Wynn's Poker Room To End "Cash Plays" At Tables

Wynn Las Vegas Follows MGM: No More Cash At The Poker Table

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UPDATE 5/3: Caesars and the Venetian have followed MGM and Wynn and adopted a no-cash rule at poker tables.

Effective immediately, the poker room at the Wynn Las Vegas will no longer allow cash to play at the tables, a Wynn poker room representative confirmed to OPR this morning.

The decision comes in the wake of a similar move by MGM to end the use of cash as chips in their poker rooms, including the ARIA, Bellagio, MGM Grand Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo, The Mirage, Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss., and MGM Grand Detroit.

That policy went into effect April 1st.

“Cash plays” makes poker an outlier in the casino

The practice of allowing cash to play at poker tables is something of an anachronism within the context of the modern, ticket-driven Las Vegas casino wagering experience.

And it’s certainly an outlier in terms of how casinos handle cash for virtually every other type of wager that takes place on the floor, where cash is first converted to some other form – such as chips or vouchers – before it can be legally bet.

That system is designed to provide casinos with maximum visibility into the funds flowing through their property. Wagers conducted purely in cash fall outside the system, and are functionally invisible to the casino for auditing purposes.

Proactive approach to AML compliance likely driving policies

Neither casino has publicly commented on their reasoning behind ending cash at the poker table.

But the untrackable characteristic of “cash plays” – effectively a blind spot in the casino’s financial field of vision – is almost certainly the fundamental motivation behind the decisions by Wynn and MGM.

The use of cash at the poker table also inevitably results in under-reporting of qualifying currency transactions at the casino cage.

Neither casino offered specific comment as to the reasoning behind the change. But it’s hard not to hear echoes of a June 2014 speech from Jennifer Shasky Calvery, Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) in the policy shift.

Shasky made it clear in her remarks that casinos needed to reframe their approach to anti-money laundering (AML) controls:

But casinos are not simple cash intensive businesses.  They are not arcades.  They are complex financial institutions with intricate operations that extend credit, and that conduct millions of dollars of transactions every day.  They cater to millions of customers with their bets, markers, and redemptions.  And casinos must continue their progress in thinking more like other financial institutions to identify AML risks.  […]

Casinos invest heavily in sophisticated monitoring tools to track a wide range of customer activities and to understand their customers’ preferences.  These same kinds of monitoring and customer service capabilities can and should be leveraged for AML purposes.  I would ask those of you here today to think about the systems you already have in place and how you can adapt these systems so that you can use all available information to assess risk more effectively and improve monitoring on the AML side.

The elimination of cash at the poker table could certainly be understood as a result of casinos “thinking more like other financial institutions” when it comes to AML risks.

Caesars, Venetian yet to follow suit

The exit of MGM properties and the Wynn from the world of “cash plays” leaves Caesars and the Venetian as the major Strip properties still allowing cash to play at the table.

There’s been no official word from the Venetian on the issue.

As for Caesars, the company recently told PokerNews that the policy was under review.

Image credit: Jeffrey J Coleman / Shutterstock.com

- Chris is the publisher of OnlinePokerReport.com. Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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