Land based casinos in the UK have been closed since the lockdown began on March 23 but have now been given the green light to prepare for the resumption of operations from July 4. However, we are likely to walk in on a completely different experience from our last visit.
For example, last week we were treated to the obscure images from the Rounders Card Club in San Antonio, Texas where card players were sitting around a table playing hands of live poker. These players were not socially distancing as such, that can’t really work for poker. Instead the players were either sitting under and within a plastic bubble or they were wearing masks, which again hides physical tells, a key component of live poker play.
That follows an awkward, if neater, solution offered up by the Hialeah Park Casino in Florida. In that example, each of the players in the four player limit hand are wearing masks and are sitting in front of a large plexiglass screen.
And, while the World Series of Poker did not go ahead this year, Vegas has now reopened its casinos and its poker halls are also limiting to four players per hand and playing behind screen dividers.
Complying With Government Instructions
There are suggestions of casinos having to employ one dealer to shuffle and deal and another to disinfect the currency. That’s two dealers per table and only four players paying rake. From a financial position this means that, at a time when casinos may be making no money at all, the casino would be paying double the wages while picking up less in rake.
So, either the rake is raised, which will obviously prove to be unpopular, or all cash games will have to go high stakes to make up for lost revenues, in which case many low stakes players would be frightened off.
Obviously, poker and social distancing are not natural bed partners And it will be hard to contain the spread while still keeping the tables active and vibrant and it is apparent that all casinos will have their own ideas on how to achieve this.
UK Casinos Largely Quiet So Far
Not much has been revealed by the likes of the UK’s biggest casino chains Grosvenor, Aspers or Genting, who are thought to be permanently shutting three of the properties, but these images from the United States offer a glimpse into the future of live table gaming in the UK post lockdown, even if only in the short term as live casinos look to find ways to offer table games in a safe, socially distanced, manner.
In truth, these American solutions have not been well received. Plenty of trialists have cited that the set-up is so sterilie that it massively depletes the enjoyment from the game. They are however unquestionably necessary and Brits may be more likely to accept such conditions.
How long these measures remain in place is anyone’s guess but it is going to be that way until at least Christmas and beyond we would have thought. Also, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the future of all live table games needs to be affected.
If players don’t want to play Blackjack or Roulette with only one or two others, which doesn’t really affect the game anyway, or behind plastic divisions, then that is their choice and they can always play online if that is how they feel. Alternatively most casinos have live video links to roulette and blackjack tables that can be played from video consoles withing the casino, still these consoles tend to be situated close together near the actual tables so it is likely these will be restricted (e.g. can only use every other one).
Like pubs and bookies, casino operators have a duty of care over their staff and patrons. As such, extremely stringent hygiene and social distancing measures will need to be put in place at all casinos to ensure the safety of staff and customers alike.
From the availability of hand sanitisers to a socially distant and likely screened bar, as much self-service as possible, toilet restrictions and all other possible measures will be installed to ensure the health and safety of everyone who enters the premises.
Likely enforced personal protective equipment (PPE), including face-masks, regular handwashing schedules and greater cleaning rotas are all also likely. Given how easily the coronavirus travels via the hands, there will need to enforced regular cleaning of the cards and chips.
One thing is sure, with dedicated equipment cleaning after everyone is done using a slot machine, or in the middle of absolutely anything that people will be doing in a casino, less time will be used actually playing and more time spent waiting around. On July 04, we get to find out.