What is the impact of cashless gaming on gambling behaviour and harm?
Cashless gaming involves the use of non-cash gaming tokens for land-based gambling, and has the potential to become more widely used across Victoria due to the COVID-19 pandemic reducing the use of cash.
Cashless gaming is available in different forms in all states and territories in Australia. In Victoria, regulations introduced in 2019 allowed non-cash gaming tokens to be used at pub and club EGM venues. Two standards are permitted in Victoria:
- Ticket in ticket out, where gamblers insert a ticket with the cash equivalent amount on the ticket into a gambling device, and print a new ticket when they finish on that device
- Card based cashless gaming, where a card is swiped or tagged each time a gambler wishes to pay for gambling.
This report presents a rapid review of literature covering gambling research, consumer behaviour and cognitive psychology, to examine the possible effects of cashless gaming from a gambling harm-minimisation perspective.
The rapid review set out to address three objectives:
- Examine the national and international context of cashless payments and their effects on spending behaviour
- Explore the possible effects of cashless gaming as identified in research literature
- Identify recent jurisdictional developments in cashless gaming due to COVID-19.
The rapid review identified substantial and concerning evidence that cashless gaming using monetary substitutes such as gaming cards will likely facilitate less controlled gambling behaviour, and potentially lead to gambling harm in some consumers.
Findings from consumer behaviour and cognitive psychology literature include:
- Cashless payment methods are generally associated with increased expenditure, with evidence appearing to support that this applies to credit cards, debit cards, and potentially also mobile payments
- Cashless payment methods are largely associated with less ‘pain of payment’ when compared to cash, which suggests that cash is better for expenditure regulation
- Certain segments in the community may have difficulties with managing sufficient working memory and/or mental accounting, which is required in budgeting and expenditure management using cashless forms of expenditure. Previous research has identified such issues as highly likely among problem gamblers. Many forms of gambling already require complex mental tasks to be performed under time pressures that put a load on working memory.
Findings from gambling research literature include:
- Little gambling research has examined the unique effects of cashless gaming as a payment method, when compared to cash
- Many of the purported benefits of cashless gaming have been conflated with the benefits of other gambling harm-minimisation tools in ways that are not logical. There is no evidence to suggest that the use of cashless forms of gambling provides any consumer or harm-reduction benefits
- While some gamblers indicate that cashless gaming may help with the management of gambling expenditure, others report that it makes expenditure management more difficult
- The tokenisation of money tends to lead gamblers to spend more, when compared to cash
- Cashless gambling forms can increase the continuousness of gambling (a factor contributing to harm) by reducing the time an individual needs to take between bets.
Findings indicate the need for further research to establish who is affected by cashless gaming, and also identify how gambling may be affected by all payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards and mobile payments using eWallets.
Hare, S 2021, What is the impact of cashless gaming on gambling behaviour and harm?, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne.