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Ask the Slot Expert: Cashless gaming - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

6 July 2022

Not much good came from the Las Vegas locals casinos' response to the coronavirus pandemic. Some discontinued long-running promotions. Some doubled the action required to earn a point on video poker. Some eliminated daily 3x points. Some cut back on the number of point multiplier days. Some cut back on gifts. Some closed their buffets.

I can think of only one good thing that has happened since March 2020. Cashless gaming is now available in many casinos. Cashless gaming is the next logical step from coin-less gaming. Ticket systems eliminated the need for coins and tokens. Tickets and paper money became the coin of the realm. Now let's get rid of the tickets and bills.

Cashless gaming generally works like this. You create an account with a payment processor and link your bank account or credit card to it. When you want to play, you transfer money from your bank or credit card. Most systems call this your wallet. When you're at a machine, you use the app on your smartphone to connect to the machine and then you can transfer money from your wallet to the game. When you're finished playing, you can either cash out to a ticket or transfer the credits back to your wallet. When you don't need funds in your wallet, you can transfer the money back to your bank account.

When I first heard about cashless gaming a few years ago, I thought it was unlikely to ever be implemented. Regulators don't want to make it too easy for players to get in over their heads and lose more than they can afford.

You can't swipe your credit card at a machine to get more money on your credit meter. You have to get up from the machine and go to a kiosk to get the cash advance. Maybe you'll think better of it during the walk and go to the coffee shop instead.

Then the rona came along and businesses implemented systems to reduce touchpoints. Although the Nevada Gaming Control Board allowed cashless gaming in June 2020, the systems weren't available in the casinos I frequent until a few months ago.

I've written about my experiences with the STN Cash system at Red Rock in the past. I was an early adopter of its Cardless Connect system a few years ago. Instead of inserting your players card into a machine, you could use the STN app on your phone to "card-in". I gave up on that after a while because it took longer for my phone to connect to the machine using Bluetooth than to insert my card.

I'm back to using Cardless Connect because that's the first step in using STN Cash. I had a few problems before availability of the system was formally announced, but it has been mostly reliable the past few months. I still occasionally have a problem with the app saying it has lost connection with the machine even though the machine still reports that my card is "in". I can usually use the app to connect to the machine again and all is well, but once or twice the app was not able to reconnect.

The worst problem I've had recently was when I was unable to transfer my credit meter back to my wallet. No matter how many times I tried to transfer the money back to my wallet, the system just would not do it. I eventually had to print a ticket.

I've been using the cashless system so much, I forgot about the ticket. I just found it in my wallet -- my physical wallet -- a few days ago. It was for toll money (i.e., a few bucks), so that's probably another reason I forgot about it.

I had noticed a screen for Boyd Pay on the card reader displays at Suncoast. I figured Boyd would have their own cashless gaming system soon. I never saw any announcements for it, but I noticed a Boyd Pay Wallet icon in the Boyd Rewards app when I used it for the first time in a long time last week.

Woohoo! I can use cashless gaming at Suncoast too. I started going through the registration process on my phone, but then I got to a page that listed the fees.

Fees? STN Cash is completely free. There's no fee to transfer money into the STN Cash account and there's no fee to transfer money back.

Boyd Pay changes a 4.95% fee when you fund your Boyd Pay Wallet with a bank card, bank account or PayPal.

This is when the action in a movie stops and the narrator tells you what you need to know.

You have two wallets with Boyd Pay, your Boyd Pay Wallet and your Casino Wallet. First you transfer money from the real world to your Boyd Pay Wallet. Then you transfer money from your Boyd Pay Wallet to your Casino Wallet. Then you can transfer money from your Casino Wallet to your machine.

Resume action.

There are no fees within the Boyd Pay Multiverse of Madness. You can transfer between your Boyd Pay Wallet and Casino Wallet for free and you can transfer between your Casino Wallet and your machines for free. It's only when you want to interface outside the Multiverse that you have to pay a fee.

"Well," I can hear you asking, "at least they let you get your money out without a paying a fee, right?"

Nope. There is a $2 transaction fee to transfer from your Boyd Pay Wallet to your bank account.

A nearly 5% hit on funding makes you behind before you even play a game. The Boyd Pay FAQ page says that there is a way to avoid that fee. You can bring cash to the cage to load to your account. This eliminates one of the big advantages of cashless gaming for me -- not having to bring a large amount of cash to the casino. The page doesn't say whether you can withdraw at the cage to avoid the $2 withdrawal fee.

I can't decide which fee I find more objectionable, having to pay to deposit money to gamble with or having to pay to get your money out.

Needless to say, I won't be using Boyd Pay under the current fees. I could get around the deposit fee by taking money to the cage, but there's no way I'm going to pay to get my money out of the Boyd Pay Multiverse.

I think cashless gaming, like ticket systems, will be universally available. Unlike ticket systems, though, it won't be universally required. It's hard to believe, but not everyone has a smartphone. Some people, furthermore, are reluctant to do online banking.

Can you imagine a machine that doesn't have a bill acceptor?

Have you used cashless gaming? Would you use it? Let me know your thoughts and experiences.


Here are the latest Covid data. There is a difference in the hospitalization data for US versus NV. The CDC reports total number of Covid hospital admissions. Nevada reports current hospitalizations, not total admissions.

All data comes from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#new-hospital-admissions), except for Nevada current hospitalizations (https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/).


Totals Weekly Changes
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths 
 07/05/22   87,661,913   4,891,254   1,013,986   776,984   455   11,060   683,630   30,500   2,476   8,713   53   34 
 06/28/22   86,978,283   4,860,754   1,011,510   768,271   402   11,026   809,381   33,856   2,580   6,189   (8)   36 
 06/21/22   86,168,902   4,826,898   1,008,930   762,082   410   10,990   648,857   30,459   2,040   8,081   95   41 
 06/14/22   85,520,045   4,796,439   1,006,890   754,001   315   10,949   757,093   29,971   2,630   9,809   42   40 
 06/07/22   84,762,952   4,766,468   1,004,260   744,192   273   10,909   813,916   30,146   2,190   6,818   55   26 
 05/31/22   83,949,036   4,736,322   1,002,070   737,374   218   10,883   670,041   24,555   2,285   5,738   16   41 
 05/24/22   83,278,995   4,711,767   999,785   731,636   202   10,842   756,047   25,027   2,317   5,324   37   28 
 05/17/22   82,522,948   4,686,740   997,488   726,312   165   10,814   680,888   21,183   2,097   3,693   35   26 
 05/10/22   81,842,060   4,665,557   995,371   722,619   130   10,788   534,465   17,934   3,932   2,802   32   11 
 05/03/22   81,307,595   4,647,623   991,439   719,817   98   10,777   432,666   14,755   2,448   2,213   (6)   49 
 04/26/22   80,874,929   4,632,868   988,991   717,604   104   10,728   348,507   12,597   2,446   1,447   (22)   46 
 04/19/22   80,526,422   4,620,271   986,545   716,157   126   10,682   266,330   10,525   3,308   1,232   (37)   497 
 04/12/22   80,260,092   4,609,746   983,237   714,925   163   10,185   228,465   10,343   3,627   1,228   23   53 
 04/05/22   80,031,627   4,599,403   979,610   713,697   140   10,132   203,709   10,312   4,105   1,059   (52)   76 
 03/29/22   79,827,918   4,589,091   975,505   712,638   192   10,056   206,914   9,572   4,083   1,187   5   40 
 03/22/22   79,621,004   4,579,519   971,422   711,451   187   10,016   200,627   8,502   8,178   742   (71)   83 
 03/15/22   79,418,377   4,571,017   963,244   710,709   258   9,933   253,069   17,393   5,492   24,844   (20)   113 
 03/08/22   79,165,308   4,553,624   957,752   685,865   278   9,820   310,308   24,471   9,870   2,099   (101)   116 
 03/01/22   78,855,000   4,529,153   947,882   683,766   379   9,704   465,845   33,261   14,988   6,421   (189)   196 
 02/22/22   78,389,155   4,495,892   932,894   677,345   568   9,508   551,462   46,726   12,797   4,023   (297)   173 
 02/15/22   77,837,693   4,449,166   920,097   673,322   865   9,335   1,005,691   67,963   17,059   5,280   (375)   149 
 02/08/22   76,782,002   4,381,203   903,038   668,042   1,240   9,186   1,769,556   92,750   18,185   11,144   (387)   235 
 02/01/22   75,012,446   4,288,453   884,853   656,898   1,627   8,951   3,193,570   121,420   17,885   26,555   (344)   191 
 01/25/22   71,818,876   4,167,033   866,968   630,343   1,971   8,760   5,102,999   143,329   16,393   57,574   99   133 
 01/18/22   66,715,937   4,023,704   850,575   572,769   1,872   8,627   4,983,654   147,105   13,301   25,927   (1,787)   99 
 01/11/22   61,732,283   3,876,599   837,274   546,842   3,659   8,528   5,421,565   139,572   12,168   32,486   2,594   100 
 01/05/22   56,310,718   3,737,027   825,106   514,344   1,065   8,428   3,501,427   104,272   8,867   20,966   276   61 
 12/28/21   52,809,291   3,362,755   816,239   493,378   789   8,367   1,693,987   63,185   11,127   7,977   89   56 
 12/21   51,115,304   3,569,570   805,112   485,401   700   8,311   1,063,296   55,734   9,102   5,639   9   110 
 12/14   50,052,008   3,513,836   796,010   479,762   691   8,201   853,262   57,885   8,946   5,008   17   91 
 12/07   49,198,746   3,455,951   787,064   474,754   674   8,110   821,215   66,191   8,575   5,011   23   125 
 11/30   48,377,531   3,389,760   778,489   469,743   651   7,985   563,746   28,426   6,309   3,343   (50)   55 
 11/23   47,813,785   3,361,334   772,180   466,400   701   7,930   667,924   41,145   10,754   4,784   (24)   86 
 11/16   47,145,861   3,320,189   761,426   461,616   725   7,844   604,748   63,164   7,862   4,577   22   85 
 11/09   46,541,113   3,257,025   753,564   457,039   703   7,759   516,764   33,219   8,290   5,539   34   103 
 11/02   46,024,349   3,223,806   745,274   451,500   669   7,656   555,915   38,028   9,226   4,327   45   109 
 10/26   45,468,434   3,185,778   736,048   447,173   624   7,547   488,829   42,265   9,842   4,753   (87)   96 
 10/19   44,979,605   3,143,513   726,206   442,420   711   7,451   578,396   11,963   4,381   136 
 10/12   44,401,209   714,243   438,039   7,315   795,586   14,067   15,710   149 
 10/05   43,605,623   700,176   422,329   7,166   554,194   10,642   3,852   121 
 09/28   43,051,429   689,534   418,477   7,045   817,218   14,463   6,160   165 
 09/21   42,234,211   675,071   412,317   6,880   971,637   14,691   7,466   152 
 09/14   41,262,574   660,380   404,851   6,728   1,176,763   12,919   10,256   145 
 09/07   40,085,811   647,461   394,595   6,583   975,725   10,076   5,237   104 
 08/31   39,110,086   637,385   389,358   6,479   1,113,414   9,385   7,592   173 
 08/24   37,996,672   628,000   381,649   6,306   1,045,491   7,507   8,117   116 
 08/17   36,951,181   620,493   373,649   6,190   959,978   4,715   7,065   150 
 08/10   35,991,203   615,778   366,584   6,040   819,524   3,987   7,652   122 
 08/03   35,171,679   611,791   358,932   5,918   622,832   2,279   7,489   81 
 07/27   34,548,847   609,012   351,443   5,837   652,251   2,394   8,347   79 
 07/20   33,896,296   606,618   341,096   5,758   169,933   1,478   3,351   28 
 07/13   33,726,363   605,140   339,745   5,730   181,047   1,959   4,982   33 
 07/06   33,545,316   603,181   334,763   5,697   75,104   1,373   2,234   27 
 06/29   33,470,212   601,808   332,529   5,670   87,507   2,057   3,020   24 
 06/22   33,382,705   599,751   329,509   5,646   75,420   2,157   1,930   22 
 06/15   33,303,285   597,594   327,579   5,624   95,797   2,293   1,560   17 
 06/08   33,207,488   595,301   326,019   5,607   114,250   3,762   2,271   21 
 06/01   33,039,238   591,539   323,748   5,586   123,333   3,709   991   27 
 05/25   32,969,905   587,830   322,757   5,559   174,125   4,234   1,676   26 
 05/18   32,795,780   583,596   321,081   5,533   223,966   4,230   2,301   27 
 05/11   32,571,814   579,366   318,780   5,506   303,856   4,687   2,541   33 
 05/04   32,267,958   574,679   316,239   5,473   343,348   4,908   2,559   40 
 04/27   31,924,610   569,771   313,680   5,433   383,163   4,958   2,747   65 
 04/20   31,541,447   564,813   310,933   5,368   464,556   5,072   2,590   36 
 04/13   31,076,891   559,741   308,343   5,332   480,061   5,321   2,986   57 
 04/06   30,596,830   554,420   305,357   5,275   448,935   7,124   3,084   38 
 03/30   30,147,895   547,296   302,273   5,237   439,510   6,793   939   63 
 03/23   29,708,385   540,503   301,334   5,174   388,928   7,446   1,863   53 
 03/16   29,319,457   533,057   299,471   5,121   381,695   8,362   3,078   81 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots