Fear, panic and confusion abound in the land By Ken Adams, CDC Gaming Reports March 15, 2020 at 7:00 pm It has been difficult to think or talk about anything but the COVID-19 coronavirus lately. The stock market has been acting like a roller coaster on steroids; the Dow Jones index has been up and down by thousands of points from one day to the next. The Dow dropped 15 percent between March 4 and March 13. Gaming stocks have reflected this drop, except gaming stocks are down by 30 percent for the same period. Across the country, states have declared a state of emergency, beginning with Washington, which has been the epicenter of the outbreak. There have been 37 deaths from 568 reported cases in that state. The governor has banned public gatherings of over 250 people and is closing all public schools. Just from watching the stock market, it’s clear that there is panic in the air. It is also apparent in the reactions of people who have been buying up the entire stock of water and toilet paper in many supermarkets. There have been so many canceled events it is difficult to keep track; it appears all public gatherings will be postponed for at least two weeks. The NBA and NHL, the NCAA basketball tournament, MLS, MLB, Broadway shows, conventions, new movie releases and even some religious services have been postponed or canceled. Besides the impact on entertainment, travel is slowing drastically and consumer spending is grinding to a halt, except for groceries and medical care. Of course, that means that people are working as much, or more, as they do generally, and are earning less. Some of the postponed or cancelled events are a once in a decade kind of thing, some once in a lifetime. The most telling may be the Boston Marathon. Traditionally held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday in April, the Boston Marathon has now been moved to September. It will be the first time in 124 years that the marathon will not take place as originally scheduled. The question now becomes: will it be safe to have the race in September? When will it be safe to gather in public again for Broadway shows, baseball games or awards banquets? Right now, we don’t know the answer, and that is the source of the panic on Wall Street and in the aisles of the grocery store. We are in new territory. Everyone in the U.S. is in the same place, a place they have never been before. We have no mental model of this type of event, we don’t know the rules, nor do we know how long it will last. That is scary. The virus is a worldwide phenomenon that started in China. The number of infected people in China stands at 80,000-plus, with 3100 deaths; it is being reported that the first case of the virus in China occurred on November 17, 2019. But it was not until the Golden Week, Chinese New Year, that it hit the press in a big way. Realizing the spread of the virus was approaching a crisis state, China canceled the holiday, hoping to arrest its transmission. The government also locked down Hubei Province, where the virus originated. Hubei Province has a population of approximately 60 million people. China also limited travel through the country. The city of Macau ordered the city’s casinos to close for 15 days and restricted entry. It also quarantines people from certain countries or cities for two weeks. The casinos in Macau were allowed to reopen on February 20 with limited capacity; half of the tables were allowed to open with a restriction on the number of players per table. Dealers and gamblers were obligated to wear masks, and the casinos are required to frequently wipe down all surfaces. China took drastic measures once the virus was identified. It opened 14 new hospitals dedicated to treating the virus and sent squads of military doctors and other healthcare professions to work in the new hospitals. In total, China quarantined nearly 100 million people, and prevented the travel of 300 or 400 million during the New Year holiday period. In China and Macau, neither the casinos or the citizens had a choice. The Chinese government decided which activities would be permitted and which would be forbidden, and dictated personal behavior in public places. But the policies worked, and by March 9, China was declaring victory and allowing most activities to return to normal level. In this country, it would take martial law to enforce some of the conditions China was able to dictate. Any restrictions on personal or business activities are much more difficult to impose here. It is simply the nature of the beast. There are times when an authoritarian government is more efficient and capable than a democracy. But even in the midst of this nightmare of fear and panic, few of us would choose the Chinese form of government. In a democracy, we work together to solve problems. We can do this. It won’t be instantaneous, and some of the economic problems are going to have long lasting effects. But we need to master our fears and set to work. It starts at a personal level. Act responsibly, follow the CDC’s guidelines, and stay at home as much as possible.