More and more casinos across the United States are closing their doors as the nation goes into shutdown following the coronavirus outbreak.
Over the past few days, the rapid spread of the virus has forced millions of citizens to quarantine themselves at home. Offices, hotels, and venues across the country have had to cease operations, unclear when they can open again. The country is facing an economic crisis as a result and the gambling industry could be one of the worst-hit.
Both Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International shuttered their Las Vegas casinos last week. However, full-time employees have been given assurances that salaries will continue to be paid during the period. The move follows recommendations from the CDC to limit public gatherings to no more than 10 people.
Speaking to CNBC, Vegas-based race and sports manager Duane Colucci of Rampart Casino highlighted the industry’s struggle to prepare for such a situation. “It’s so hard to fathom. You can’t prepare for something like this, especially in the race and sportsbook industry,” she said. She hopes that work-from-home regulations will be relaxed to allow casinos to take bets online.
On the east coast, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has closed all casinos, bars, and restaurants in Atlantic City, rendering the popular gambling hub a ghost town.
A move online
Online gambling has managed to continue through the struggles largely unaffected, with many digital casinos accepting US players around the world. Virtual horse racing also continues to operate online, along with certain sporting events in less-affected countries like Mexico and Russia.
Sportsbooks across the country have begun taking bets on all-and-everything in an attempt to pick up the slack. For example, the popular Costa Rican-based betting site Bovada has even been taking bets on the maximum temperature in various U.S. cities.
Sports betting sites like FanDuel and DraftKings are investigating new events on which to take bets. They both took some bizarre wagers on last week’s U.S political debate, including the amount and frequency of Trump’s tweets. Some other online betting sites have come up with some questionable solutions, like hosting simulated versions of real-life sports events that have been canceled.
Across the pond in the United Kingdom, physical casinos are also feeling the pinch. However, with the UK’s more favorable online gambling regulations, many are surviving through their online partner sites. eSports, where players compete entirely online, is another industry that has garnered increased popularity. Many sports betting sites are now enticing players to redirect their bets to eSports as a way to mitigate lost revenue on real-life sports.
A drain on savings
While online gambling might solve the problem of social distancing that COVID-19 presents, it doesn’t solve the problem of dwindling capital in most households. The longer that citizens are kept away from their work, the less likely they are to spend their savings on unnecessary activities. While gambling may be a favorite past-time for many, risky investments tend to reduce significantly during times of crisis.
The overall casino and gambling industry will struggle to survive this outbreak if the lockdown continues for too long. According to the UK paper The Guardian, around 35 companies are currently investigating a COVID-19 vaccine. However, it’s an arduous process that involves several critical testing phases in order to gain regulatory approval.
Annelies Wilder-Smith of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine believes a COVID-19 vaccine will take at least 18 months to develop, under the best possible conditions. During that time there is no telling how far the virus could spread and how devasting the effects on the economy could be.