FinTech Disrupts Cash Transactions at Casinos — the Results are Surprising

by Kirk Sanford

With the help of innovative marketing strategies, Westgate Resorts is boosting a mobile and cashless guest experience. By 2020 nearly 80% of wagering activity at the Westgate SuperBook will be mobile.

As consumers demand convenience, more and more industries are being disrupted. Mobile platforms are making it easier than ever to order coffee, request a ride-share service, book accommodations, or shop for groceries. Ninety percent of these transactions are cashless, with a combined volume of $1T.

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In a move that may be viewed as controversial, some businesses have decided to forgo cash altogether — running brick-and-mortar stores that only accept payments through credit, debit, or mobile wallets instead. The popular restaurant chain Tender Greens has adopted cashless as the official company strategy, while Starbucks and Shake Shack have also recently opened cash free locations in Seattle and New York respectively. Despite some detractors, cashless transactions are undoubtedly on the rise.

While many industries have pushed toward cashless, the guest experience at casino resorts is dominated by cash transactions — but this is changing. Thanks to FinTech and a growing trend towards mobile apps, casino resorts are undergoing a bold transition to a cashless experience. One of the first to pave the way is The SuperBook at Westgate.

Westgate SuperBook

In terms of square footage, the Westgate SuperBook represents the largest in Las Vegas — and indeed, the entire world — covering over 30,000 square feet. The casino resort hosts ESPN and has garnered fame through events like the Westgate SuperContest — offering 450 prop bets on the Super Bowl (with over 1,000 ways to bet the game). 

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But, a surprising new number has emerged that puts all these figures in a new light — 60% of Westgate’s SuperBook wagering activity is now conducted through its mobile app. By 2020, this number is expected to grow to 80%.

Jay Kornegay, VP of Race and Sports Operations at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, is recognized as an authority in the industry and is often sourced by the media. Despite his credentials, some skeptics still weren’t sold on a transition to cashless. “There was resistance to change, and some warned that it would result in a dip,” says Kornegay.

“There was resistance to change, and some warned that it would result in a dip but the opposite has been true.”  Jay Kornegay

There has not been a dip. instead, transactions have increased. And because cash transactions require labor, the SuperBook is saving money by going mobile.

Kornegay says feedback from customers is overwhelmingly positive, and most feel going cashless has led to an improved guest experience. Kornegay says those who resist a cashless experience tend to be laggards in adopting new technology and face the risk of falling behind.  

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The guest experience: priority #1

While the laggards represent the minority, Kornegay says the SuperBook customer demands convenience – and this means making cashless easy. 

“The SuperBook is committed to keeping pace with the customers’ demands,” says Kornegay. In order to make the sports wagering experience 100% cashless, the SuperBook mobile app now links customers directly with Sightline’s Play+. Whereas the SuperBook mobile app allows for mobile wagering, Play+ allows for funding the account, withdrawing, spending, and transferring funds. This means no more trips to the sports window, no more waiting in line, and no more high fees that are notorious at casino ATMs (or cash advance fees) — those using Play+ report greater satisfaction with the benefit of an account that allows them to easily manage their gaming accounts, along with the flexibility of a card that allows them to purchase at their favorite retailers or withdrawal from funds from ATMs worldwide.

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Although Kornegay is excited about the adoption of mobile, he expects volume to grow even higher, especially during peak events at the SportsBook. During March Madness and the Super Bowl, lines to place wagers or deposit funds can take as long as 90 minutes — often resulting in guests missing halftime bets. Mobile is expected to drastically cut down wait times.

In order to help address this issue and make mobile wagering possible, Kornegay partnered with Play+ to implement an innovative direct to consumer (DTC) marketing campaign.

A Marketing Partnership: Play+ and Westgate

Kornegay has sought a higher adoption rate for the Westgate mobile app and its cashless guest experience. With this in mind, he partnered with Sightline to host a team of Play+ brand ambassadors during March Madness and the Super Bowl. The objective: increase cashless engagement. The results were overwhelmingly positive.

Play+ streamlines the guest experience by providing a convenient and secure way to fund sports wagering apps, integrating withdrawals, transfers, and spending. With an FDIC insured Play+ account, customers can use their money at slots, table games, and race & sports betting — cashless!

March Madness

In the state of Nevada, March Madness now leads the Super Bowl in overall betting handle. As thousands of fans descended on Las Vegas for the first weekend of this year’s tournament, the Westgate SuperBook saw a record number of visitors.

For the second year in a row, Westgate offered bets on its Hoops Central Showdown — a contest where entrants pick winners against the spread for twenty-eight games during the tournament’s first weekend. According to Kornegay, roughly 160 entrants participated in last year’s Showdown, with the winner receiving $6000. The partnership with Play+ has already accelerated its growth.

“With the help of the Play+ brand ambassadors, app activations nearly tripledcompared to last year,” says Kornegay. As mobile continues to expand, the number of Showdown entrants could reach in the thousands.

Super Bowl

While Hoops Central Showdown grows in popularity, the Westgate SuperBook’s football betting already attracts hordes of bettors. As the New England Patriots took on the LA Rams in this year’s championship, Westgate offered 442 prop bets and over one thousand ways to bet on the game. In a three hour window, $400,000 of bets were placed at the SportsBook.

But the record numbers don’t stop there. This year the Westgate SuperContest — a season-long tournament that sees contestants make five weekly selections against the spread — drew a new high of 3123 entrants. The top overall winner received $1.5 million, off a buy-in of $1500. 

Though the wagering figures were impressive, the number of signups that resulted from the Play+ brand ambassadors and the DTC campaign was perhaps even more notable. The 2019 Super Bowl at Westgate’s SuperBook saw an increase in Play+ signups of 2000%compared to last year’s game, with an increase in load volume of 186%.

 “We are on a mission to improve the guest experience and assist our Operators in making their systems more efficient and profitable.”Kirk Sanford, CEO of Sightline

Disruption

Going cashless seems synonymous with convenience. We see this convenience when ordering coffee, buying groceries, ride-sharing, and booking someone’s home as an accommodation. Although, the casino resort experience is a late arrival to cashless, Play+ and industry leaders such as Westgate are pioneering the way to disruption and industry transformation.

About Play+

Connect with Kirk Sanford

Play+ is a payment platform developed by Sightline Payments. Play+ is used by leading casino resorts and sports wagering apps nationwide, including Draft Kings, Fan Duel, Caesars, MGM, Mohegan Sun, Station Casinos, and many others. Sightline’s mission is to improve the guest experience while making business operations more efficient through innovative payment technologies. Play+ is leading the industry toward cashless and a true omni-channel commerce experience. Sightline is committed to responsible gambling. Website

About Westgate 

Founded by President and CEO David Siegel in 1982, Westgate began with a 16-unit resort at Westgate Vacation Villas. Today it encompasses more than 14,000 villas in 27 premiere travel destinations throughout the United States. In 2014, Westgate Resorts acquired the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, featuring a lively casino with the world’s largest race and sports book.

About Westgate SuperBook

The Westgate SuperBook is the largest race and sports SuperBook in the world. Covering 30,000 square feet, it features 350 seats and a colossal 220-by-18-foot wall of 4K video, broadcasting all the latest live sporting events. The Westgate SuperBook is housed at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, which features a lively casino, eight onsite restaurants, a fully renovated pool deck, live entertainment, and sits just one block away from the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. Website

Notes:

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