Casino rule change would allow cashless gambling minus in-person ID check

By: - November 19, 2021 6:26 am
Our Town

“It stretches common sense to argue that you can sit in your living room and verify who you are remotely, but you can’t do it in a casino.” (Photo: Ronda Churchill)

Nevada regulators are considering a rule change to allow casino patrons to sign up for cashless payments on table game bets, slot machines and hotel purchases without physically presenting identification. The change would not apply to betting on sporting events or racing. 

Current law allows patrons to set up and fund cashless betting accounts remotely, but they must appear in person to verify their identity with a casino employee.   

The proposed change would permit a patron to complete the process, including ID verification, on an app and begin spending immediately upon entering the casino.  

“We allow the exact same thing already for an online operation but to not allow for that in the terrestrial world where the player has to come into the casino…” complained Gaming Control Board member Philip Katsaros during a workshop on the measure Thursday

The American Gaming Association says eight states, including Nevada, currently allow mobile wallets. 

“Cashless payments bring casinos more in line with everyday life,” says the website for Sightline Payments, a digital commerce platform that submitted a petition to gaming regulators in September 2020 at the height of the pandemic to allow remote verification of ID for in-house patrons. “Fears over the spread of COVID-19 are leading to broader consumer adoption of mobile-phone payment systems to avoid contact at cash registers.”

“Cashless transactions are quickly replacing traditional cash-based payment methods and the conversion has been further accelerated by the worldwide pandemic,” says a document submitted to regulators by Sightline. “Players are now accustomed to cashless transactions outside of gaming in their daily lives, seeking out touchless transactions due to social distancing and health concerns. …The ability for a player to establish a wagering account remotely is a critical component of this technological evolution.“ 

Joe Pappano, CEO of Sightline, told Control Board members of a bottleneck for patrons who signed up for cashless betting at the opening of Resort World, and had to wait in line for the ID check. 

“A casino employee must personally verify the identity of the patron before they could fund a gaming account,” he said.   

The proposed change would allow patrons to upload identification via a kiosk or cell phone, and have it verified without human interaction.  

Operators would be able to register a patron and verify uploaded identification remotely, as gamblers with interactive online betting accounts are permitted currently.  

Attorney Marc Rubenstien of Reid Rubenstein Bogatz, representing Station Casinos, submitted a letter to the board saying federal anti-money laundering laws “require brick and mortar casinos utilize documentary methods of identity verification for on-premises” gambling. He said the proposed amendment is “an invitation to approve a regulation change that would contravene federal law.”

But attorney Jennifer Carleton, representing Sightline, said Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) “has come out and recognized that this type of amendment is necessary, is appropriate, and it’s consistent with their guidance.”

“It stretches common sense to argue that you can sit in your living room and verify who you are remotely, but you can’t do it in a casino. And that’s somehow going to violate federal law?” Carleton asked rhetorically.

“Very well said,” chimed in Katsaros, who clearly indicated support for changing the rule.

“I sat here very patiently listening to a presentation that totally misled you,” Rubenstein said, maintaining federal law prohibits remote ID verification for “a terrestrial wagering account.”   

“Why aren’t there cannabis businesses in connection with casinos. I mean, we all kind of look at it and roll our eyes, right?” he asked. “But the fact remains, that’s the law and the Gaming Policy Committee was very clear that as long as that’s the law, we don’t go down that rabbit hole, right. This is directly analogous as long as the federal law still requires terrestrial examination.”

“We’re not all rolling our eyes on that,” said Katsaros. “I can at least speak for myself.” 

Rubenstein did not respond immediately to requests for comment on whether Station Casinos supports the measure aside from legal concerns.  

Cashless gaming is perceived as beneficial to operators, augmenting a seamless gambling experience. Its effects on customers is yet unknown.  

The board decided to bring the matter forward to be heard at a regular meeting.  

Earlier in the day, newly-appointed Gaming Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Togliatti presided over her first meeting.  It was the second meeting as a commissioner for former State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, who also appointed to the commission recently by Gov. Steve Sisolak.  

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.