Apple Pay Ups the Ante for Casino’s Mobile, Loyalty Services

While Apple’s taking an early incremental approach to Las Vegas, terminal manufacturer Ingenico is very bullish on the technology picking up steam with the gaming industry and its patrons.

“Gaming companies are on the whole extremely tech-savvy,” said Gregory Burch, vice president of mobility, business development and independent software vendor relationships at Ingenico Group. Gaming companies are using lab settings to constantly evaluate payment technology such as point-to-point encryption, tokenization, EMV and mobile wallets, he said.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is the first casino-hotel in the city to announce an Apple Pay deployment, with a few points of sale live already. The front desk, concierge, VIP services, restaurants, lounges, bars and some retailers will support Apple Pay by early June.

The 2,995-room casino hotel, which opened in 2010 on the Las Vegas Strip, is installing Ingenico terminals that accept Apple Pay and other contactless systems such as Google Wallet. The Cosmopolitan would not provide an executive for an interview or answer questions on specific types of payments it would accept through Apple Pay.

Outside of gaming, other hotels, such as Marriott, have also announced support for Apple Pay. Merchant acceptance has thus far been Apple Pay’s relative weak spot, with many merchants unable to accept NFC payments and others lacking training on how to handle such transactions. But the mobile wallet concept in general fits well with casinos, particularly the “convenience” pitch, according to Ingenico’s Burch.

“It would enable guests to pay for things, gamble, book reservations, check their rewards status, search for and accept rewards, and do it across multiple properties,” Burch said, adding Ingenico worked with gaming companies in their payment labs on these use cases. “Having all of that information available on their mobile device would be massively convenient.”

Ingenico also envisions a role for loyalty cards, which are key part of the experience at hotel/casinos, Burch said. The cards provide rewards to patrons of the casino’s machines, tables, restaurants and other attractions. The most active customers can earn rewards such as complimentary rooms and resort fees.

“Imagine making all of those cards NFC-enabled, or offering guests the chance to use a mobile wallet format instead, where they are tapping their phone instead of a card. That’s where we see this technology headed in casinos,” Burch said.

Mainstream payment companies have traditionally shied away from gambling payments due to the potential risk — notably, PayPal had to cut ties to the casino industry when eBay took it over — but that has been changing. First Data launched a gaming payments platform in 2014, while Vantiv and Optimal Payments also pursue the gambling industry.

It’s likely that most of the benefits of NFC payments technology in casinos will come by tying transactions to other mobile services, similar to air travel, where the growth of mobile check-in has helped promote mobile technology in other parts of the airport terminals.

In Las Vegas, earlier advancements in payments technology have followed this path—car service payments, for example, have been linked to concierge services for entertainment.

“Simply adding NFC doesn’t in my view improve on the holiday experience all that much,” said Nikhil Joseph, an analyst with the emerging technologies service at Mercator Advisory Group. “Most of these resorts and hotels already have their own apps, and I think there’s tremendous potential to build upon that.”

In-app payments, whether made with a with card on-file or through Apple Pay or Google Wallet, have the potential to drive additional sales, especially when integrated with technology such as Bluetooth Low Energy to detect the user’s location, Joseph said.

“A guest could, for instance, make an in-app order for more chips and show the receipt to the dealer without having to leave the blackjack table,” Joseph said. “The same app could also make location-specific suggestions of which game to play next and indicate how long a wait it would be to get a table at the resort’s signature restaurant.”

There will also be pressure on the casino to make people aware of the added payment and service options, said Thad Peterson, a senior analyst at Aite Group.

“Signage along with staff training is important to drive usage, particularly in a new venue,” Peterson said.