I am going on record: Debit card systems help our industry generate more money.
The facts speak for themselves, but after 20 years of entrenched industry myths, experts say that only 15 percent of the 8,000 plus family entertainment centers across the U.S. utilize a debit card system. If this awesome technology is a no-brainer, then why is it not a part of every game and FEC location?
The Alpha-Omega Group deals with about 100 new family entertainment centers a year and 100 percent of the larger ones install a debit card system. However, many of the smaller centers still operate games with tokens, or even worse, with quarters, even though their customers do not like the extra steps it takes to activate a game.
Debit card systems are the future of payments and, according to Frank, it only makes sense for operators to utilize its many features.
A majority of game revenue share operators have zero experience with a debit card system. The reasons (excuses) for avoiding this money-making technology have been the same for decades:
- It costs too much.
- It will take too much time for my employees to learn how it works.
- We have a lot of employee turn- over and we need to keep it simple.
- We will be out of business if something goes wrong.
- Our customers will not understand it.
- Heard it does not increase revenues. My peers tell me so.
- Why fix it if it ain’t broken. My games are averaging $100/week.
- My technicians are good and quick at fixing token jams.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why debit card systems are good for the industry:
- On average, revenue from debit card systems goes up 20-30 percent even without using any of the promotional and marketing tools.
- Unused play credits and redemption points can pay for the system in less than two years.
- Costs have come down and are currently less than $750 per game if a kiosk is not included. A kiosk has an average cost of $8,500. Debit systems are usually financeable, just like games.
- Younger employees are in many cases more computer savvy than any one over 60 years old.
- Backup systems keep data if something were to go wrong and help decrease downtime.
- A discount program that includes cards valued at $5, $10, and $20 with all birthday, group, family, and individual bookings can increase facility revenues by 50 percent or more.
WHAT ABOUT THE FLOPS?
But who cares about success stories when there are far more cashless flops floating around? In many instances, systems are unsuccessful because owners and general managers assume that the system runs itself. They’re installed and forgotten about or are left for the game technicians to figure out.
Fact: game technicians love to fix things; the last thing they want to do is review collection data reports.
I have certainly earned my stripes as a game technician. I began my career 47 years ago, and have chased my tail seven days a week while operating a route of hundreds of games and cranes over a six-state area, along with supplying/servicing games at dozens of arcades along the New Jersey shore.
I understood early on in my career that new technologies could save me time by making my business more efficient. In the early 1970s, my younger brother, Richard, created a simple “Visi calculator” computer program that tracked game plays and ticket payout percentages. The many reports we generated were the forerunners of what debit card system reports are today.
A STRONG RECOMMENDATION
It is through experience that I give this strong recommendation: Take an interest in the debit card system, learn what it can do, and spend at least 15 minutes a week with your game technician and the games reports.
The reports are especially important because they are evidence of revenue improvements and the growth of the entire business.
Another word of advice: The debit card system shouldn’t only be used to activate games, it should also activate all of the attractions, and if possible, the food and beverage services.
In other words, a customer’s debit card should be used to purchase anything and everything at a facility. This will improve the success rate of VIP loyalty programs and provide more incentives for current customers to increase the frequency of their visits.
Due to debit card system manufacturers’ reasonably-priced and reliable hardware and software, the systems are getting close to that benchmark 20 percent penetration rate where the technology finally gains traction. After 10-15 years, its due for a steep upward growth curve in market penetration.
The same has happened many times over the past 100 years with new technologies: 45’s jukeboxes to CD jukeboxes to digital jukeboxes, electromechanical pinball machines to digital pinball games, and of course, video games (Pong to Jurassic Park).
The latest debit card systems now store data on the Cloud, including training videos and 24/7 online service, and come in a variety of models that handle locations with any number of games, reusable cards, financing, and more.
The Amusement and Music Operators Association, through Hartland MicroPayments, now offers a member benefits program that makes it easy for game operators to utilize a cashless payment system in street locations that have only a few games. This is only one of many options for game operators to get in on the future of cashless payments. Not embracing debit card system technology is cents less.