A.C. will attract new money if it stops demanding cash

Becoming a cashless city is a necessity if resort town wants to attract the next generation of visitors

By Anjalee Khemlani
Atlantic City | May 10, 2018 at 7:00 am
On the Beat

I’ll admit, my generation is demanding about wanting convenience at every turn.

It’s why, on a recent trip to Atlantic City, I breathed a sigh of relief as I approached the cashier at a casino parking garage and happily discovered I could use my credit card to pay the $5 parking fee.

For everything that’s been done by the city — and the state and developers and everyone else who is trying to rebuild Atlantic City — in an attempt to appeal to new visitors, I’m constantly surprised by how few have figured out the easiest (and most important) thing to do: Give people the ability to go cashless.

The city has tried to appeal to every different demographic over the years. It has focused on the wealthy, it has focused on traditional gamblers, smokers, nonsmokers, families and beachgoers.

Now, it’s taking aim at millennials and college students.

If it wants to succeed in that aim, it needs to know this: A recent study conducted by LinkedIn and Ipsos found that 32 percent of millennials envision a cashless society where currency will no longer be needed for transaction. Another study showed one in four millennials carries less than $5 cash.

As a former resident of the resort town (2012-2015), I marvel at how much of it still operates on cash.

I’d always accepted the city’s shortcomings in the past: cash-only taxis, cash-only casino parking garages and public parking surface lots, coin-operated parking meters, as well as cash-only food and drink options along the Boardwalk (I’m looking at you, Irish Pub).

I recall always worrying about having cash whenever I parked in the casino garages, since many would not accept cards. This applies to many of those that have shut down.

Of those open, Caesars Entertainment casinos were also cash-only, as were the Tropicana and Golden Nugget.

If Atlantic City is trying to bring in a younger crowd, this has to change.

One place is definitely getting it right: Borgata — as its revenue postings have showed for years.

Borgata always has been known as the fancy casino where all the New Yorkers drove — via the Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector, aka bypassing the residential areas of the city — and spent all their money, never leaving the premises, save to reach another casino.

Recently, I got my first glimpse into what it was like to spend a night there in the fully cashless zone.

The experience was pretty predictable for an A.C. visit, as I mostly stayed within the confines of the casinos, including for dinner and for Starbucks the next morning.

The only time I left, I took an Uber. Because, unlike New York City, taxis there still require cash. (I hear an app is in the works, though).

Of course, going cashless isn’t the only high-tech need my generation wants. We want digital access to information and services.

When I checked out, I was impressed that I could do so without any human interaction.

I could check my guest account, including the Wi-Fi password, and any charges racked up during my stay, by pushing a few buttons on the T.V. remote. I could also check out by the push of a button.

I was also impressed by the telephone. (Yes, the telephone.)

At first, I chuckled that there was a phone in the room at all. But the unit by the bed was pretty high-tech. It had two — yes, two — USB ports for charging, along with an aux cord for music. (I hear you laughing, iPhone users.) That’s a big deal to me.

Of course, everyone in retail and hospitality knows the final impression is often the one that stays with you the longest.

That’s why it was so meaningful to see the parking garage willingly accepted my credit card.

Atlantic City is showing more positive signs of growth than it has in years. Many of its moves have it moving away from gambling.

With the new Stockton University campus and the grassroots efforts to create an arts district and offer more nongaming amenities, as well as online gaming, it is clearly trying to attract a different crowd.

City officials and developers need to remember that different crowd wants a cashless society.

It’s the only way Atlantic City can truly remake itself as a place for the next generation.

Two new casinos — the Hard Rock and Ocean Resort — are scheduled to open June 28.

Both are promising a lot of flash.

And, while great shows and nice floors can be a great differentiator and certainly will set them apart from the carpets of the older casinos, they are not necessarily the modernization my generation needs and will demand.

What will make them the most money is how little cash customers will need.

Anjalee Khemlani | akhemlani@roi-nj.com | AnjKhem