After more than 40 years in the gaming business, I thought I had seen everything, but the world had another trick up its sleeve—coronavirus, or Covid-19.
In less than two weeks, the world stopped spinning and everyone was on lockdown. At GGB, we immediately realized nothing would ever be the same. We always understood that original content is a necessity in this business, so we committed to doing daily updates on the impact of the virus. You can visit any of our websites—GGBMagazine.com, GGBNews.com or CasinoConnection.com—to find a link to the content.
We’ve been fortunate to have lots of experts weigh in, people like Bill Miller from the AGA, John James formerly with Foxwoods, Paul Burns from the Canadian Gaming Association, Brendan Bussmann from Global Market Advisors, Steve Callender from Eldorado Resorts and many others. We’ve covered the unintended—and potentially positive—consequences, such as the growing importance of iGaming, esports and cashless transactions. So if you haven’t been receiving these reports, it’s easy to sign up. Visit GGBNews.com to subscribe, using the coupon code GGB180 for free access.
It’s amazing how many areas of the industry have been impacted. Because we’re all in this together.
Operators, of course, have been shut down for nearly a month as I write this. While the virus seems to have peaked in some parts of the U.S., there still is no definitive timeline for reopening. And once casinos do reopen, what will they look like? Clearly, social distancing will have to continue for the time being. That includes turning off every other or two out of three slot machines to maintain a safe space. Three or four players at table games will undoubtedly be the norm. Shows and meetings will be off for at least a couple of months. Restaurants will space out tables. And of course, everyone will be washing their hands continually.
Smart operators aren’t waiting for things to restart. They’re actively engaged with their customers, keeping them abreast of developments and taking reservations. These same operators are stressing the cleanliness and safety of their properties once they reopen.
Operators have also seen firsthand now how online gaming revenues can be a backstop, and prevent a complete loss of all revenue. They are going to clearly make online gaming a priority when this thing is over.
For employees, a slow ramp-up toward reopening is not a good sign. The gradual return of business will also mean the gradual return of jobs. Just because a casino reopens doesn’t mean all employees will come back at once. It’s going to be a long, slow, painful process before full employment returns.
Suppliers are dead in the water with their customers shut down. And even when the operators reopen, they’re going to be careful with every dollar. Unless suppliers come up with new, got-to-have products and services, the rebound is going to take quite some time. Again, smart suppliers are already reconnecting with their clients, partnering with them to get through this period, finding unique and innovative ways to work together.
I want you to pay special attention to the advertisers in this month’s magazine. These companies are at the forefront in support of the industry, and will be leaders in the recovery. I don’t want you to read too much into the ads you don’t see, however. I’ve been assured by most of our regular clients that they will be back, and are formulating plans to be innovative in this difficult time. Because we’re all in this together.
Tribal casinos are in a unique spot now. The difference between commercial and tribal casinos crystalizes in this kind of market. While the shareholders in a casino company might not be happy with no revenue flowing in, tribal members are hit with a double whammy. Their governments won’t get the money needed to support community organizations, which provide a lifeline to many. And many tribal members are also casino employees, executives or regulators, making the impact even more devastating.
For state governments—particularly in Nevada, where gaming contributes 40 percent of state funds, and the rest is largely dependent on gaming’s success—tax revenue has stopped rolling in, never to be replaced. That puts a strain on any budget, especially a budget built on gaming. Will lawmakers try to make it up by raising taxes in the future? Let’s hope not. That’s a recipe for disaster.
The times have clearly changed, and will never go back to “normal.” The companies and individuals who thrive and prosper going forward are those who adjust more quickly and innovate to serve a new audience, whose wants and desires also will never be the same.
Gaming has changed. We welcome your thoughts and expectations about how it will be different, but better. Remember, we’re all in this together.