Las Vegas could change years of tradition by going gambling cash free

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The city’s casinos have been slow to adapt to the growing use of cashless payments – lagging years behind sports and online gambling platforms. But the coronavirus pandemic created an additional risk with cash supposedly helping spread the virus – prompting Nevada’s General Assembly to signal it will change existing laws.

And they need to act fast, after six other states approved various forms of gambling expansion along with the presidential elections on November 3, according to industry experts.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has been supportive of developing new and improved cashless regulations.

But the legislature doesn’t convene until February meaning several months before anything can change.

Robert Smith, from gambling comparison site, warned that Las Vegas’ “winning streak as the Mecca of gambling could be over if it doesn’t move with the times”.

Mr Smith said: “Vegas’s reputation is unrivalled but that won’t keep people flocking there if it doesn’t change with the times.

“Its initial attraction was its relaxed gambling laws compared with nearly every other state in the US.

“But that’s changing and the Nevada General Assembly needs to recognise that and adapt ASAP because if they don’t they’ll get left behind.

“Vegas will always hold a special place in every gambler’s heart but if they’re not leading the pack then the odds are that people will go elsewhere.

“I only hope that the pandemic has made them wake up and see how rapidly they need to change.”

Nevada has a good framework in place to utilise cashless options, according to Mr Smith.

But it needs to have solid foundations for cashless payments which require functional anti money laundering (AML), robust Know Your Customer (KYC) processes and responsible gaming policies.

The state’s authorities will also have to look into how to stop cashless payments being used to launder money or in other fraudulent activities.

Leading game attorney Kate Lowenhar-Fisher agrees that advances into cashless wagering systems were inevitable.

She said: “The regulated casino gaming industry was inexorably heading in this direction anyway. However, public health concerns related to the physical handling of cash and chips certainly accelerated adoption of these measures.

“It’s important to note that the Nevada Gaming Commission has not yet approved any system for electronic transfers of money to games and gaming devices.”

“At its most recent hearing, the NGC merely removed the prohibition on such systems, and the chairman now has the authority to approve new cashless wagering technology. There is still a way to go, but the NGC and Nevada Gaming Control Board have signaled their openness to such innovation”.

Another side-effect of going cashless could be that many casino staff, employed to guard and deal with large amounts of cash, would be made redundant.

How this would play out as the US deals with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic remains to be seen.

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