An evaluation report on the cashless gaming trial at Wests Newcastle has revealed the technology had little impact on player behaviour.

The trial, which ran from October 2022 to June 2023, saw digital wallet technology developed by Aristocrat installed on 144 machines. A total of 260 patrons registered for the trial.

The technology allowed players to verify their identity when they registered for this digital wallet and allowed them to transfer money directly from their smartphones – which connected to an external bank account – onto the gaming machines. Players could also set limits, access real-time spending data, take a break or self-exclude from playing, and access other gambling support services.

The findings of report were based on post-trial interviews with 77 patrons, and was prepared by University of Adelaide Professor Paul Delfabbro for Liquor and Gaming NSW.

“The technology generally had limited impact on player behaviour and, if anything, may have made it easier for people to control and monitor their expenditure,” the report concluded.   

When asked about the effect of the new technology on gambling, about half of post-trial patrons that were interviewed reported liking the convenience; not having to speak other people; and 61% reported being able to monitor their play.

The report also noted there was general support for the responsible gambling features, believing they were useful to reduce gambling harm, but there was low usage of these features during the trial. 

The trial also highlighted there are some venue specific issues that may need to be considered in future trials, including the quality of Wi-Fi connections at a venue; appropriate spaces to sign people up; the demographic profile of the venue; and its staffing profile.

“Given the resources required to onboard patrons on to new technology, it may be that larger venues are better positioned to adopt cashless gaming than smaller ones,” the report stated.

As part of the evaluation, post-trial interviews were also conducted with Wests Newcastle management as well as Aristocrat. Both believe cashless gaming as an inevitable feature of future venue operations and that there many advantages for the delivery of safer gambling experiences.

According to the report, both respondents argued for strategies to be introduced that avoided duplication in know-your-customer ID processes, such as venue membership information being also used to validate peoples ID for cashless gaming enrolment.

The finding comes as an expanded cashless trial, overseen by the Independent Panel on Gaming Reform, is currently underway at Twin Towns Services Club.

A spokesperson for Liquor and Gaming NSW said the NSW government has referred the Wests Newcastle trial report to the Independent Panel on Gaming reform so “it could be considered in the context of the expanded cashless gaming trial to ensure a more holistic approach to assessing trial outcomes”.

“Prior to the report being finalised, the Panel considered early findings from the Wests Newcastle trial to inform the settings for the expanded cashless gaming trial which it is currently overseeing. It is noted the Newcastle trial was one small trial in one venue on limited machines,” the spokesperson said.

“The majority of hotels and clubs in the expanded trial will have every machine in their venue operating the cashless technology.”

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