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Land-Based Casino Industry and Pandemic

Back in February and March 2020, hardly anyone could assume that situation with the then-novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could escalate to these extents. With everything that surrounds us becoming messy and unpredictable, it was becoming obvious that the pandemic will negatively affect the land-based casino industry as well.
To start with, brick and mortar facilities all over the globe had to halt their activities due to lockdown. Bans and restrictions were imposed on traveling, restaurants and many entertainment facilities were closed. Economic uncertainty was knocking on everyone’s doors.

Having realized that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t vanish just like that, casino owners have gradually adjusted their services, to make a balance between safety and entertainment. Versatile safety protocols and social distancing measures were imposed, such as a smoking ban, limited dining options, shutting off every other machine, and similar.

What was the situation like in the very beginning and how does it look now? Let’s take a quick look at some of the biggest markets, compare the situation and see what has been done so far!

Casinos US and Europe-Wide Were Closed

Becoming evident that the health situation is worsening, in March 2020, the land-based casino sector of the United States put the industry on hold. Some of them made proactive decisions by shutting down even before the first known cases were discovered.

Having smaller cash reserves, tribal casinos were particularly affected by the mandatory states-wide lockdown, while the commercial venues were in a slightly better position, but were still marking considerable losses. For example, Atlantic City’s gambling win for the year 2020 was $2,881,382,588. When compared to $3,468,633,795 for 2019, it indicated a decline of 16.9% across all casinos.

It was pretty much the same with the United Kingdom, where casinos have been closed for quite a lengthy period, since March 20 and remained like that until August 15. Some other establishments were permitted to welcome guests earlier- betting shops started operating on June 15 and bingo halls on July 4.

As for the first half of 2020, some land-based operators announced revenue drops of close to 50%. Also, Genting Casino announced that they would release more than 1,600 employees as the future of the industry was becoming increasingly uncertain.

Las Vegas of the East Suffered as Well

The situation in gambling markets of the East was equally catastrophic as the one in other corners of the world.

As far as the statistics indicate, the economic value of Macau’s gambling industry decreased by 79.6% year on year to around $5.22 billion. These data encompass the combined 2020 contribution of over 40 casinos. Worth adding is that the significant part of this decline has to do with a two-week closure period in February 2020, when one of the workers was tested positive for the virus.

Compared to 2019, the tourism numbers in 2020 amounted to less than 10% of the heights in the said year. After a relatively peaceful period during which the figures even started to improve (but remain below the pre-pandemic heights), early August 2021 brought another lockdown in Macau due to four confirmed cases. Luckily, casinos were excepted from shutting down, while the other entertainment venues had to cease their business operations for two weeks.

Post-COVID Recovery for Land-Based Sector

Land-based operators are put before quite a challenging task- to find a way to make people feel connected in these masked and distanced times. They needed to work out how to maintain the sense of loyalty and provide that feeling the coziness when being part of the community.

Knowing that online gambling’s popularity is on the continuous rise, many of them are digitalizing their services, to say to. A land-based facility aside, they offer an internet-based equivalent packed with tons of traditional and modern casino games to stay connected with the clientele. This has proven to be an excellent transition for those who wanted to have fun spinning the reels or shuffling cards, but still didn’t want to expose themselves to the risk.

After the initial restrictions and closures, safety protocols were imposed, so that everything could go back to (redefined) normal. Those measures undoubtedly make customers feel more comfortable, but there are concerns that they (the protocols) could lead to a feeling of disconnection. More cleaning, cashless transactions, mandatory masks, and less crowded venues are some of the post-lockdown realities all of us have to live with- but did we truly get used to all that and will we ever?

Final Thoughts

To conclude, land-based casinos will hardly even become extinct. “Offline” venues represent much more than just gambling. They are also about dressing up and having an enjoyable night out with close friends while enjoying the sophisticated and glamorous atmosphere. So, the goal is to find a got way to keep that authentic charm while being properly masked and socially distanced.

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