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Arnold M. Knightly

Punch in that PIN to wager

7 September 2007

NEVADA -- The state Gaming Control Board heard testimony Thursday on a new technology that would allow casino patrons to use debit cards to buy cashless gaming vouchers for use in slot machines.

EDITH, which stands for Electronic Debit Interactive Terminal Housing, is being developed by Las Vegas-based Innovative Funds Transfer, a joint-venture partnership between Global Cash Access and gaming technology manufacturer International Game Technology.

Tom Sears, director of Innovative Funds Transfer and executive vice president of Global Cash Access, said the new concept addresses the growing popularity of debit cards.

EDITH has been undergoing testing in Casino Pauma in north San Diego County in California for the past year.

Data collected from the seven machines show that EDITH patrons withdraw fewer dollars per transaction compared with automated teller machines at the property, Sears said.

The California device operates similar to an ATM machine, except that instead of cash the patron receives a voucher usable only in ticket in-ticket out machines.

The machine is not connected directly to a gaming machine. Having credit card or debit machines directly connected to slot machines is against Nevada gaming regulations.

Carol O'Hare, executive director of nonprofit Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, expressed concern about the lack of clinical data on the effect the new concept may have on at-risk gamblers. But she is not against the concept in theory.

Offering a gaming voucher instead of cash could be "removing a protective factor" that hasn't been properly studied yet," she argued.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander wondered if the type of study O'Hare discussed was even possible.

"If the research can't be done, doesn't it put Nevada at a competitive disadvantage?" said Neilander, saying other jurisdictions could move ahead and approve the technology.

The three-member board did not officially rule on the device but did not find any overall security or social concerns with the concept. The matter will now go to the state Gaming Commission on Sept. 20.

The commission will rule on whether to let the concept proceed into development for Nevada casinos. If the concept is approved, Innovative Funds Transfer would have to develop the concept into a working technology.

The device would then have to be approved by Nevada gaming regulators in future hearings.