International Game Technology Plc, the world’s largest maker of slot machines, may be looking at offering cryptocurrency as a payment option on casino games like Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune.
On Tuesday, the company received a patent for a way to transfer cryptocurrency between a player’s gaming-establishment account and an external cryptocurrency account. That means players could move Bitcoin into their virtual wallets on a slot machine using their phones.
“IGT secured this patent to bolster its industry-leading patent portfolio in anticipation of any possible future direction in regulated gaming involving cryptocurrency,” said company spokesman Phil O’Shaughnessy.
Such a move would help casinos cater to younger gamblers. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased interest in Bitcoin, especially among millennials, with about 44% of them planning to buy the currency in the next five years, according to the Tokenist’s October survey. At Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, a third of guests are between the ages of 21 and 40, according to IGT.
Driving cryptocurrencies’ popularity is the recent rally in prices. Bitcoin more than quadrupled in price last year and recently hit a new high. While Bitcoin isn’t widely used in transactions, some users have been known to buy expensive cars, houses and boats with the cryptocurrency. It’s also used on online poker sites and in a slew of gambling apps.
Until now, cryptocurrency enthusiasts have had to convert their holdings into cash at special crypto ATMs on casino floors before wagering. But last year, the Nevada Gaming Commission made it easier for casinos to introduce cashless systems, letting players transfer funds from smartphones to gaming machines directly. On Tuesday, IGT announced that it’s gained regulatory approval for using cashless wallets on slot machines. It lets players use a Resort Wallet loyalty card to deposit funds into slot machines.
(Updates with comment from IGT in third paragraph.)
–With assistance from Susan Decker and Christopher Palmeri.