MA Casino Wants To Add Cashless Wagering, Regulators Have Concerns

Written By Mike Breen on January 23, 2024
A picture of a cashless payment for a story about how Penn Entertainment is hoping to implement cashless wagering at its Massachusetts casino.

PENN Entertainment continues its push for cashless wagering to come to Plainridge Park Casino. First, state regulators must approve the use of the technology and develop the regulatory framework for it.

However, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission expressed concerns about cashless wagering. Specifically regarding the responsible gambling considerations that come with it.

Casinos usually reserve cashless wagering for online betting, as most brick-and-mortar properties are cash-focused. But Massachusetts online casinos aren’t legal yet, and Bay State bettors have sweepstakes casinos as their only online option.

At last week’s MGC meeting, Deputy General Counsel Carrie Torrisi announced that Penn will give a responsible gaming-focused presentation. The commission scheduled it for its Feb. 1 meeting.

Torrisi said the presentation would give commissioners “a baseline on some of the main responsible gaming issues that are inherent in cashless wagering, and also some of the ways in which regulators might address those issues.”

PENN reps gave cashless presentation, and demo in October

Plainridge Park Casino is ideal to become Massachusetts’ first casino to adopt cashless technology, which allows players to fund and use their gaming accounts through a card or smartphone app.

Plainridge Park is PENN’s only Massachusetts casino and aside from horse racing and sports betting, it’s a slots-only facility. A cashless transition is easiest with slot machines.

PENN began rolling out its cashless system in Pennsylvania in 2021. Since then, the company brought the tech to 20 other facilities. But have yet to crack the Massachusetts market.

Representatives from PENN were on hand for the commission’s Oct. 24 meeting, held at Plainridge Park, and gave a demonstration of the cashless system. The reps also fielded questions from the commissioners, including queries about responsible gaming safeguards.

They explained that its cashless technology’s primary responsible gaming tool is the ability for the user to set time and monetary limits relative to deposits and wagers.

Commissioners concerned with overspending tendencies

While the commissioners appreciated the limiting feature, some expressed additional concerns about responsible gaming at the October meeting.

MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said she wondered if spending more unintentionally with cashless wagering may be easier. Commissioners said that even a short walk from a slot machine to the ATM allows players to pause and consider how much is being spent. They wondered if the cashless tech could offer something to simulate that kind of pause.

The PENN officials said there are several screens the user has to go through to confirm each new deposit. PENN National Gaming VP and Chief Compliance Officer Christopher Soriano said those concerns were already addressed as they built the tech.

“We’ve had conversations with other regulators who appreciated that period of time,” Soriano said. “It’s not a one-click replenish, or an auto replenish.”

Soriano added that PENN would be open to more safeguards:

“As we learn more, as we think of potentially better ways to do things,” Soriano said, “we’re of course willing to embrace that.”

Further responsible gaming issues to be addressed next month

Torrisi said that PENN addressed these concerns and others in follow-up responses. PENN will present more information and clarification at a future meeting.

Some of that information will likely be referenced in the responsible gaming-focused cashless wagering presentation at the MGC’s Feb. 1 meeting.

Torrisi said a “regulatory framework” for cashless wagering will also be presented for commissioners to review at the meeting. It will include responsible gaming regulation, which she said is similar to what regulators implemented for Massachusetts sports betting.

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Mike Breen

Mike Breen is an Ohio-based professional writer who has more than two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture. He has covered online sports betting, responsible gambling, and other gambling initiatives for a variety of markets over the last couple of years. That now includes PlayMA.

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