- The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown have hit the Nevada gaming industry especially hard.
- Some properties are making plans to re-open with enhanced health and safety precautions.
- The entire casino gaming experience will be different–at least for the immediate future.
Although there’s no timeframe for when the city of Las Vegas and the Nevada gaming industry will ‘re-open’ it’s a somewhat hopeful sign that properties are starting to make contingency plans for how they’ll facilitate it. Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox has called on Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak to ‘slowly begin’ to re-open the Las Vegas Strip sometime in May. The company has also posted a ‘health and safety’ document on their website that outlines some of the steps they’ll take to enforce social distancing and otherwise keep guests safe.
It’s definitely understandable that gaming companies are anxious to re-open in Nevada. With calculations suggesting that the major Strip properties are missing out on upwards of $700,000 a day in gaming revenue alone their financial viability depends on getting back up and running as soon as possible. A video from MGM Resorts acting CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle released on Tuesday indicated that his company will be ‘operating differently’ when they re-open. Hornbuckle didn’t go into detail though he did mention cleaning procedures, casino and restaurant layouts, and the way employees interact with guests:
“The is a completely uncharted path. But we have to consider every aspect of our business so we can welcome our guests safely and keep each other safe while we do it.”
WHAT WILL NEVADA SPORTSBOOKS BE LIKE POST COVID-19?
Much of the sportsbook experience after the gaming industry re-opens will be part and parcel of the industry’s macro level response. There’s at least something of a ‘case study’ to work from with many Nevada gaming companies including MGM, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands having first hand experience in Macau as the Asian casino center got back in business after a 15 day shutdown earlier this year. Many of the steps outlined by Wynn Resorts for their Las Vegas properties, for example, are very similar to the way they responded in Macau.
Wynn Resorts has indicated that their ‘first line of defense’ will be thermal cameras scanning incoming casino patrons. If a patron is indicated as having a temperature over 100 degrees F he’ll be taken into a private room and re-tested. If he still shows a temperature over 100 he won’t be allowed inside either Wynn Las Vegas property. In addition, employees will be trained on reporting and response procedures as well as instructed on the symptoms to look for.
The measures that Wynn is planning to take to enforce social distancing on the gaming floor and in their restaurants will apply to the sportsbook as well. Seating will be staggered to create a six foot distance between sportsbook patrons watching games. That’s assuming that the books will be open to watch games in the first place. It wouldn’t be surprising if the big screen TVs are turned off temporarily when properties first re-open to prevent a crowd from forming. In the longer term, you could see more sportsbooks equipped with personal viewing screens and perhaps areas outside of the sportsbook will see similar installations. It’s good business for the casino to give bettors the ability to watch games but they don’t necessarily have to do it in close proximity to one another.
More practical matters–expect to see ticket writers wearing masks for the foreseeable future. You’ll probably also see the Lucite ‘protective screens’ installed at the ticket counter similar to the way they’ve become ubiquitous at grocery stores and other businesses. Sportsbook wagering kiosks will likely have a member of housekeeping nearby to spray down the screen after any customer places a bet. You’ll also likely see sportsbooks try and push betting onto their mobile and web platforms to the greatest extent possible.
The sportsbook might not have as many issues as other areas of the casino. After all, you don’t need to hang around even if you place your bets at a teller window. The big screen games are a convenience and a fun part of the Las Vegas sports betting experience but far from a necessity. Anyone with a decent Internet connection can stream virtually every sporting event on the planet in real time. Unlike the slot machine banks and table games the sportsbook will be able to enforce social distancing without having it intrinsically hurting the bottom line.