Bankers who want to learn about debit cards and security might learn something from a company that markets a cashless wagering system for casinos.
In October, Cashtek Corp. of Melville, N.Y., signed a letter of intent to provide such a system to the Atlantis Casino, the largest of seven casinos on the Caribbean island of Saint Maarten.
For a share of the casino's gaming revenue, Cashtek will install 200 cashless slot machines and table-game terminals, converting the entire casino to cashless play.
Choice of Games
Each cashless slot machine offers a choice of five games, such as blackjack, poker, keno, craps, and roulette.
Players can select bets of 5 cents to $ 1 00 per play.
Instead of using a read-write magnetic stripe, Cashtek's stored-value card card uses a chemical-based read-only code that card readers cannot change, said the company's president, Jeffrey Lindo.
The card is "virtually counterfeit-proof and tamper-proof," Mr. Lindo said.
Banks have not shown much interest in these so-called "electronic purse" or decrementing value cards, said Denise Jeffreys, president of Miami-based Xtec Inc., which introduced a cash-value card in February.
But such cards should work well in casinos and on cruise ships, she said.
Big Savings Seen
Although gamblers may mourn the absence of coins clinking in slot machines, casino owners are attracted to an estimated 60% savings in collection costs.
At the Atlantis casino, customers deposit money with cashiers, who in turn give them gambling cards. A central computer, running on copyrighted software, tracks the cardholders' winnings and losses from information generated by the card reader.
At day's end the central computer quickly tallies up the casino's earnings, eliminating the need for employees to count coins. Mr. Lindo said the system also cuts down on the skimming of money from the coffers.
EFT for Gaming
He described cashless wagering as the application of electronic funds transfer to gaming. In many ways, he said, it's similar to using a debit card at an automated teller machine. The main difference is that the casino card reader can tally credits as well as debits.
Also, Mr. Lindo said, the 3,000 machines at a typical casino generate a greater frequency of use than a typical ATM.
With gaming it is essential to record these transactions in real time, with no detectable delay for a player," he said.
The casino operation runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so maintenance must be done while the system is running. "It's as state of the art as you can get," Mr. Lindo said.
And Cashtek has built-in a disaster recovery plan. If one computer goes down, the company can roll in another one, which keeps an ongoing account of the day's transactions.
"We have a more secure system than banks would use," Mr. Lindo said. That gives his company a leg up on other debit providers in casinos, he said.
Cashtek also wants to promote its technology for supermarket and fast-food card payments.
According to a company brochure, a supermarket shopper could use the card for direct debiting or for short-term credit from a bank or finance company, rather than having to rely on automated teller machines for cash.
The store could also link the card to its electronic scanning equipment to track purchases and frequent-shopper points.
In a fast-food location, Cashtek said, customers could use a self-service terminal to transfer funds from their credit cards onto the restaurant's private-label debit card.
The transaction would supposedly take less time and cost the establishment less than a conventional credit card sale.