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A Thing

ATM Deployers View Casino Placements With New Enthusiasm

By Tracy Kitten LogoThis story was originally published on, Oct. 3, 2005; reprinted with permission. © 2005 NetWorld Alliance LLC. All rights reserved.

When Las Vegas-based Global Cash Access Inc. (GCA) announced plans for a public offering last month, industry analysts weren't sure what to expect. In the wake of Katrina, casinos across the Gulf Coast were left crushed.

So it came as a surprise to some that GCA debuted so strongly on the stock market Sept. 23. The company's shares jumped 7% that day, from $14 per share to $14.96 per share.

"It will get increasingly difficult to compete against Global Cash Access, which may be willing to price its competitors out of the market in order to build and maintain its growing dominance in large gaming properties," said Sam M. Ditzion, President and Chief Executive of Boston-based advisory firm Tremont Capital Group.

"ISOs may be able to find a niche within some of the small, less glamorous casinos, but those properties' commission expectations may be set unrealistically high."

GCA has more than 1,200 ATMs deployed in casinos throughout the United States and United Kingdom, and it continues to market products and systems that meet casino needs.

"We're bullish about the gaming business, both domestically and internationally," said Diran Kludjian, GCA's Executive Vice President. "And we think we can compete on any level."

GCA has integrated its ATMs as well as credit, debit and cash-advance services on ticket in-ticket out devices "to provide casinos technical integration on one platform," Kludjian said.

But other companies also are taking an interest in the casino market.

A Place in Line

Portland, Ore.-based TRM Corp.'s Chief Operating Officer, Tom Mann, said during a review of TRM's second-quarter results that TRM "is moving into the leisure sector" as part of its growth strategy.

Mann told ATMmarketplace last week that TRM, the second-largest ISO in the United States, is interested in gaming locations because of their high transaction volumes.

Depending on the casino, monthly transactions can hit 5,000 a month, Mann said, making them attractive, since fixed costs can be allocated across a high volume of transactions.

In that way, with monthly transaction volumes ranging from 500 to 5,000, casinos and financial institutions are similar. It's not surprising then that ISOs are vying for casinos' attention.

Harvey Perkins, Vice President of Pennington, N.J.-based Spectrum Gaming Group LLC and Editor of Spectrum's "The Gaming Observer," said casinos are expected to offer more and more advanced technology that provides patrons with fast access to cash. Companies that get in now will thrive, he added.

"Ever since there were ATMs, they have had a place in casinos," Perkins said. "The casino operator gives the operation of the ATM to the bank [or ISO]," in exchange for offering his patrons convenient access to their money, as well as a percentage of transaction fees.

"In a casino, ATMs have one main purpose, and that's providing access to cash. In a casino environment, it's a necessity," he said.

A Valuable Touchpoint

ATMs, until recently however, were not marketed in casinos. Perkins said casinos were reluctant to make access to cash too easy "because of the perception that the casino is out to get everybody's money."

"The technology has always been there, to have an ATM or [debit/credit] transactions at the gaming site; but the commercial gaming industry has been hesitant to implement such technological procedures," he said.

That's changing.

GCA last month introduced EDITH, an electronic debit interface terminal housing, at the annual Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas.

Developed with San Jose, Calif.-based software developer Infonox Inc., EDITH is a stand-alone kiosk that prints ticket in-ticket out vouchers for use at slot machines. A customer can swipe a debit card and EDITH deducts funds from his account.

EDITH is an extension of TODD, a ticket-out debit device, which provided the same services right at the slot machine, Kludjian said. Both TODD and EDITH use a wireless network, which is allowing casinos to bring access to cash and funds right to the middle of the gaming floor.

"It allows us to communicate and provide transaction processing through a wireless network," Kludjian said.

EDITH is expected to start appearing in casinos the first quarter of 2006.

Wireless connectivity is allowing ticket in-ticket out devices like TODD and EDITH, as well as ATMs, to be placed where all the action is. "ATMs have always been on the periphery. With this, you can bring your services closer to the middle of the floor," Kludjian added, and that's what casinos want.

Casino Pauma, located near San Diego, bought into this concept early. About a year ago, the casino installed TODD as a way to make access to funds more convenient. Pauma also will be the first to install EDITH, an installation GCA is expected to complete by the close of November. Not surprisingly, Spectrum's Perkins said, convenient access to funds is what all casinos want.

"There's two ways to get outside cash at a casino," by bringing money in or getting it at an ATM or through a credit-card advance inside the casino, Perkins said.

"The ATM has advantages, but there are differences," he added. "Casinos want to maximize customer-time on the device, because the more time you have the customer on the game, the more revenues you're going to generate. If you take out the step of the customer having to walk 50 steps to the ATM machine and then come back, you'll maximize capacity and utilization."

Getting Noticed

Getting customers to notice ATMs and ticket in-ticket out devices is becoming more of a focus, said Bill Toro, President of Miami-based Boink Systems Inc. "ATM machines are not really looked upon as the beginning of the process," Toro said. "They aren't placed in the most central positions, but we're trying to change that. We're trying to place machines in a more appealing environment." Boink, which provides next-generation POS solutions and platforms for the gaming and entertainment industries, broke into the ATM space with the introduction of its 3-in-1 kiosk, MoneySource. MoneySource, like EDITH, was introduced last month at the Gaming Expo in Vegas.

MoneySource provides ticket redemption, bill-breaking and ATM functions. Its advanced functions, however, are just part of its allure, Toro said. The whole idea behind MoneySource is to draw in customers.

"We try to make the ATM more attractive, with more information to draw the customer in," he said. "It's a point of information. It's a ticket-in system that redeems the tickets that slot machines spit out. And, lastly, it's a bill-breaker and ATM" with four cassettes.

"If you're about plastering your name on your customers' forehead, then this is for you," Toro added. "This is about marketing to your customer. We're the loud machine in the market, if you will."

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