Wells Fargo & Co. and Mr. Payroll Corp. hope to hit the jackpot by giving gamblers more convenient access to cash.
Through a fifty-fifty joint venture called Innovisions Inc., the companies are developing a machine for casinos that combines automated teller machine functions with check cashing. Gamblers could have all their cash needs met without going to a cashier's window.
Announcing their deal last week, executives from Wells and Mr. Payroll said they expect to name an Innovisions chief executive officer within a month and to deploy test machines by the fourth quarter under the brand name Quest.
The availability of multiple options-including credit card cash advances, debit withdrawals, and check cashing-would help gamblers skirt the daily ATM withdrawal limits set by banks.
"There is a real value in being able to say to the customer that if you need cash from any source, you can come to this machine," said Michael C. Stinson, co-chief executive officer of Mr. Payroll, which distributes automated check-cashing machines to retailers.
"This is a very different look to what has been a commoditized business," said Frank Petro, an executive vice president at Wells Fargo.
Essentially it is "a labor-saving device for the cash window at the casino," said Mark Walter, an electronic banking consultant based in Birmingham, Mich. "It's going to reduce the time and labor (of) cashing checks and doing advances."
Instead of depending on cashiers for credit card advances, the Quest machine would tap into a call center to verify a customer's identity. Subsequent transactions would rely on biometric security-based on the user's face-to authorize a transaction.
The technology is based on Mr. Payroll's check-cashing network in 13 states. The company is also to contribute any technology it buys or develops to enhance the Quest machine. Mr. Payroll is owned by Cash America International Inc. of Fort Worth.
Wells brings its own experience in working with casinos. It is regarded as one of the leading ATM deployers in that industry, and will transfer about 200 ATMs to Innovisions.
The devices are expected to cost more than the average ATM, perhaps $75,000, but "the economic model for these machines is pretty compelling," said Daniel R. Feehan, co-chief executive officer of Mr. Payroll.
Cash delivery services at casinos can be lucrative. ATM surcharges can run from $2.50 to $5, and monthly transaction volumes per machine exceed 8,000, according to Alanna Kellogg, president of the Kellogg Group, a St. Louis electronic banking consulting firm.
By building all cash withdrawal options into one machine, Innovisions would be trying to siphon business from other companies that serve the gambling industry, including Brentwood, Tenn.-based First Data Financial Services. In 1996, the First Data Corp. division processed $3.5 billion of cash transactions and had operations in about 90% of U.S. gambling establishments, the company said.
Innovisions said it hopes to sign up as many as 10 casinos for the initial test.