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Ask the Slot Expert: My first cashless gaming experience at the slots

20 October 2021

One of the results of the ongoing pandemic is the accelerated development and acceptance of cashless gaming products. IGT's solution even won Product Innovation of the Year at the recent Global Gaming Expo.

Strictly speaking, cashless gaming has been around for a long, long time. Have you ever played with cash at a table game? Using chips (well, cheques, strictly speaking) at a table game is cashless gaming, isn't it? Isn't using tokens (Remember them?) at dollar and up machines also cashless gaming?

What we're really talking about with these new products is cashless funding of our gaming bankrolls. Rather than handing Covid-carrying bills to your dealer or putting them in the bill acceptor on a slot machine, cashless gaming products let us establish our bankroll for a game without handling all that nasty cash. (Silliness aside, you don't have to worry about catching Covid from cash. Catching the disease from fomite exposure is rare compared with catching it from aerosol exposure. And maybe the trace amounts of cocaine on the bills will kill the virus.)

Cashless gaming products were used to purchase chips at table games first. Products for slots were sure to follow.

I had my first -- and unintentional -- experience with cashless gaming at Red Rock's slots today.

A few days ago I noticed stickers that said "STN CASH" on Red Rock's slots. These stickers replaced the ones for Red Rock's "cardless connect" system, which let you use an app on your smartphone to connect your machine to your player card account instead of inserting your player card. I used that system a lot when it first became available, but then I went back to using my card because it was faster.

When I got home, I googled "stn cash" to see what I could learn about it. There's a stncash.com website. It says that STN Cash is "mobile funding straight from your phone to your favorite machine in seconds!"

I downloaded the app to my phone and followed the instructions to create an account and link my Boarding Pass card to it. When I got to the point of trying to add a funding source to my account, the app said I had to go to the casino cage to validate my identity.

The website actually has identity validation as the second step after downloading the app, but I skipped over it to see how far I could get.

I wasn't sure whether the system was operational yet. There were no signs or brochures about it in the casino. I asked the cashier if they were doing the verification for STN Cash yet. She said they were and I should meet her at the last window. They hadn't started publicizing the system yet, but they were signing up anyone who wanted to use it.

There was a bit more involved than just proving I was me. I had to fill out a form with my name, address, SSN, and ID number and sign it indicating that all of the information was correct and that I agreed to the terms and conditions of the STN Cash program. I also had the option to specify a daily limit on withdrawals. I had to give them at least $5 to fund the account initially too.

After a bit of typing and clicking by the cashier and a consultation with her supervisor about what a particular message meant, they asked me to enter my PIN on a keypad. After the system accepted my PIN, they asked me to open the app, press the Connect button, and hold my phone near the machine.

I did as they asked and then asked which of the two card readers at the window I should hold my phone near.

"Not those," said the supervisor. "The machine right behind you."

I had forgotten about the video poker machine that is at the last window. It makes more sense to use the player card reader on a video poker machine to test the app than a credit card reader. After a few seconds, my Boarding Pass info appeared in the slot club panel on the side of the screen. They said I was all set up now and I could start using the system.

I had planned to add my bank account to my STN Cash account after I got home. Then I would transfer some money to the account the next time I visited Red Rock and use the app instead of cash to play.

I still had some time before my pizza would be ready at Side Piece, so I sat down at an NSU machine to play the free play I had available. I thought my long period of bad luck had finally ended (over 17,000 hands since my last deuces and I haven't been getting my share of wild royals and five-of-a-kinds and straight flushes), but the machine was just teasing me. After an initial period of good-paying hands, I had a long string of losers and had to feed the machine. I had $83.54 left on the credit meter when it was time to pick up my pie. I hit the Cash Out button and --

No ticket came out. I hit the Service button and waited. And waited and waited. That was unusual. Red Rock is usually quick to respond to a service request.

When the floorperson arrived, I told her that I hit Cash Out and no ticket came out. She opened up the machine and she was as surprised as I was to not see a ticket stuck in the outgoing ticket path. She pulled up the voucher history on the machine. The last voucher printed was not for $83.54.

She then pulled up the cash out history screen. This screen showed that the machine did handle a cash out for $83.54. Where did the money go?

There was about 30 seconds of silence as she was trying to figure out what happened and I was trying to figure out if I was out $83.54, and then it was like 48 minutes into an episode of House or Death in Paradise. Someone makes an offhand remark and House or the Detective Inspector solves the case.

I saw the STN Cash sticker on the machine again.

I told her that I had just signed up for STN Cash, but I didn't connect my phone to the machine. Could the money have gone to my STN Cash account anyway?

I pulled up the app again and, sure enough, my balance had increased by $83.54.

She said that once you go cashless, all your cash outs are cashless. You can still put cash or tickets into machines, but when you hit Cash Out, your credit meter will transfer to your STN Cash account. She also said that I was the first person she's seen using the system.

It looks like you only have to connect the app to a machine if you want to transfer money from your STN Cash account to it and use cardless connect instead of your player card. When you hit Cash Out, or hit the disconnect button on the app, or just leave the machine, your credit meter gets transferred to your STN Cash account regardless of the source of the funds.

Once I had more than toll money in the account, I should have tried connecting the app to a machine. I didn't think about what I should try because I was already late to pick up my pizza.

Some questions I'll get answered:

  • When I take out a marker, can they add the money to my STN Cash account?
  • Will handpays still be paid by hand or will they just add the money to the account after I sign the W-2G? (I hope to get an answer to this question real soon. It's been 108,00 hands since I hit a royal!)

I thought we would never see cashless gaming. I thought that regulators would not approve the products because they make it too easy for players to lose more than they had planned. If they have to wait for another marker or go to the ATM to withdraw more cash or take a cash advance on a credit card, they have some downtime to think about what they're about to do and maybe change their minds.

One method to prevent players from "going on tilt" is the ability to set a daily limit. The procedures shouldn't make it easy to raise your limit. There have to be some speedbumps. (I didn't set up a limit, so I don't know exactly what is limited. The amount you can withdraw from an external funding source? The amount you can lose from your STN Cash account?)

Tickets replaced coins and tokens on slot machines. Cashless gaming may replace tickets.


Here are the latest Covid data. I added columns for hospitalizations because, in addition to decreasing the spread of Covid and the number of deaths from Covid, another goal of the vaccines is to decrease the number of cases requiring hospitalization. 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 admissions.

All data comes from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/index.html), except for Nevada current hospitalizations (https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/).

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths 
 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 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
 02/02   26,160,210   441,831   279,146   4,278   1,007,777   22,004   7,249   249 
 01/26   25,152,433   419,827   271,897   4,029   1,312,565   23,385   10,324   250 
 01/19   23,839,868   396,442   261,573   3,779   1,317,119   21,318   11,324   279 
 01/12   22,522,749   375,124   250,249   3,500   1,790,345   22,660   17,217   294 
 01/05   20,732,404   352,464   233,032   3,206   1,499,561   18,435   14,655   233 
 12/29   19,232,843   334,029   218,377   2,973   1,258,540   15,460   12,493   186 
 12/22   17,974,303   318,569   205,884   2,787   1,656,411   18,537   16,472   239 
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 
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