The future of gambling in a COVID-19 world
By Frank Scoblete
In the current issue of Casino Player I speculated that the table games might be removed from the casinos. There is no way to have six-feet of social distance between players and dealers at blackjack, roulette, craps, pai gow poker, mini-baccarat and the various carnival games.
Even with one player at a table, the dealers are too close to maintain proper social distancing. And would players and dealers want to wear masks and gloves? So, it might be goodbye to the table games, un- less we can structure them in a different way.
That leaves us with the world of slot and video poker machines. Can these games survive in the brave new casinos hampered as they are by a deadly virus that has threatened our land; casinos that now must follow new rules that recommend people avoid close contact with other people and large groups?
Plenty of casino space now used for meetings, theater, sporting events, concerts, comedy and the like, might go the way of the dodo bird. No large group activities will be coming back all that soon, so the extra space in the casinos and particularly in casino-hotels can be used to house slot and video poker machines.
There are ways to enforce the social distancing rules too, at the machines and in the aisles.
Slot and video poker machines can be placed six-feet apart and six-feet on one side of the aisle opposite the other side of the aisle (indeed this aisle space would be more like 12 feet). All aisles would be one-way traffic, just as are many city streets. We’d have employees (some former table game dealers) whose job it is to wipe down machines after a player leaves that machine and before another player sits down and plays it. Some employees would be the equivalent of traffic cops.
And what about the floor space that is left over from the absent table games? That space would be now occupied by table games of a different sort – electronic table games such as blackjack, craps, roulette, pai gow poker, mini-baccarat and whatever carnival games the casinos feel would be profitable. I am not talking about table games that look just like traditional slots, but electronic games that look as close to the real table games as possible with some important alterations.
First of all, these games would not need dealers, so we wouldn’t have to worry about social distancing between players and dealers.
Secondly, the areas where players sit would have plexiglass between them. Each player’s cubicle would be at least six feet wide allowing the players to sit six feet (or more) away from their next- door neighbors.
Thirdly, all games would be in the round (or oval) with players properly spread out. This gives players more space than they would have had at most of the traditional table games and this arrangement might actually allow the same number or more players to play them. It certainly would be a far more comfortable experience than the traditional table games.
Fourthly, all games would be credit machines eliminating the need to use chips. That would alleviate the problem of the virus clinging to the outside of the chips.
Fifthly, hand wipes would be available in each cubicle for players to use before and after their games. I don’t think face masks would be necessary, but this would be the decision of the state health experts. Even though players would use hand wipes the machine cleaners would wipe down the machines after each player exits the game.
Indeed, I think these electronic games, with each player in his or her separate cubicle, might wind up being a pleasant surprise for the players. The actual question is this: Would traditional table game players be attracted to these electronic games? Currently, this does not seem to be so.
If you go the casinos frequently, it is not unusual to see a husband and wife, a boyfriend and girlfriend, two men or two women, or a group of friends and relatives playing slots or table games with very little intersection between them. Slot players are slot players and table game players are table game players. The two types of games rarely meet.
Table game players do not have to play the current electronic games which are seen here and there in some casinos. Why bother when the real tables exist for their enjoyment; in short they’re not locked into machine play at all.
But what if machine play were the only thing they had? I think they would ultimately flock to the brave new electronic table-game world. Casino gamblers want to play and sooner or later they would want to play those electronic games. In my opinion that is a given.
Yes, for all of us, the world has been turned upside down but human beings are resourceful creatures and we have been playing games since we started tribes and civilizations so many centuries ago. There is no reason for us to stop now.
All the best in and out of the (brave new) casinos!
Frank Scoblete’s web site is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, kindle, e-books and at bookstores.