How COVID Changed the Landscape for Land-Based Casinos in 2020

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Casinos were among the many businesses that were hit hard by the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. For many, it has been a stop-start year. Many establishments have been constantly closing and reopening their venues, whereas others were forced to shut down permanently as the pandemic hammered their revenues. For the industry, it has been a very challenging 12 months. With online gambling continuing to grow in popularity, the two will have to learn to coexist in the coming months. In this article, we will explore the problems that traditional land-based casinos have faced. We will also look to see whether or not casinos can recover from the fall-out of 2020 and possibly rebound in 2021. 

Casinos and learning to be COVID-friendly 

Slowing down the spread of COVID-19 and protecting customers has been the chief priority of land-based casinos. When parts of the world slowly emerged from the first lockdown, casinos owners put in place a raft of measures to keep players safe. Among these were running track and trace systems for staff and punters as well as installing perspex screens. Customers would have to wear a mask on the premises of any given casino and most of the traditional table games operated a cashless system. This meant players would have to use debit cards in order to purchase chips for table games. Essentially, casinos have had to go much further in order to comply with government advice and make sure they are acting in a COVID-friendly way. 

Casinos - for the short time they were open in 2020 - put markings down on the floor so that staff and players didn't get too close to each other. Customers had to follow a one-way system. Some countries, including the UK, had curfews in place so that players had to leave casinos by a certain time and go home. Back in September, Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), was calling for flexibility and suggested what the best 'compromise may be' for players visiting casinos. He said: "If the London Mayor wants to close pubs and restaurants at 10pm, we can do that in the casinos too, while continuing to provide a best-in-class COVID-secure environment." 

Online gambling has been a game-changer 

In 2020, online gambling has been a real game-changer. With more people working remotely, there has been a significant shift in gambling habits and attitudes. This is reflected in both desktop and mobile use. A recent report from Technavio published by business wire (https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171221005564/en/Global-Mobile-Gambling-Market---Growth-Analysis) highlighted the impact online gambling has had in 2020. Indeed, in 2021 online gambling is set to soar and the market could increase by 19%. In the past five years, just over 50% of the online gambling market was dedicated to betting. The mobile gambling market also takes into account those who like to play the lottery or visit an online casino. These trends indicate how customers have taken to online gambling in 2020. 

Online gambling, put simply, is very big business. If anything, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the progress of online gambling. More online casinos have made a serious effort to provide the most immersive gaming experience for players. The interfaces of apps are more intuitive and the games library is almost as extensive as any reputable land-based casino. A report carried out by Analytics Insight (https://www.analyticsinsight.net/how-technology-is-molding-the-future-of-gambling/) showed how online casinos have adapted and utilised new technology to provide the best possible experience. Of the most recent developments, blockchain is one of the most intriguing. Blockchain gives online casinos more transparency. When used properly, it can ensure fast payouts for players as well as checking that roulette tables and slot machines are as random as they should be. 

Can traditional casinos bounce back in 2021? 

While the immediate future of casinos is cause for concern, there are some that aren't too worried about its long-term outlook. To a certain extent, the COVID pandemic has changed gambling habits, with more and more people opting to play from home or while they are on the go. But CNBC presenter Jim Cramer - who hosts the 'Mad Money' segment - has tried to allay fears. Instead, he thinks casinos will experience a boom once again in 2021. He said: "Once enough people are vaccinated... the economy goes back to normal. Casinos should have a huge year in 2021." Some countries have tried to crack down on online gambling for a while. But as far as the recovery of land-based casinos go, it is a case of watch this space!

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