no WH&S issues with clearance rosters, no lost money, no money left on cards, no cashiers, no credits left on machines, no theft of other players credits, and no expensive note sorters. With no clearance there are also no count staff and a cashflow would just be accepting meters – with maybe a rolled meter occasionally and become two-minute job saving BOH roster costs as well.
Sounds good to me!
Written by Justine Channing – Gaming Specialist