Regulators table ATM slot proposal

May 27, 2003 4:47 AM

After hearing concerns over problem gambling, state gaming regulators turned back a proposal to allow slot players to use their ATM debit cards to buy credits in slot machines, but did allow casinos to set up electronic "wagering accounts" for slot patrons.

The five-member commission opted to refer the ATM slot issue back to the Gaming Control Board for further study following testimony from Carol O’Hare, head of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, who said the debit card option would promote problem wagering.

A letter from the Nevada Resort Association placed into the record also urged the commission to delay a decision on debit card wagering to give the state time to study the potential effects on problem gamblers.

"We can’t approve any (ATM slot) systems until problem gambling is addressed," said Greg Gale, chief of audit division of the State Gaming Control Board.

The commission, meanwhile, approved other amendments on cashless wagering and online metering in slot machines, and the use of traveler’s checks at table games, proposed by the board to state gaming Regulations 1, 6 and 14.

The new rules would for the first time in state regulations acknowledge the existence of the now-popular "ticket-in/ticket-out" vouchers players use in place of coins and currency in many newer slot machines

Under the regulations, patrons would be given up to 60 days from the time they received the paper vouchers to cash them in.

The rules also permit gaming operators to set up electronic "wagering accounts" in their casino cages for gamblers, who by using a pin number may then electronically transfer funds from their account to slot machines for credits and then transfer the money left over back to their accounts.

"Eventually, these wagering account transfers will be the way to go" for the casino industry, Gale said.

In addition to wagering accounts, which have "electronic ledgers," casinos may now also give patrons "promotional" accounts, enabling them to transfer non-cash credits to machines used for game play only.

New rules requiring online meters in slot machines will permit the board to monitor estimated and actual hold percentages of the machines, and track the money won in them to estimate gaming tax revenues the state is to receive.

Casinos grossing $10 million or more a year are required to add the computerized online meters to new slot machines by May 22, 2005.

Slot machine manufacturers will have until February 1 to install a minimum of 23 meters into newly built machines. Also, all new cashless wagering slots must be online by August 22, 2004. Finally, all slots must communicate with online metering systems by November 22, 2005, unless waived by the board.

The commission also agreed to let casinos accept traveler’s checks for chip buy-ins right at the table games, instead of having to send patrons to the casino cage. Casino employees can now treat traveler’s checks like cash by placing them directly into the drop boxes at the tables.

Gale, noting that 87 of the more than 400 casinos in Nevada now have slots with cashless wagering capability, said he was surprised by its popularity among visitors. Cashless wagering began in March 2000 at the Fiesta hotel in North Las Vegas.

"I thought that tourists would still want to use money, but this is catching on on the Strip," Gale said.

The ATM slot proposal would have allowed casinos to install ATM currency receptors on slots. Patrons with cards would be limited to $1,000 a day in withdrawals, equal to the amount allowed by most banks for purchases.