Going cashless

Jul 10, 2001 5:21 AM

Although “cashless slots” are still a relatively new casino phenomenon, they could be the norm in virtually all U.S. casinos within at least three years, according to the president of the world’s largest slot manufacturing company.

“I would say the three-to-five year time frame is probably a good one,” said Tom Baker, president and CEO of International Game Technology (IGT). “That’s probably a timeline that makes sense for the roll out of cashless (slots).”

Baker said the task of replacing coin-operated slot machines with “cashless” machines — those that print tickets that can be redeemed or played into another machine — might be similar to the changeover to bill acceptors in gaming machines.

But changing to cashless slots would be a bigger endeavor for casinos because it requires a bigger investment, Baker said.

“Cashless is a bit bigger commitment in that it possibly involves a system changeover and adjustments in current player tracking systems, and so on,” Baker said. “So the commitment may be a bit bigger for some of the casinos.”

In addition to building the most slot machines, IGT is the industry leader in ticket in, ticket out technology with its EZ Pay cashless slot systems.

“The systems that we’ve installed are gaining acceptance,” Baker said. “The EZ Pay technology is currently approved in 12 jurisdictions and is operating in 38 properties.”

Baker added that the number of casinos using EZ Pay will dramatically increase as casinos seek to replace their slot inventory, which on average, have a shelf life of 4-5 years.

“The EZ Pay systems have been very well-received by our customers,” said Mark Sterbens, casino manager at Terrible’s Casino. “Slot players like the idea of not having to cash in and out, and it makes it more convenient to move from one machine to another.”

Terribles, which opened last December, has about 750 gaming machines, most of which are ticket in, ticket out.

Besides the obvious advantages of cleaner hands and less hopper fills, slot tickets facilitate changing denominations.

“That’s a considerable advantage, when players can change the machine’s denomination from 1-cent and 2-cent to nickels or quarters, all the way up to dollars,” he said.

Sterbens said that contrary to some perceptions, the loss of the sound of coins dumping into a tray hasn’t plunged the casino into a morgue of silence.

“Some machines actually have the sound effect of dropping-coins as the ticket is printed,” Sterbens said. “But, all the games have so many different stereo sound effects, plus all the bells and whistles, the casino has more live action than ever before.”

Another casino that opened with mostly cashless slots is the Suncoast in Summerlin, where General Manager David Ross reports equally impressive customer response to the new system.

Other Coasts properties, including the Gold Coast, The Orleans and Barbary Coast are currently changing over to cashless slots.