The COVID19 pandemic which has swept the globe this year has had far-reaching consequences for our daily lives, as well as for the economy. Every industry has been affected in one way or another, and the gambling industry is no exception. At the time of writing, the doors of land-based casinos in the United Kingdom remain closed, despite multiple requests to the government on the part of the industry. As the rest of the country tentatively opens up, with pubs and restaurants operating at a reduced capacity, sports events taking place ‘behind closed doors’ and shops and libraries resuming trading, it seems logical that casinos will follow suit. But how will the situation affect a visit to the casino? The ‘new normal’ will take some adjusting to, for both punters and casino staff. Let’s take a look at the situation and the possible implications for casinos in the UK.
Can I go to a casino?
Although the government announced the reopening of restaurants and pubs on July 4th, albeit, with social distancing measures in place, casinos currently remain closed. But with other sources of entertainment becoming available, such as open-air theatre, casinos are keen to get going again, as the longer they are closed, the more problems they will have with revenue loss and potential staffing cuts. The Betting and Gambling Council (BGC) has repeatedly called on the UK government to consider opening casinos this month, but at present, along with nightclubs and cinemas, they await the success or failure of the current relaxations – ie pubs and restaurants – before they get the go-ahead. If we see responsible social behaviour, and the country doesn’t see another surge of coronavirus infections, we can expect to see casinos reopening in the near future.
Although the online casino industry has seen some ill-effects from the coronavirus, the very nature of it means it is far less drastically affected than the land-based casino scene. In fact, apart from some staffing issues (with sickness, or with strict social distancing measures where the servers or offices are based) and the general downturn in the economy (meaning some punters are less likely to play), online casinos have found themselves largely unscathed thus far. If you need your fix of casino gaming, online casinos offer a safe way to play, and as game developers are able to work remotely, the array of new card table, roulette wheel and slot machine options available is pretty much the same as ever. And as online casinos continue to develop more high-tech options such as virtual casinos and video poker, it means that gamers can interact with one another in a safe and secure environment. So if you cannot live without the casino experience, online is the way to go at present.
What will happen when casinos open?
When the government decides to allow land-based casinos to open their doors, you can expect a slightly different experience. Of course, social distancing will be in place, so you’ll have to keep at least a metre apart from croupiers, bar staff and fellow players. Expect to see staff in face masks, and it may be mandatory in some casinos for players to cover their faces as well – otherwise, it will be widely encouraged. Masks may be available on site. Clean hands have been shown to be one of the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and as casinos involve direct contact with card tables, slot machines, chips and cards there will be hand sanitiser available. It is advisable to regularly wash your hands while you are in a casino, as soap has been proven more effective than alcohol-based sanitisers. There will be strict capacities at card tables, and many tables will be closed to ensure social distancing. Chips will be regularly disinfected. Similarly, with slots, expect to see machines regularly cleaned and every other one unavailable to maintain distance. Extra protection may be in place for croupiers, in the form of plastic screens or shields. All this may take some getting used to!
Beyond casinos, the question on everybody’s lips is ‘when will things return to normal?’. It is very hard to say when the world will get back to normal. And without even socially distanced casinos open at present, it may be some time before we can resume playing in the environment we are used to.