The Case for Cash: A Counterpoint to Cashless Gambling Trends

In the rapidly evolving landscape of the gambling industry, the shift towards cashless transactions has been touted to promote responsible gaming. However, in a thought-provoking interview on the No Line podcast hosted by Philip Beere, Professor Jay Zagorsky from the Questrom School of Business, Boston University, presents a compelling argument for the retention of cash transactions in gambling. Zagorsky’s insights challenge the prevailing narrative and suggest that cash can be a natural moderator for problem gambling.

The Argument for Cash:

Zagorsky posits that the tangible nature of cash transactions introduces necessary friction in the gambling process, which can act as a deterrent to impulsive betting. He argues that the “pain of paying” with cash can prompt gamblers to think twice before placing bets, thereby injecting a moment of reflection often absent in the seamless world of digital transactions.

The Data Speaks:

The interview delves into the staggering statistics of gambling’s growth post the 2018 Supreme Court ruling that legalized online gambling in the United States. With billions being wagered in states like New York, the conversation raises concerns about the ease with which individuals can accrue debt, particularly through using credit cards for online betting.

Regulatory Responses:

Zagorsky highlights international responses to the issue, such as the UK’s ban on credit card use for online gambling, as examples of effective regulatory measures. He suggests that such policies introduce the kind of friction that can help mitigate problem gambling.

The Middle Ground or the Extreme?

While the industry seeks a middle ground, Zagorsky advocates for an extreme position, recommending a return to cash-only betting. He suggests that even when using mobile apps for betting, users should pre-fund their accounts with cash at physical locations, thus maintaining friction in the transaction process.

Industry Reactions:

The interview acknowledges the pushback from the gambling industry, which cites the inconvenience and security risks associated with handling large amounts of cash. Yet, Zagorsky maintains that the benefits of reducing problem gambling through such friction outweigh these concerns.

Cultural Perspectives:

The conversation also explores why certain societies, like Japan and Germany, prefer cash while others, like Sweden and China, move towards cashless economies. Zagorsky suggests that the use of cash can promote self-control, citing research that indicates people who pay with cash may make healthier choices and could potentially save more money.

Educational Insights:

Zagorsky shares anecdotes from his teaching experiences, noting the generational divide in attitudes toward cash. While students understand the concept of cash-promoting self-control, they seldom practice it, highlighting the challenge of changing entrenched behaviors in the digital age.


The interview with Jay Zagorsky sheds light on an alternative perspective in the responsible gambling discourse. It challenges stakeholders in the gambling industry to reconsider the push for cashless gambling and to acknowledge the potential benefits of maintaining cash transactions. As the industry continues to innovate, it is crucial to balance technological advancements with strategies that promote responsible gambling behaviors.

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