Do Land-based Casinos Have a Future After Coronavirus?

August 5, 2020

The world is slowly getting back to normal. Businesses are reopening across the globe, which is good news for consumers and business owners alike.

However, rising cases in Kenya and second wave outbreaks in other countries is leading people to ask serious questions about the timelines. Some countries like the US have seen the virus come back in a bigger way after easing restrictions on public gatherings.

Most of this re-opening is guided by the economic downturn, but experts agree that the global economy will only return to normal once the virus has a vaccine or an effective treatment.

Among the most affected businesses of them all are casinos.

Here in Kenya, they have been closed for months with the same trend seen in other countries like South Africa and the United States where infection rates are much higher.

Customers who regularly visited physical casinos either to gamble or socialize have had their lives interrupted in a big way.

As of now, the jury is out on whether this industry as we know it will experience a paradigm shift, or it will be business as usual in a few months. It is really had to say when the global pandemic will be truly over, and even harder to know whether customers will want to return.

As for the second questions, we can look for clues in regions that have been quicker to get back to business.

Macau, a special administrative region of China which draws virtually all its income from gambling and tourism related activities, was among the first to ease restrictions. However, they are doing so with social distancing in mind. Only half the tables on casino floors are operational and temperature checks and masks are mandatory.

Still, the customers are not coming in droves.

The same case has been observed in the Phillipines which also eased restrictions a few weeks back.

In fact, in a recent survey of 1000 American adults published by Synergy Blue – a manufacturer of arcade-style casino games, only 51% said they will return to physical casinos once they re-open.

This was in April and the numbers may have shifted either way.

The silver-lining for the industry appears to be the internet as regular customers have turned to online gambling for betting and casino offers.

Perhaps a global pandemic is the catalyst that was needed to make this shift.

A Different Story in Africa

In Africa, the story is quite different. Casino was not a particularly big business before the pandemic, and things will not get any better. In a continent where most people live from hand to mouth, gambling in flashy establishments is a luxury few can afford.

Very few casinos exist in African countries, and the ones that do can only be found in big cities. This pre-disqualifies hundreds of millions from even participating.

That’s why most marketers here are trying to sell online gambling first, making Africa the continent that skipped physical gambling.

It is therefore more likely that as more people on the continent join the middle class, the biggest beneficiary in this industry will be the online space, not the physical one. To be clear, this was the trend long before the Covid-19 pandemic. It will only accelerate now that establishments are closed.

All in all, the future of land-based casinos appears to be bleak. The shift to online gambling is arguably unstoppable.

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