While casinos in more and more countries are eagerly opening their doors for business again, there is a new normal. Our old ways of welcoming guests to our casinos are either temporarily suspended or as a worst-case scenario will never return. Nobody really knows at this stage, if the happenings of the past six months will change the way we live our lives forever or we eventually get over the fear that these COVID times imprinted onto our brains. I certainly hope for the sake of our industry and in general for our wellbeing that common sense will eventually gain the upper hand and our washed brains will once again regain some degree of freedom and self-control to pass logical judgement on issues like comfort, survival, social fabric and joie de vivre.
Since businesses can’t really wait for the final outcome of the above-mentioned issues, to survive and eventually to turn a profit casinos will observe government imposed rules and in some cases self-regulation on social distancing and public health.
What these rules really mean could be at first look a bit scary. What makes casinos fun and socially entertaining, is their exact downfall in a pandemic or similar situation.
Where does the danger of contamination come from?
- Crowds, big number of people close to each other on slots, tables, restaurants, different cues
- Number of devices a customer and staff touch regularly while playing
- Customers coming from different parts of a country or the world can contract and spread the disease
So, it is pretty easy to see how casinos and resorts can be high risk areas during pandemics. At the same time taking countermeasures to reduce these risks can and will take a serious bite from the fun factor people go to casinos for in the first place. So, how do we balance providing our customers with a memorable gambling experience and at the same time make sure that they are safe, and we also make them feel safe and welcome to win their patronage?
The measures most casinos take are rather simple and hasty and are simply aimed at opening those doors and start making up for lost time. These include but aren’t limited to:
- Employee and customer screening
- Protective devices
- Distancing playing positions
- Regular disinfection of play material and other elements
- Masks, gloves, and shields
- Disinfectant available throughout the premises
Most of the actions are actually aimed at distancing people from each other, giving them more privacy and space. Apart from making sure the virus doesn’t pass from punter to punter, what these measured could achieve if done properly would be a more custom made and luxurious play experience. That is, if casinos designed and presented it in such a way. Putting plexiglass between your slot machines will surely not give anyone a feeling of exclusivity or make them feel special. Turning every second slot machine off will only make your floor look ugly and desolate.
There is a different way to achieve compliance with social distancing rules and make your customers feel like the VIPs they think they are. Some forward-thinking casino executives have been applying the “playground” design principles to their casino floors for some time now. No, not because they knew social distancing would be the norm one day soon due to hysteria about some virus, but due to a different realization. As Roger Thomas put it; “People feel glamorous in a glamorous space and rich in a rich space. And who doesn’t want to feel rich?” One of the most visible and obvious attributes to feeling rich and privileged is having more personal space. Think of economy vs business class seats, the size of your house or car as well as the privacy you can afford to have while gambling. While having people breath down your neck and cheer you on at a BJ table can be fun for some, having a whole table to yourself or sharing it with one or two other people all of a sudden takes gambling into a different dimension. The punter will feel special, will consider themselves a VIP and will most probably spend more than they normally would on a 5 dollar minimum table shared with another 5 players.
If you spent the time in lockdown on redesigning your casino floor, you did the right thing. The playground design will serve the purposes of social distancing, but really it should be sold and communicated as a conscious effort from your casino to pamper your punters instead of COVID measures. It really only depends on the presentation and communication. The underlying mathematics are also solid and serve the best interest of the casino. If you are not familiar with best practices for yield management on your casino floor, feel free to get in touch with me and I together with my partners would be happy to help out and shed some light on how to make delicious lemonade from those lemons life just threw at you.