In 2020, land-based casinos all around the world were forced to shut down activities, to comply with lockdowns and social distancing measures imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19. After a few months, these venues were authorized to resume operations under severe restrictions, including limited capacity and distancing protocols.
But now, as COVID-19 cases decline and vaccinations increase, several Las Vegas casinos are loosening these restrictions; casino floors are set to return to a 50% occupancy limit and many venues on The Strip returned to 24-hour operations.
In Canada, the Ontario provincial government allowed casinos to reopen, and gambling venues in Alberta are expected to do so by the end of March. European casinos and gambling venues also benefited from the rise in vaccinations, as countries such as Poland already restarted operations. In the United Kingdom, the largest gambling market in Europe, sports betting venues and casinos are expected to reopen in April and May, respectively.
Casinos in Las Vegas had been operating at a limited 25% capacity since November, when they were allowed to increase the occupancy to 35% in February. But Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak recently signed an emergency directive loosening the state’s health restrictions, allowing casinos to increase capacity from 35% to 50%. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, this led to big crowds flooding the Las Vegas Strip and casino floors in the first weekend following the announcement.
MGM Resorts restarted 24-hour operations in three of its venues on the Las Vegas Strip: The Mirage, Mandalay Bay and Park MGM, after shutting down midweek operations for them in the end of 2020,.
As far as entertainment options go, the offer is still limited as shows are also restricted to limited capacity. However, magicians and stand-up comedians are already performing at some venues, and, following Sisolak’s announcement, several concerts are expected to be rescheduled.
With this new directive, outdoor pools and open-air clubs are slated to reopen as well. OMNIA outdoor nightclub at Caesars Palace and MGM’s Wet Republic reopened to the public on March 5, with distanced seating, mask-wearing and other COVID-19 safety precautions enforced. The Liquid Pool Lounge at Aria reopened on March 12 with similar restrictions.
In February, the Canadian province of Ontario lifted some of the restrictions that had been instated in December, leading operators Great Canadian Gaming and Gateway Casinos to reopen several of their casinos across the province. Complying with the color-coded system enforced by local government, these venues were required to operate with a 25% capacity limit, keeping two meters between customers, with a patron screening process.
In Alberta, casinos are expected to reopen by the end of March, during Step 3 of the roadmap created by the local government. According to the Edmonton Journal, casinos in the province invested almost $10 million towards safety measures during the pandemic, from sanitization to physical barriers.
Over the Atlantic, in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced a roadmap out of lockdown, with a phase reopening of society starting from March 8. Although not specifically mentioned in the documents, gambling venues are expected to be included in the second and third stages of the roadmap; sports betting venues will restart operations on April 12, and casinos and other gaming centers on May 17. So far, online operators, such as STS Casino, are the only option for bettors in the country.
An important gambling market in Eastern Europe despite having one of the most restrictive policies in the continent, Poland had casinos closed in December 2020, to comply with the quarantine imposed by the government. In February, following a decree that allowed casinos, hotels, bars and restaurants to resume operations, several casinos in the country reopened, including American-owned Century Casinos’ venues, with severe health and safety protocols, including reduced capacity and distancing between customers.
In Croatia, after the national COVID response team presented new health and safety protocols on February 15, casinos and other betting shops were allowed to reopen. With measures similar to those applied in stores and retailers, casinos must restrict the number of visitors to ensure at least 7 square meters per person and can only operate until 10pm.