Casinos are reopening — and we all need to do our part By Andrew Tottenham, Managing Director, Tottenham & Co July 21, 2020 at 4:50 pm Casinos in England received approval to reopen their doors from August 1, though most casinos in the rest of Europe have been allowed to reopen for a few weeks now. However, the green light was not before Genting UK, which operate 42 casinos in the UK, announced they were laying off over 1,600 people from the UK group, an average of almost 40 per casino. No one, apart from the UK Government, knows why they decided to delay the reopening of casinos, while allowing arcades and bingo halls to open earlier. There appears to be a lack of logic in the decision-making. Government and logic, I’m shocked! Reopening is not without its challenges. Casinos will need to reassure their guests that they will be safe and be able to contact them in the event that someone who was in the casino at the same time has since tested positive for the coronavirus. In a way, there is a tension between these two positions. On the one hand, the message is, “the environment inside the venue is safe,” but on the other, “we need to let you know if someone who was infectious was in the casino at the same time as you and you need to get tested”. A difficult balancing act. Central European countries have handled the pandemic very well to date. They locked down early and insisted those who wanted to cross their borders had had a check for the presence of the virus. The impact, both physical and psychological, on their citizens has been light, although the effect on the hospitality and leisure industries has been significant. By contrast, Spain, Italy and the UK have had a very rough time with infection and death rates per capita, more than ten times those of Central European countries, such as Austria, Slovakia and Czechia. Since reopening, restaurants in the UK are seeing business down 40% for seated customers, many converted to take-away only during the partial lockdown period. It is early days and part of the decline may be because of reduced seating and people preferring to sit outdoors – the UK is not known for its accommodating weather. Further local lockdowns are already happening in Spain, Italy and the UK due to spikes in infection rates and likely more in the offing. The initial euphoria as lockdown ended was interesting to see, but rather worrying, as some citizens acted as if the pandemic was completely over, with social distancing thrown to the winds. What we do know is that the more human interaction there is, the greater the opportunity for the virus to spread, especially if the interaction takes place without masks and social distancing. While it takes time for new cases to ramp up, as sure as night follows day, they will (growth is exponential, remember) and when that happens, the only way to put the genie back in the bottle is to go into lockdown again. Meanwhile, the virus takes its toll on many of those who are infected. The stop-start of local lockdowns is bound to affect consumer behaviour and the economy over the longer term. One of the problems has been the lack of a clear message from governments as to what people should do when restrictions are lifted. Ultimately, however, it is up to us, the general public. So wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands. If we do not act responsibly and continue to do so, 1,600 people losing their jobs from one casino operating company will be the tip of the iceberg.