Casinos have proposed restrictions to keep players safe
I recently received a survey from a casino resort in New York state that I visited a while back. The survey asked me to rank their facilities on various amenities and offers they provided, and at the end of the survey was a salutation that read "we hope you enjoyed your experience and will see you again soon." I no sooner filled out the survey when I received some correspondence from a gaming report outlining plans that the casino industry in at least three states were planning to utilize to allow for the reopening of casinos prior to a COVID-19 vaccine being available.
As I read the restrictions, I thought back to that salutation in the survey and had to question whether I would attend a casino again any time soon under strict rules.
Macau shut down their casinos for two weeks in late January and when they reopened, only 2% of regulars returned. Even today the number of visitors to Macau is a fraction of what it was. At its peak, Macau was attracting around 120,000 visitors a day. Today, however that number is now less than 1,000. Some restrictions placed in Macau in order to gamble include mandatory temperature checks at the door and anyone displaying a temperature are forced to self-isolate for 14 days (and is strictly enforced by Macau police); all persons on the gaming floor are required to wear a mask at all times; all facilities are cleaned regularly and no congregating is allowed, including distancing to enter bathrooms; and the most restrictive rule and one that has led to the massive decrease in play the most is that anyone who travelled outside of China in the last 14 days are excluded from entering Macau. Moreover the ferries that bring people to Macau from mainland China and Hong Kong have been stopped. Consequently, most players at the casinos nowadays are residents of Macau itself, but even for them, most players simply stay home and possibly play online. When a local was asked about the new rules on a newscast, he told the reporter that "the fun is gone."
While Macau has reopened, casinos are closed in the rest of the world, including the United States, but it seems based on some reports and the release by the gaming association that some states are planning on lifting the casino closure requirement soon. The requirements outlined by the gaming report are as follows:
- Masks required for everyone while on the gaming floor
- Physical distancing at the slot machines would be mandated requiring 6 feet between customers. This would likely mean the number of machines would drop by about 2/3
- Gloves or fingertip protectors would be required to play the slot machines
- Physical distancing would be enforced at the tables, meaning that for any table games no more than 3 people could play at the same time
- Elimination of games where players touch the cards (or changes to the rules that would accommodate that) would be enforced. This would eliminate all table games except blackjack, baccarat and some more obscure games like Mississippi Stud Poker
- No poker lounges
- No sports betting lounges
- No smoking on the gaming floors
- No food or drinks at the tables
- Physical distancing in the bathrooms meaning adjoining stalls, urinals and sinks would be closed and the number allowed in the bathrooms at any time would be limited
- Rules to exchange cash for chips and/or credits upfront would be required rather than people plopping down money at the tables or in the machines
As well the following rules would almost certainly apply at the hotels themselves:
- No concerts or shows
- No sports betting lounges
- Closures of swimming pools in the hotels
- Closure of spas in the hotels
- Closure of fitness centers in the hotels
- Closure of all buffet restaurants
- No congregating of any sort
Unless there are changes to local rules, there will also be a requirement for anyone not living in the United States to self-isolate for 14-days before being allowed out in public and there is also talk of barring people from travelling across state lines to bet from high affected areas.
I spoke to Kevin, a friend who travels to Vegas at least twice a year and asked him if he would visit the city if those rules were put into place, provided the self-isolation rules were lifted:
"Hell no I wouldn't travel there under those rules. The whole excitement of Las Vegas is being with the people, chatting it up, going to the shows, stuffing your face, drinking like there's no tomorrow and just having a great time. I know I'm going to lose my money, but it's a vacation. What you are describing isn't a vacation, it sounds more like prison. When you are not in the casino what the hell is there to do? All the entertainment is shut down, the tourist attractions are shut down, sports ain't going on and you can't even hang out with your buds because the cops are watching to make sure there's no crowds. The funny thing is even the girly bars are closed and I believe the brothels are also closed. I have only done that once when I was a lot younger, but you know it’s bad when even the hookers are closed for business."
Asked if he will be going to a local casino instead if it reopened under those rules, Kevin said even then it wouldn’t interest him since the rules kill all aspects of fun.
"Going just to gamble is not my idea of a good time. I can play on the internet if I want that. But right now I’m just catching up on some of my favorite shows and watching old sporting events. I’'l go back to a casino when I know it is safe, but I don't want to go and worry whether the guy who just coughed two seats from me had the virus. My life is worth more and I know there will come a time when things get back to normal, probably when there is a vaccine. I feel bad for the casino workers but their welfare isn't my concern. My own health is all I can worry about."
I spoke to some other people besides Kevin and only one person indicated they would consider returning. Hank was willing to go to a casino, but not if it was going to be too strict:
"We take chances everyday in life. I think the lockdown was a mistake. The only way we will defeat this virus is by going out in droves and accomplishing herd immunity. What am I missing with this virus that makes it so bad that we have to destroy our country to save people from dying who could have just as easily died from the flu? 90% of people dying are over the age of 80. For many of those a hangnail could have killed them and I guarantee you that many that have COVID-19 listed as their reason for death probably died from something else. The best solution is, and always has been to allow the young and healthy develop antibodies to protect the older population. So yes, I would go to Vegas or any casino or event with a crowd as a favor to the rest of America. I am 36 and healthy. I won't die if I catch this thing and if I do, I still go out as a martyr since I helped others. Nonetheless, I don't know if I would be willing to pay thousands of dollars for a flight and hotel if the experience sucks. So, to answer your question, I am more than happy to travel to Vegas and blow my bank account. But I won't do it if I have to dress like an ISIS terrorist and if I'm required to spend 90% of my time at the hotel. If that is the trade-off I may as well just stay here."
With that in mind, OSGA was wondering what the general opinion is of its readers. We have put up two polls on Twitter and would love your opinions.
How likely are you to visit a casino before a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed where restrictions are put into effect including mandatory temperature checks, mask wearing, physical distancing, no smoking, drinking or eating at tables, etc?— OSGA (@OffShoreGaming) May 12, 2020
Read insights from Hartley Henderson every week here at OSGA and check out Hartley's RUMOR MILL!