While they may not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds like sports, bars, restaurants, gyms, malls, and barber shops, casinos are also inching forward towards reopening. In a few states like North Dakota, Idaho, and Oklahoma, some have already reopened. As you are surely aware, the way that casinos are laid out is not ideal for an interim period of reopening that emphasizes social distancing. Tables have people all around them. Chips pass freely between dealers and a considerable amount of players. Slot machines are one next to another next to another, and also touched by many hands.
On one hand, the clientele at casinos in my estimate will not be picky. There’s a school of thought in some media circles that the public is going to be hesitant to return to recreation. I think this belief overstates the people who will stick to their present behaviors and understates the amount of people dying to get out as soon as they’re allowed. There’s a scene in Breaking Bad where Walter White is obsessing over the granular quality of the meth and Jesse Pinkman says something along the lines of Mr. White: We sell poison to people who don’t care.
That’s of course not an exact analogy for what casinos are, but their customers are inherently risk-seeking. South Dakota reopened casinos this past weekend. Business was reportedly up 15-20 percent over a normal weekend, as cabin fevered people drove in from other states. This picture shows a full craps table, without masks required, and nobody wearing gloves:
'Cabin fever' leads to big reopening weekend for South Dakota casinos https://t.co/Fs0M3zfvg8
— CNBC (@CNBC) May 11, 2020
“We are providing hand sanitizer at multiple locations across the property, including at every gaming table and at our hotel front desks,” LIV Hospitality CEO Caleb Arceneaux told the Black Hills Pioneer about safety precautions their casinos are taking. “We are using UV light disinfection at all of our table games to sanitize the playing cards, chips, dice and cash buy-ins. We have a policy of ‘two in-between’ for all on in-household slot players and only allowing two to four players on the table games, dependent on game type. All dealers are wearing masks or face shields. We have more frequent disinfection on all play surfaces, and we utilize a sticker notating the surface has been cleaned after each patron.”
One casino in South Dakota placed slot machines in cubicles:
Check out this South Dakota casino slot area. https://t.co/yqOtD14ENt
— Lori C (@UNLVgirl) May 14, 2020
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some other prototypes for what blackjack and poker tables could look like, with plexiglass separating tablemates:
.@kylagaler got a firsthand look at a plexiglass prototype being tested at El Cortez's casino downtown. They're just one part of the future of Las Vegas gaming.
— FOX5 Las Vegas (@FOX5Vegas) May 7, 2020
As bizarre as this looks on first sight, I actually wouldn’t hate this becoming the new normal even after the pandemic scare dies down. The last two times I went to casinos in Wisconsin I had chain smokers to the left and right of me and it felt like it took months to recover from. In Vegas, Caesars Palace has announced that they will have social distancing for all types of lines (taxis, check-in, etc.) as well as at their tables and slots.
There still hasn’t been any clear guidance for an exact date that Vegas casinos will be open. A sampling from around the country indicates Arizona is opening casinos this Friday, North Carolina is opening on May 18th, Missouri is hoping for June 1st, and Indiana in mid-June. Tribal casinos have opened in Idaho and Oklahoma. Here is a full state-by-state guide; most places have not really specified dates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t happen in some places in the next few weeks.