From London to Las Vegas, Monaco to Macao, wherever you are in the world, gambling is big business – and with billions of pounds pouring in and out of casinos across the globe annually, market value had been predicted to reach a whopping £355 billion by 2022.
Earlier this year, things took an unexpected turn, with casinos around the world forced to shut-up shop, as national lockdowns and quarantine restrictions were imposed by governments in a bid to contain the rapidly spiralling coronavirus outbreaks that have since shaped our entire year in ways we never could have imagined. Deemed as amongst some of the riskiest venues for increasing the spread, their ongoing period of closure has outlasted the likes of shops, restaurants and cocktail bars, with good news finally arriving for roulette lovers in the UK earlier this month.
As the global pandemic rages on, the British casino industry is finally beginning to reawaken, but with stringent social distancing measures in place and rigorous health and safety standards to be adhered to, will things ever be the same again? And, more importantly, can casinos really retain the glitz and glamour they have always been so renowned for in the wake of all these changes?
In many cases, we can look to Macau – the casino capital of Asia, and arguably, the world, as an example of what we might expect over the coming months. One of the first nations to reopen its gambling establishments – and which rakes in upwards of £22 billion in revenue in any normal year – its casinos remain open. But set foot inside one anytime this year, and you’ll likely be met with an unfamiliar sight. At least, in this type of establishment – for it is a set-up that is quickly becoming the ‘new normal’ almost everywhere else.
These days, a glamorous evening at the casino involves having your temperature taken upon entry and keeping your mask or face covering on at all times. Add to that the fact that you can no longer eat or drink in the vicinity of the games tables, it’s a far cry from the atmospheric crowds of people you’d usually find huddled around the roulette table, excitedly making their way through bottle after bottle of champagne and toasting each small victory with glee.
The measures set a precedent for the casinos of Las Vegas, which tentatively followed suit by reopening their own doors back in early June. The famous ‘strip’ was forced to shut down entirely for several months, and with it many of the extravagant – and often, ostentatious – five-start casino resort hotels that can be found here, too.
As the lights, fires and fountains turned back on on the 4th June, dealers were back at their tables and the slots began turning once again. But, as a marketing video created by ‘Visit Vegas’ warned, it was time for a ‘new Vegas for a new reality’ – and much like Macau, this electric city now feels like a very different place than it did before Covid-19 took hold.
The reopenings have been phased in a bid to control the flow of footfall along the strip, which is traditionally rather dense and would make staying a safe distance apart difficult – if not, impossible.
Inside casino resorts, rigorous cleaning procedures are in place to keep customers safe, and social distancing measures are evident throughout. And the usual poker rooms, nightclubs and shows remain a no go, putting paid to the usual all-singing, all-dancing experience many visitors to Vegas have grown to know and love.
It’s all change at the tables, too; the Gaming Control Board has set limits of six players per craps table, three per blackjack table and four around games of roulette and poker. Slot machines are spaced out, and properties must work to a 50% occupancy limit at all times. Not quite the spirited hustle, bustle and excitement we’re used to, but those who prefer a quieter and more civilised evening at the tables may find some enjoyment in it.
Back on UK soil, our favourite luxury casinos were only given the green light to reopen earlier this week, making it early days and a little trickier to judge what lies ahead for these mega money-making establishments. The move followed an earlier disappointment for the nation’s high-rollers when original plans to reopen on the 1st August were put on hold, over concerns a second spike as Covid-19 cases began rising in certain areas.
With even some of the most historic British casinos left on the brink after nearly five months of closure, it goes without saying that the next few months will be crucial to their recovery, as the tourism, leisure and hospitality sector slowly gets back on its feet. The sector could play an important role in our national economic recovery – but will the usual crowds of gamblers be eager to return?
In recent years, online casinos have been enjoying an increase in popularity, and as months confined to our homes earlier this year rolled on, more and more are thought to have been turning to the online world for their entertainment fix.
In the UK, there are upwards of 40 million online gambling customer accounts currently active at facilities licensed by the Gambling Commission. Despite waning funds for many during the lockdown period, that number has surged. Sites such as Freebets.com reported a 22% increase in daily users visiting its page www.freebets.com/casino.
Whether or not gamblers continue to favour playing online, in the UK, its impact on the future of our luxury casinos is too soon to call. But, as coronavirus numbers continue to fall and we edge closer and closer towards normality, there is certainly hope that eventually, we could be enjoying them almost just as we used to. It might be some way off yet, but we’d be willing to bet that we will get there. Until then, enjoy your glamorous evening at the casino safely – and don’t forget your mask.
Image credit at the very top of the article: coward_lion/Bigstock.com
Please gamble responsibly (18+ UK) – check age restrictions before participating