New research has outlined the potential benefits and problems associated with proposed cashless gaming systems, finding some participants saw upsides in harm minimisation but also potential to increase spending.

The report stems from Qualitative Analysis of Consumer Perspectives Regarding the Harm Minimization Potential of Digital Payment Systems for Electronic Gaming Machines, on a small sample size of 26 Australian EGM gamblers, published by the American Psychological Association.

Participants (16 men, 10 women – aged 24–76 years) took part in four online focus group discussions, where they were queried about their perceptions as consumers on:

  • Potential benefits and risks of cashless gambling
  • Factors that could influence the uptake of cashless gambling, and
  • Recommendations on harm reduction features

A lot of responses made favourable points on a scheme’s potential, such as:

  • Cashless gambling offering the chance for greater harm reduction measures through its ability to track a user’s gambling activity

Potential features that were of greatest interest to the gamblers were the ability to set personalized hard spending limits, and receiving regular statements summarising their gambling activity. It was suggested that an account-based digital system with appropriate features could overcome deficiencies in existing systems, such as by limiting funds held in the account.

  • Amid widespread adoption of cashless systems, some who increasingly do not use cash opted it would be an easy and convenient payment option, making it “quicker” to gamble

In criticism of a cashless system, respondents:

  • Tend to perceive cashless as overly restrictive and invasive, and
  • Say it has potential to facilitate increased spending if its design and implementation is not ideal

The participants also suggested a cashless account linked to an individual’s identity could be an important method of preventing money laundering.

In terms of its implementation, policymakers were provided insights into potential regulations and features to optimise harm reduction. These included:

  • The integration of loyalty systems into cashless accounts, offering rewards not related to gambling, and
  • Better addressing concerns about privacy and confidentiality

The research concluded that a mandatory account-based digital payment system could provide opportunities for minimising EGM-related gambling harms, but significantly, that (problem gambler) consumers tend to view the measures as not relevant to themselves.

“To ensure that systems effectively reduce gambling harm, the voices of people who gamble need to be included in the policy-making process—as to be effective, the system must be used by consumers.” – APA PsycInfo Database, (c)2023.

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