As we mark 25 years of the industry’s responsible gaming efforts during Responsible Gaming Education Month (RGEM), we can take pride in what our industry has accomplished to date. We can leverage these accomplishments as a source of inspiration, driving us to harness data alongside emerging technologies to propel us even further.
Every casino game starts with payment. For decades, the traditional form of payment has been cash, either directly at the slot machine, through a buy-in at the table, or at a sports betting counter. As consumer behavior shifted and technologies evolved to meet those new behaviors, the gaming industry was rightly confronted with questions about the digitization of payments, whether through debit cards, credit cards, or cashless payments via a mobile device.
This transformation requires critical assessment from regulators, operators and players to examine new technologies, and that certainly includes payment digitization. Today, while debit cards, credit cards and mobile payments are nothing new to the larger consumer and entertainment landscape, a recurring theme is these types of payment methods make it easier to gamble, and therefore, threaten responsible game play.
The reality is, when payments are digitized, they give consumers, operators and regulators more visibility, more data with which to make informed decisions and more control.
When consumers play anonymously with cash, either in a casino or at the lottery retail station, neither the player, the operator nor the regulator gains any data or insight into player behavior or conducts any form of KYC.
Alternatively, because digital payments are inherently carded play, there is a detailed transaction history. Win/loss reports are instantly available. KYC data is continually updated. Each of these data points gives the player more visibility and more control. It also gives data regarding player behavior to the operator, as well as real data to regulators to enable better informed decision-making that allows the industry to be more thoughtful in policy goals.
Lotteries provide an illustration of this point. The average debit card transaction on a lottery machine was $20. The average credit card transaction was $40. And the average cash transaction? That remains unknown, because cash transactions create zero data to inform responsible gaming (RG) policy.
Digital payments can, do and must give insight into actual consumer behavior, so that consumers, operators and regulators can think about restrictions and/or caps at the card level.
There is another advantage to bank cards—when consumers use a debit card or credit card for their play, the casino and the consumer’s bank knows what they are spending. With digital payments, the bank knows the consumer’s history, limit and debt ratio, in addition to the transaction. It can make a much better decision as to limits because there is a history of data surrounding both gaming and non-gaming transactions.
This leads to the question of what is happening now with responsible gaming protections in the digital payments space?
When payments are digitized, there is a greater ability for an operator and the player to set limits. We have seen that directly through the prevalence of responsible gaming tools via online sports betting and online casino apps, where responsible gaming tools like deposit, spending and loss limits are all readily available. In other words, it provides tools we can give players to put more controls in their own hands. Digital payments allow visibility into potentially risky player behavior, such as spikes in play and changes in patterns of behavior. These are only visible with digital payments.
Earlier this year, UNLV’s International Gaming Institute published groundbreaking payments research using Sightline Payments data to determine how you could leverage payments data within the gaming ecosystem to identify markers of harm in player behavior. The research, conducted by Dr. Kasra Ghaharian, analyzed player behavior from a leading online casino operator.
The research found that 88 percent of players exhibited patterns of behavior that were not suggestive of any unsustainable or harmful behavior. The remaining 12 percent of players fell into separate clusters which could indicate problematic behavior—be it loss chasing, use of multiple payment instruments to fund gaming transactions or overall transaction declines. These key data points can be further used to help create interventions for players who may be struggling with their gambling.
So what should we be thinking about for the future? The simple truth is, consumers expect to pay for things how they want to pay for them, and there is an increasing trend toward digital payments across the consumer’s journey in and out of gaming.
The good news is that digital payments empowers the player and the industry to have more control in responsible game play. As an industry, we should be thinking about how we can use data to more easily enable players to set limits and understand their overall play. We should also think about ways to modernize CMS systems to more immediately recognize spikes and other irregular behavior and to provide operators with real time alerts. We should also be thinking about ways to utilize the mobile apps players are engaging with to provide them easy access to telehealth options that literally put tools for responsible play and for recovery in the player’s hands.
Using technology, we have come a long way over the past 25 years in addressing responsible game play. Using digital payments technology, we can go even further.