Editor’s Note: This column was written at the beginning of August. For updates on the AGA’s most recent efforts, visit AmericanGaming.org.
As companies and communities search for ways to work, shop, dine and live safely amid Covid-19, gaming provides a leading model for how a high-touch, customer-facing business can re-engineer operations to protect public health and fuel economic recovery.
Across the country, casino gaming properties have implemented rigorous health and safety plans to help manage the difficulties posed by Covid-19. In fact, 85 percent of casinos in the U.S. are now open, most with limited capacity or reduced amenities available. While every industry faces complex operational challenges in the Covid-19 era, our industry is particularly well-positioned to lead. Gaming’s deep-rooted culture of regulatory compliance, our strong commitment to guest service, and our close ties to local communities have enabled casinos to quickly adapt to the new operating environment.
Gaming is one of our nation’s most highly regulated industries, so gaming leaders and employees are accustomed to working with regulators and government agencies to meet detailed operational requirements. As a result, casinos have been able to quickly establish and efficiently implement comprehensive Covid-19 health and safety plans, vetted and approved by state regulators, that meet or exceed local laws and public health requirements. This includes protocols for every area of operations, from food service and physical spacing to enhanced cleaning and health screening.
Putting these robust measures in place takes hard work and dedicated employees who apply these rigorous protocols to ensure customer safety. Casinos are screening and, in some cases, regularly testing employees for Covid-19, with robust response plans in the event of positive results. They are proactively working with public health authorities on tracing protocols to ensure the broader health of local communities. Team members have also been trained to remind guests of physical distancing and mask requirements and ensure guidelines are followed.
The pre-pandemic gaming industry was already evolving towards a more tech-enabled experience; now, new innovations are emerging in response to new challenges. For example, MGM Resorts has implemented contactless mobile check-ins, so guests can avoid lines. The Hard Rock Tampa disinfects and purifies air with a special technology designed to kill virus particles. Scientific Games is introducing new technology to alert staff when a player finishes on a slot machine for cleaning needs, allowing the next customer to see the time of last sanitization. Several casinos are using advanced thermal cameras to effectively scan guests for elevated temperatures. And the industry is working closely with state regulators to implement digital payment technologies to reduce physical interaction and cash handling on casino floors.
This is just the beginning. As we move forward, gaming will continue to refine safety measures, develop new solutions and share best practices. These ongoing efforts will protect employees and customers and, importantly, play a part in supporting local efforts to reduce disease spread.
Our industry is making significant investments in new equipment, technologies, protocols and training because we know it is critical that gaming reopens and stays open—not just for our businesses, but for our communities.
In every gaming state, casinos are economic engines driving local economies, supporting workers, small businesses and local governments. Gaming’s more than two-month shutdown cost states $2 billion-plus in lost gaming taxes alone. Detroit lost $600,000 in gaming taxes per day during the shutdown, leading to a massive hole in the city’s budget and significant cuts to city services. Maryland lost $209 million in gaming taxes between March and June compared to the same period last year, while Pennsylvania lost $323 million in gaming tax revenues during the same time frame.
This means we all have a stake in gaming’s recovery. It’s going to take everyone doing their part by wearing masks and following social distancing measures as public health efforts continue to ramp up testing and tracing. Our success represents a critical path forward for local economies, which urgently need customer-facing businesses like gaming to help restore jobs, tax revenues and economic activity.
I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this remarkable industry. The American Gaming Association has helped lead the gaming industry through many challenges for 25 years—and will do so again. We recognize the scale of the challenge we face, but gaming has proven to be resilient through natural disasters, economic recessions, personal tragedies and more. As we continue to learn and adapt to the Covid-19 challenge, we will show the way forward for other critical industries and responsibly contribute to the recovery of local communities and the American economy.