Servicing a cashless wonderland

21.01.2019

Entering 2019, Business Development Director Peter Woodfine, spoke at SBC News about the efficient delivery of live content and how customers will prefer to make transactions and collect their winnings.

When I was over in the UK recently, I saw a story on the BBC about a pub that had gone fully cashless. Drinkers at the Crown and Anchor in South London now pay for their pints and gin and tonics using only their cash cards, smartphones, and watches. Money, in the tactile sense of it, no longer changes hands.
The pub’s managers took the decision on security grounds, as it turned out, with the threat of burglary and the safety of staff having to take cash to the bank in front of mind. Upon further analysis, however, they realised that large numbers of their customers were paying for their food and drinks using a cashless method anyway. The decision to abandon the coins and notes was much easier, therefore.
Needless to say, it got me thinking whether or not retail betting would ever take the plastic plunge and consign cash to the rubbish dump of history. Security is also a major consideration in retail betting. But whilst there are lots of similarities between the two licenced premises there are lots of differences too. The needs of middle-class drinkers in a London suburb do not necessarily correspond with those of customers in the local bookie, let alone the multiple different betting shop types in the far-flung corners of the world, be they in Athens or Abuja, Melbourne or Macau.
For many of these customers, cash will always be king. For them, much of the thrill of their retail experience will remain ‘holding the folding’ after a well-earned win on the horses, dogs, or virtual game. What is clear, however, is that tech-savvy customers want to be able to use the variety of the new payment methods available to them wherever they are making their transactions.
For that reason, Vermantia has developed a new breed of the self-service betting terminal that only takes bets from cashless devices. We will be showing our V-POS system at ICE next month and will be interested to see what operators make of it. Unlike the larger cabinet-based SSBTs, it is a compact desk top self-service device that comes with its optional printer arrangement, integrated bank payment OS as well as a decoder, with which to coordinate the on-screen live action in-shop.
Probably the most interesting feature is that all wagering is completely cashless. Why the need for the printer then, I hear you say? Well we are working on a version that will allow customers to collect their winnings on the device with which they placed the bet. But our research tells us that at the moment, the majority of customers like to feel the cash in their hand, in the same way that an athlete is presented with a medal on the podium. Whether that is still the case in few years’ time remains to be seen. What is important for now is to recognise that customers want their user experience to be as simple and convenient as possible. In this, retail is no different to online dynamics.
What we need to watch very carefully as an industry is that by offering customers this type of convenience, we don’t provide them with temptation too. The UK Gambling Commission recently published some advice on the subject that referred to evidence that some gamblers using cashless payment methods will sometimes spend more than they would, were they handing over cash. The reason being that the process was far less tangible and dangers less apparent.
What that does is put the onus on us as responsible suppliers and operators to put in place measures to stop over-indulgence. Shop staff also have to be well-trained to spot the signs of problem gambling and encourage those at risk to stop or take a break. These are not things we should take lightly in our quest to drive revenues and increase turnover. That’s why we’ve ensured V-POS can be integrated easily within an operator’s responsible gaming platforms that can also set money and play time limits on the customer.
What we must do, however, is provide choice if we are to compete for people’s leisure spend. As more retail sports betting transitions from over the counter to SSBT solutions like V-POS, customers will want to use the technology available to place their bets more easily. If that technology is available in other retail experiences they enjoy, whether that’s shopping for clothes, or visiting the Crown and Anchor, it makes sense our industry should endorse it where appropriate too. As well as protecting the vulnerable, what we must always do is provide customers with choice. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.