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Cashless sports betting coming to Nevada?

The Nevada Gaming Commission will hold a public hearing June 25 that could pave the way for bettors to make wagers at the race and sportsbook counter without cash and fund their mobile accounts from their couch. 

The commission released the agenda Friday -- the same day Gov. Steve Sisolak announced he had set a June 4 date to reopen the state’s casinos that have been shuttered for more than two months. 

The commission will consider proposed amendments that allow “electronic transfers of money to a game or gaming device.” A detailed report on the proposal wasn’t available on the commission’s website over the holiday weekend. The agenda item, however, included a 2019 news article on VISA offering debit card acceptance at sportsbook windows and 2019 articles highlighting digital wallet technology for slot play. 

“It looks like it’s going to be an expansion to go over all forms of gaming, including sports betting,” said Brianne Doura-Schawohl, legislative director of the National Council on Problem Gambling who is tracking the proposed regulatory language on the commission’s website. 

It would potentially allow race and sports bettors to fund mobile betting accounts through some sort of electronic transfer -- saving a trip to the casino -- and make wagers at a race and sportsbook with a debit card or digital wallet, Doura-Schawohl said. She said books could potentially allow a player’s card funded by those options serve as a point of transaction. 

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Brendan Bussmann, a partner with Global Marketing Partners, said Nevada casinos had been reluctant to back mobile funding from home, for example, to get customers in their properties to spend money and to verify who they are. 

“New Jersey shows it works -- that you don’t need to go into a casino to fund your account,” Bussmann said. “We saw it during the shutdown when South Point (casino) and William Hill had to get creative on how to fund accounts when their locations weren’t open. In this day and age, you shouldn’t have to set up a drive thru to fund players’ accounts.” 

In 2019, the commission approved Reno-based Automated Cashless Systems PlayOn cashless wagering in which a table games’ player can swipe their debit card and receive chips. That system has since been installed on tables at various Las Vegas properties and technology is available for slots. 

There’s been a big push by the cashless payment industry for its expanded use at casinos similar to what’s available in retail and other industries. COVID-19 could speed that up amid a desire to reduce cash handling, according to Christopher Justice, president of the gaming solutions division for Global Payments, an Atlanta-based worldwide provider of payments technology and software solutions. Its technology allows customers, with the use of an app on their mobile phone, to transfer funds from their bank account directly to the casino. 

“A third of the population through a number of studies said they’re afraid of the coronavirus through the use of cash,” said Justice, who also cited concerns over reducing face-to-face transactions. “In order to get the industry to snap back and get back to full employment is to provide guests with assurances that it’s safe to come back and what they’re doing won’t put them in jeopardy.

“It took two weeks for the coronavirus to take out the industry. We have to think differently about how we’re deploying solutions.” 

Justice added expanding cashless reduces casino operating expenses and generates more revenue because players can stay in place. In addition, it identifies the source of funds to help with anti-money laundering, enhances identification to reduce fraud and provides electronic tracking and control consistent with the way consumers manage money to promote responsible game play. 

The Nevada proposal has already gotten the attention of the NCPG, which coincidentally on Thursday held a webinar on the implication of cashless betting and responsible gaming and risks that come with any expansion. The NCPG has been expecting states to expand the use of cashless wagering like is done for iGaming in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and also expand iGaming to other states as a result of COVID-19 and push for more revenue. 

“With problem and responsible gambling, we have a lot of concerns about what COVID has done,” Doura-Schawohl said. “The consumers that will be going back into casinos may be more at risk that’s compounded with a risky form of gambling with cashless (as they’re dealing with isolation and depression). Cashless is not causing friction that you need to take a break in your play.” 

Doura-Schawohl said states that allow cashless need heightened consumer protections. There needs to be limits on time and money spent and the ability to self-exclude card use and people’s ability to place limits on what can be spent on a debit card, Doura-Schawohl said. 

“We feel cashless is not cut and dried,” Doura-Schawohl said. “The UK just recently banned the use of credit cards predicated on problem gambling. Some 22 percent of them who used credit cards met the criteria for gambling addiction so we have reservations. We love to see more data and research in the U.S.” 

The proposed amendments, which continue to prohibit the use of credit cards, allow daily limits to be set by the gaming establishment. There had been a previous limit of $1,000 per day, per debit instrument that was amended in February, according to Steve Warner, chief operating officer of Automated Cashless Systems. Each transaction is limited to $10,000.

The proposed amendment calls for a change, effective in February 2021, for a daily monetary transfer limit per debit instrument that can be configured by the customer who must wait 24 hours to increase the limit.