One of the summers I covered the World Series of Poker for this website, I lived with my boss (he no longer owns PND). One of his favorite things to do when we weren’t working was go to the Four Queens in downtown Las Vegas to play blackjack switch. On one of our outings, we got utterly dominated by the dealer. I had one of those hands where you split, double, split, double and the dealer beat every hand. I started with $100 and ended up with $5, betting $5 at a time. Now, with such bad luck, I wasn’t about to reload, but I could see wanting to give it one more go on a different day. Getting up to find the ATM – especially if someone wanted my seat and wasn’t keen on giving me a couple minutes – could be something I’d want to avoid. Well now gamblers in downtown Vegas have an option to reload right at the table as the D Las Vegas has installed ACS PlayON devices at their table games.
The device is pretty simple – it’s essentially like any card swiper we have all used when shopping. If a casino patron is at a table and wants more chips, they just swipe their debit card (no credit cards) and choose how much money they want to spend. The dealer then receives a voucher and hands over chips.
The system does not cost the casino anything up front, according to the FAQ on Automated Cashless Systems’ website. One would assume that ACS charges the casino a fee each time PlayOn is used.
ACS also charges the casino customer a fee. For each purchase, users are charged $4 plus 2.5 percent.
Depending on how many chips one buys, it’s not the worst deal in the world. After some super-Googling, I found that ATMs at the D Las Vegas charge $5.99 per withdrawal. That’s steep compared to most ATMs around the country, but it’s a lot cheaper than the $10 charged by some of the big Strip casinos. A $100 purchase from the PlayOn device would be $6.50. If someone wanted to rebuy for $100, would it be worth 51 cents to not get up? Yeah, probably.
The problem is when you go higher. That 2.5 percent fee adds up quickly.
Of course, other than the cost to the player, the major argument opponents of this system make is that it is yet another way for casinos to keep people gambling. There are plenty of people who gamble, lose the money they brought to the table, and have the entertainment budget for more. But there are plenty who don’t have that budget, who should stop gambling and go home. Having a “cashless ATM” within arm’s reach is considered predatory by critics. Certainly, someone who should stop gambling can always walk to an ATM and go back to the table at most other casinos, but that time away from the table is time the person is able to make a different choice.
The ACS PlayOn devices are expected to go live at the Golden Gate in downtown Las Vegas in the next few days, as well. Golden Gate has the same parent company as the D.