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AGA head Miller believes casinos ready for cashless environment

Updated October 16, 2019 - 7:54 pm

The head of the organization hosting this week’s Global Gaming Expo wants to make the public’s casino experience cashless.

“We are the embodiment of the 21st century hospitality industry with cutting-edge technology and world-class entertainment,” said Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. “We have millions of customers. Billions in revenue. So why is the casino floor one of the last cash-only businesses on Earth — right down there with garage sales and flea markets? Our customers are used to paying with their iPhones or their debit cards.”

Miller, who took the helm of the AGA in January after being an executive with Business Roundtable, made the pitch for a cashless casino environment in a state-of-the-industry address Tuesday.

Miller, attending his first G2E, was enthused about having more than 27,000 attendees over the course of the four-day event running through Thursday at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

He said his first G2E was an incredible experience.

“G2E exceeded my expectations in terms of the talent of the people that are here,” he said in a Wednesday interview. “I talked with suppliers, I talked to the manufacturers, I talked to the operators and the vibe is really good. They’re here to do business and to showcase their best, and it’s being very well-received.”

Miller also said he spent time with gaming regulators from across the country and was impressed with their receptiveness to sports betting and payment modernization.

“They are particularly receptive to modernization,” he said. “They feel it’s in the customer’s best interest if it’s responsible and we have a good, strong basis from a business perspective.”

Spending on the casino floor without currency and coins could face an uphill battle because of federal laws designed to prevent money laundering. But Miller said he believes going cashless not only would enhance the customer experience in casinos but help provide a digital transaction record. He also thinks the move would discourage problem gambling.

“With today’s technology, we can empower consumers with the tools they need to set budgets, time limits and other safeguards that promote responsible gaming,” Miller said. “We can give law enforcement and regulators new tools to more easily identify customer backgrounds, the source of money being gambled and early warning signs of potential criminal activity.”

Miller said cashless payments create a digital record that can track money movements far more accurately than cash. He said that working with regulators, digital transactions can improve the anti-money-laundering activities already underway at every casino in the United States.

“Giving consumers a choice in how they pay to enjoy gaming can be a win for them, a win for regulators, a win for law enforcement and a win for gaming operators and suppliers alike — and AGA is committed to help deliver that,” he said.

G2E 2019 has been packed with speakers and panels devoted to rapidly expanding nationwide sports wagering. Miller said a recent Morgan Stanley report predicts Americans will place more than $216 billion in legal sports wagers by 2025.

“This year alone, 7 million Americans plan to visit a sportsbook to bet on an NFL game, a 20 percent increase over last year,” Miller said. “Tens of millions more will join betting pools, squares contests or place bets online. Since the federal ban on sports betting ended, Americans have legally wagered more than $11 billion on sports. And this is only the beginning.”

The explosion in sports betting was one contributor toward 2018 being a record year for gaming, generating more than $75 billion in revenue at commercial and tribal casinos. Miller said 22 of the 24 commercial gaming states saw revenue increases, 12 of which set records.

Nevada was among the states with an increase with commercial casinos winning $11.9 billion, the third-highest in state history and about 3 percent ahead of 2017’s total.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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