When a government-owned institution as old as The Royal Mint believes that it must have cashless payment options to survive in modern Britain, it creates a convincing picture for the amusements industry’s need to follow suit as soon as possible – and what better time before the Gambling Commission’s upcoming data drive?
We need to be relevant to younger people who probably think we are a load of old dinosaurs,” says Chris Howard, director of precious metals at The Royal Mint.
Indeed, created in 886 AD when Alfred the Great recaptured London from the Dane law and began issuing silver pennies bearing his portrait, The Royal Mint is one of the few institutions in Britain that can claim to be as old as the amusement industry’s showmen roots. However, this heritage comes at a cost; it is assumed by the majority, including the government, that such historically successful and adaptable businesses will continue to thrive.
The Royal Mint just might – being a government-owned company it gets vast privileges,such as its ability to offer an online precious metal buying service, allowing investors to purchase stakes in bars of gold for as little as £20. More than 30,000 customers have used royalmintbullion.com platform to purchase gold – that they may never actually see in real life – through a debit card transaction.
The mint is also aiming to add the millennial audience to its list. To do this, it realises its service must be more digital, and so it is investigating the potential of a smartphone app that allows “young investors” to buy and sell gold – essentially betting on whether its value will go up or down. It is also looking at the possibility of introducing blockchain and peer-to-peer trading,where users buy metals from other customers using a “virtual wallet” on their smartphone. Dressed in the more acceptable outfit of ‘investing’, the government is essentially looking to set up its very own iGaming operation, albeit low-stake and low-risk.
“Gold has traditionally been an investment for cautious people,but we think younger investors have a different view of precious metals and we want to tap into that,” continued Howard. “We are being ambitious. Without a doubt we will be making fewer coins in 10 years but I think as a business we will be making more money.”
Although the mint’s forward-thinking is commendable, it is a government-owned business targeting young people by using cashless payments for a product that walks the fine line between investing and gambling – while at the same time – the government-backed Gambling Commission refuses to allow the amusements industry to offer cashless payments at all. The left arm of the government is holding back operators from offering a better service to its customers, while the right arm of the government is taking cashless payments for gold investments from the very same crowd. While both amusements and the mint will both still deal in coins for the foreseeable future,it’s clear that cashless payments for their borderline-gambling products will play a big part in both businesses futures. For the government to help one, and hamstring the other, is a clear hypocrisy.
But what better time for the Gambling Commission to change course,and bring cashless technology into amusements as the social responsibility tool it can so obviously be? It’s upcoming four year data drive is starting with online gambling for a reason – the RGSB state it is “where we believe data should be most readily available”, and that’s because of the information it gathers via cashless payment transactions. The amusements industry could offer the Gambling Commission the same amount of data if it were allowed to offer a socially responsible form of cashless payments on machines. Customers would be better served, operators would be better equipped for 21st century business, and the Commission would have the research it needs to properly regulate the industry. It’s one of those rare regulatory opportunities where everyone can be a winner, and it’s one that must be seized.