Covid-19 has impacted nearly every industry including the gambling industry. Many of the world’s top casinos have been forced to close intermittently as countries go in and out of lockdowns.
While things started to look promising for gambling tourism to return in 2021, the more serious Delta variant has forced many casinos to find alternative ways to appease their customers’ urge to gamble. One of these ways has included the increase of online live casinos.
Over half the world’s population gambles at least once a year, many of those choosing to do so in casinos while traveling. As the gambling industry has grown, it has become an integral part of tourism and the economy of many nations.
Casinos of course employ a great deal of people themselves, but it’s also the flow-on effect of drawing millions of international tourists and having them support local restaurants, hotels, and attractions that really impacts the local economy.
The pandemic has forced casinos around the world to take their gaming floors online, inventing new ways to enhance the experience to make it as close to the real thing as possible.
While online casinos may never fully replace real-life physical casinos, they have definitely found their place and are likely to stay given that there remains uncertainty of when many countries will open up their borders and restrictions will be eased enough to allow famous gaming floors to open to tourists once again.
How the Pandemic has Changed Gambling Tourism and the Casino Industry
The Rise of Online Live Casinos
You used to have to travel to places like Macau, Vegas, and Monaco if you wanted to experience their casinos for yourself, but the rise of virtual or online casinos has allowed the casinos to come to you in your very own bedroom.
While Covid lockdowns and restrictions have crippled land-based casinos, the pandemic has seen online casino sign-ups and usage surge.
This is of course largely due to the fact many physical casinos remain closed and tourists are unable to travel to popular gambling destinations because of travel restrictions.
A few more reasons why online casinos have appeal, especially during times like these where there is a raging pandemic, are the sign-up bonuses that are often offered, mobile-optimized sites and apps which have made gaming online ultra-portable and available 24/7, and a great variety of casino games on offer.
How Online Casinos Differ from Physical Casinos
When it comes to gaming at online casinos, there are both web-based and download-based options.
Where early online casinos were mainly just a mix of software-based games in which outcomes of games were determined by a computer program, virtual casinos are now offering fully-immersive casino experiences where you can directly interact with real live dealers.
All this new technology now means you can stream in real-time some of your favorite casino games from popular land-based casinos straight from your couch or bedroom.
Many online live casinos have chat features which allow you to engage with other players and ask the dealer questions.
You’ll commonly find games like blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and sic bo offered in a live stream format, with some online casinos now equipped with a VR feature where you can transport yourself into a truly lifelike casino experience with the use of a VR headset and compatible VR iGambling platform.
Benefits of Gambling at an Online Casino
Even when this pandemic eventually becomes a thing of the past, online casinos may be a good option for travelers.
Gambling at online versions of your favorite casinos can actually help free-up some of your travel time, since you can use the time spent in airports waiting for flights and any downtime during your holiday to gamble as opposed to scheduling into your itinerary visits to a local casino.
Because online gambling is 24/7 you can slide it into more appropriate times, and spend more time actually exploring destinations instead of seeking out local casinos.
And while gambling at an online casino doesn’t directly support smaller local businesses like hotels, restaurants, and cafes, it does keep a number of casino staff employed such as cameramen, croupiers, and technology managers which are all needed to run the live casino experiences.
Many casinos have also allocated a portion of their profits from online gaming to help support local businesses and charity organizations, so your money does filter back into their local economies in some cases.
How Famous Gambling Destinations are Coping with the Pandemic
Very rarely do the sights and sounds of Vegas come to a screeching halt. Not since the assassination of JFK were the casinos of the Vegas Strip forced to close their doors to visitors, but that is exactly what Covid did in 2020 in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
This caused Vegas’ monthly travelers to dwindle to a little over 100,000 people, a far cry from the 3.5 million monthly visitors it saw during the same period the previous year.
Flash forward to 2021, and things are once again looking up for Sin City.
During the months of spring this year, many of the Vegas Strip casinos recorded their highest gambling takings in 15 years and monthly visitor numbers are once again back in the millions. And this doesn’t even include international visitors which are yet to return.
Trade shows are beginning to return to Vegas and we’ve even seen the addition of a new hotel and casino in Downtown Vegas during the pandemic which features a two-story casino and three-story, stadium-style sportsbook touted as one of the largest if not the largest in the world.
Meanwhile in Asia, Macau has somehow managed to only rack up 63 total Covid cases during the entire pandemic thanks to strict border closures. However, their strict border closures have resulted in their famous casinos losing a lot of revenue.
Some casino owners like the Galaxy Entertainment Group that owns and operates hotels and casinos in Macau, have even resorted to offering staff who volunteer to quit or take voluntary redundancy a large one-off payment that is often in the tens of thousands of dollars in a bid to save money going forward.
Casinos in Macau are definitely struggling, with tourism numbers just 10% of what they should be. Macau’s casinos lost an eye-watering billion dollars during just a two-week lockdown period in 2020 alone, only the second time in history they were forced to close.
Just recently, Macau has endured another two week lockdown, this time the casinos being allowed to stay open. At present, only travelers from Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan are allowed to travel to Macau’s casinos, assuming they test negative for Covid.
Residents of some regions within China may even be forced into a two-week quarantine period depending on case numbers in their local originating area.
Australia has closed its borders to the rest of the world throughout most of the pandemic. Despite managing the pandemic very well early on, the recent arrival of the Delta variant has plunged much of the population back into ongoing strict lockdowns, forcing business like casinos to close their doors.
Currently, some of Australia’s most notable casinos in Sydney, Melbourne, and the nation’s capital Canberra are all currently closed. This includes Crown Melbourne, The Star Sydney, and Casino Canberra.
The Aussie casino industry has been hit even harder with Crown’s casino license for its Sydney tower remaining to be suspended after it was recently deemed unfit to hold a license in NSW. That leaves very few casinos left open.
SkyCity Adelaide, Wrest Point in Hobart, and Crown Perth may be open, but with no international tourists allowed into the country, and the borders of these states closed to NSW and Victoria residents for the foreseeable future, their business remains slow.
Some surveys have revealed that 30% of gambling Aussies have decided to open an online betting account to get their fix.
Even for those living in states which do have casinos open, the fact that masks are often mandatory, along with other restrictions, have encouraged them to switch to online casinos.
Many of Canada’s top casinos have now reopened. This includes Fallsview Casino Resort, Casino Niagara, Casino Montreal, and River Cree Resort and Casino.
Depending on the casino, limited table games may be available and only selected dining options may be open. Most of the entertainment at Canadian casinos remains on hold.
Many casinos still have capacity limits on their gaming floors and masks may still be required. The land border with the U.S. has recently reopened, but only for fully vaccinated American residents.
Many European countries are in the process of implementing the need of a proof-of-vaccination pass in order to be allowed into establishments like museums, restaurants, theatres, and casinos.
Those who aren’t yet fully vaccinated may have to provide a recent negative test or prove they have already had and recovered from the virus.
Covid restrictions such as mask wearing and social distancing were recently lifted in England, with London’s popular casinos back in business.
Sadly, not all UK casinos survived the pandemic and its forced restrictions, but those that have are now welcoming back eager gamblers who are embracing life after “Freedom Day” which began on July 19, 2021.
Over in Monaco, things are far more strict. It seems like getting into Monaco itself is as exclusive as some of its casinos and seemingly reserved for the elite.
Recently, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez managed to visit Monaco, with Ben hitting up Monte Carlo for a night of gambling. For others looking to visit the famous gambling principality, you’ll need a negative Covid 19 test and be forced into a 14 day quarantine period before hitting the famous casinos.
There’s no saying when the casino industry will fully bounce back. Vaccination rates are all over the place when it comes to different countries, so it will likely be a very staggered reopening of famous casinos around the world to foreign tourists.
Until then, the best option to get your gambling fix is to switch to online casinos and their new live-streaming formats. For many, it’s the closest thing to real-life casino tourism they are going to get in the foreseeable future until worldwide travel restrictions are eased.
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