What the Casino Industry Has Done to Protect Guests From COVID-19

Umbrella With a COVID-19 and Casino Background

For anyone concerned about protecting their health on future leisure and business trips, there are two kinds of land-based casinos:

  1. Full resorts
  2. Simple gaming halls

Some resorts offer more amenities than others but any casino that has its own hotel is facing more complicated issues than a simple gaming hall.

The needs of the resort combine the needs of a local business with a hospitality business.

The needs of the local gaming room or hall are more like the needs of a local restaurant.

Although everyone agrees that the economic fallout out from the worldwide response to the coronavirus pandemic is devastating many communities, casinos fall in the category of businesses where customers and staff come into close, frequent contact.

You don’t even need to sit close to someone in a casino environment to pick up a random virus. They are all over the playing cards, casino chips, tables, and chairs.

Most viruses are too weak or harmless to sicken the vast majority of casino guests. But the novel coronavirus is one of the deadliest such diseases to come along in a long time.

Community health experts were right to be cautious about re-opening casinos to the public. And casino operators have had to be sincere about protecting their patrons because they may not get more than one or two chances to prove they can take reasonable precautions.

Here are seven things casino operators are doing to protect their guests.

Support Research Efforts for Vaccines and Treatments

This may not sound like something casinos need to do but the sooner effective vaccines and treatments are found the sooner the world can get back to living life as people wish.

Some casinos make contributions to medical research just like any other business.

Must they do this? Should they do this?

I doubt many politicians will insist on this kind of support from casino businesses. But their liability insurance costs may go up to reflect the need to assist with medical expenses and protect them from lawsuits if guests become infected.

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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.

While investing in medical research hasn’t been a priority for casino operators, they may have to agree to pay higher local taxes to support public hospitals and clinics. Most people should agree that any venue that attracts large crowds should accept some responsibility for covering spikes in costs of local health crises.

Require Casino Guests and Staff to Use Masks

This is the “no brainer” solution everyone is already aware of. The public is expected to wear masks everywhere in most large cities around the world.

Whether a land based casino accepts a guest that doesn’t wear a mask is another issue. But casinos and local stores have a powerful motivation they can leverage against reticent customers.

They can refuse to do business with anyone who isn’t wearing a mask.

Local convenience stores and other small merchants have asked how they are supposed to compel their customers to wear masks. Small business owners object to being burdened with this responsibility by saying “we are not the mask police”.

Businesses have been enforcing dress codes for decades. It is common to see signs on doors and windows that say “no service will be provided to anyone not wearing a shirt and shoes”.

While these business rules are usually directed at vagrants or casual beach-goers who wander into the wrong places, they have easily been updated to read “no service will be provided to anyone not wearing a mask”.

If you stop in a gas station to buy something and you’re not wearing a mask the clerk only need refuse to take your money.

Stop Using Facial Recognition Technology

While facial recognition systems have been deployed by casinos for at least 10 years, the public has only recently become fully aware of what these technologies can do.

Privacy advocates are already clamoring for governments to regulate and even ban face recognition systems.

Casino surveillance operators are looking for scammers, card counters, and people they’ve banned for any reason. They may benefit directly from these systems but the benefit to their guests is less clear.

Casino Dealer and Guest Wearing Masks

Some security systems may be useful in helping to find lost children, identify violent and dangerous criminals, and provide other occasional benefits to the public.

But the bottom line here is that face recognition systems are designed for casino’s benefit and not for everyone else.

Since guests are required to wear masks when visiting casinos, facial recognition technology will have to be scaled up to interpret masked faces better. There are so many ways that can go wrong.

Casinos need to weigh the risks of continuing to use facial recognition technology against their guests’ needs to maintain safety and privacy. You can expect privacy advocates to raise this issue.

Provide Gloves and Sanitizer to Guests and Visitors

Requiring people to wear masks is one thing. Demanding they provide their own gloves is another.

While not everyone will be comfortable with donning gloves, it’s been easier to persuade the public to wear gloves in a casino if they are provided for free.

Latex-based gloves may be cheap but not everyone can wear them. Some biodegradable materials may be suitable for one-use gloves. Certain sectors of the food industry already uses these kinds of gloves.

Guests have been asked to use hand sanitizers placed close to gaming consoles and tables, too. Anything the casino industry can do to make it easier for gamblers to stay clean and healthy will be a major plus for the industry. These are low-cost ideas that have already been adopted by most retailers.

It’s common in American grocery stores to see a roll of paper towels or sanitizing wipes next to every entrance. While these dispensers run out of product quickly, casinos can afford to replace them throughout the day.

Upgrade Restroom Amenities

It’s creepy to see a guy standing in the corner of the restroom offering to clean your hands or help you with other sanitary needs. Some night clubs allow local vendors to work their restrooms and some casinos keep a staff member in there to prevent guests from engaging in embarrassing activities.

But most people get used to these special service providers and even tip them generously. They may be able to encourage people to wash their hands more often.

Every business with public facilities have had to give considerable thought to upgrading how they expect their guests to stay clean. And for many that meant replacing all existing faucets, hand-drying options, and toiletries.

It’s an expense that could save lives and keep a business open. It’s an expense that will be considered by many local governments. Even if most businesses are deemed incapable of paying for upgrades there won’t be much economic sympathy for large venue operators like the casino industry.

Install Plastic Sheeting and Dividers

While a simple plastic barrier doesn’t guarantee to stop the spread of pathogens it’s much better than nothing. Stores and food processing companies have already installed hanging or rigid plastic barriers.

Casinos have been able to do the same thing. They’ve had to solve some simple structural problems but instead of removing games and tables from their floors, they want to give players some protection.

No one wants to wear a hazmat suit while gaming but plastic barriers serve a useful purpose.

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This is no time for companies to care about the aesthetics of plastic sheeting. If anything they should have done this years ago because it’s healthier.

But with the simple solution comes the problem of maintenance. You can’t just set up a plastic wall between two game consoles and leave it there. These things become gross very quickly.

Casino employees have to clean the barriers. And the sanitization procedures have become onerous.

While there may be pushback in the industry sooner or later individual privacy and health needs are priorities.

Game console designers may have to rethink how they create their equipment. Some consoles are already standalone games but it will take time to replace all game consoles. Temporary measures may be more cost-effective.

On-Call Medical Staff

Whether it’s a full-time nurse or just someone trained to take temperatures, casinos have been expected to go the extra mile and provide guests with some in-house medical prevention.

Taking people’s temperatures in public is a questionable practice but the practice was widely adopted in China and other countries. Casinos have been in a better position to test remote temperature-checking technology than other businesses.

There have been ethical and legal questions around such proposals. Again, some casinos have had pushback against the idea, but Macau’s casinos have already set the standard by checking temperatures.

The rest of the casino industry learned many lessons from how Macau has handled COVID-19.

Conclusion

The short-term debate over how to run casinos during the pandemic has been resolved rather quickly.

The long-term question of how to keep casinos safe for the public requires thought, discussion, and some experimentation. Because it’s in the casino operators’ best interests to protect their guests they’ll quickly adapt to the new requirements.