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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz
 

Debit-slot plan gets no votes

21 September 2007

NEVADA -- The Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday unanimously rejected a concept of allowing casino customers to use their debit cards to buy ticket in-ticket out vouchers that can be gambled on slot machines.

The proposal, which had been requested through a partnership between Global Cash Access and slot machine giant International Game Technology, was denied by commissioners for several reasons. The most prominent concern by the five-member panel was they didn't see the need for that particular system to be established.

Also, state and national problem-gambling advocates opposed the device because there has been little clinical research on the effect the new concept might have on at-risk gamblers.

Gaming Commission Chairman Pete Bernhard said casinos hadn't sought the new device and he didn't see much interest from casino customers.

"There may come a time when this device has a place, but right now, I'm a little uneasy about it until we have we have all the research," Bernhard said.

Gaming Commission member Art Marshall said he wasn't comfortable with the concept because of how it could affect compulsive gamblers.

"We already have ATMs on the casino floor, and I just haven't seen a lot of demand for this type of product," Marshall said.

Keith Whyte, the executive director of the Washington, D.C., based National Council on Problem Gambling, told the gaming commission that clinical research on the product was incomplete and that studies of the device during its testing stages didn't provide enough information.

EDITH, which stands for Electronic Debit Interactive Terminal Housing, has been in tests for the past year at the Casino Pauma in San Diego. Tom Sears, an executive vice president with Global Cash Access, said the average transaction has been less than $300 while national studies showed American consumers were moving away from cash and more toward debit card transactions.

EDITH, he said, would help casinos take another step toward cashless gaming, something the gaming industry has advocated.

Attorney Scott Scherer, a former Gaming Control Board member who is now representing the developers of EDITH, said he was concerned that the gaming commission was establishing a need requirement for all new gambling technology. Ticket in-ticket out took several years to gain acceptance, he said. The now popular Megabucks slot machine jackpot system also had a slow start, he added.

"If we apply a need standard to all new gaming technology, then it's going to be difficult to get any new product onto the casino floor," Scherer said.

The vote left intact current gaming policy, which doesn't allow a debit card transaction to result in a ticket in-ticket out voucher. Although automated teller machines are allowed on casino floors in Nevada, current gaming regulations don't allow the devices to be attached to slot machines.

Because the proposal would have called for a cashless gaming voucher to be distributed, opponents of the concept said the idea was one step away a debit card transaction taking place at the slot machine.

The commission's action overruled the Gaming Control Board earlier this month, which had agreed to study the product if the commission had approved.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander asked the commission to rule one way or another on the current gaming policy. Other money transaction companies are developing similar devices and he didn't want control board staff "wasting time" evaluating the products if the commission wasn't going to change state policy.