The global coronavirus pandemic has hit everybody hard, but casinos took an especially big hit. Casinos are more than just the gaming floors, they’re also the shops, restaurants, and hotels that customers pour money into during their visit. All those closures across the country have cost the U.S. economy:
- 652,000 casino and resort worker lay-offs.
- 56 million deferred casino trips.
- $43.5 billion of total economic activity–just from two months of closures.
How are casinos supposed to rise to such an unprecedented challenge? Colorado casinos have been shut down since March 17 and as of this writing are still ordered closed until at least April 26. To help weather the storm, many casinos’ strategies start with customer service.
How Closed Colorado Casinos Are Keeping Their Customers Happy
Until customers can come back, casinos will struggle to generate revenue to pay for their expenses incurred during their closures. That’s why casinos have publicly reassured customers their future visits will be unaffected by the coronavirus. For example, Isle Black Hawk’s coronavirus notice page explicitly lists questions and answers about accumulated rewards. Yes, your reward points are safe. No, Isle Black Hawk won’t downgrade your loyalty level because you haven’t visited in a month. Yes, your coupons are safe. It’s basically an FAQ page.
Pressing pause on customers’ rewards, discounts, and promotions is the best way for the casinos to handle their customers. Casinos will be cash tight after paying for rent, utilities, employee salaries, PTO, and health care benefits.
Customers shouldn’t expect cash incentives to return to their favorite casinos. The most customers should expect is to pick up where they left off without the casinos having to pay them to come through the doors.
How Many People Will Really Come Back To Colorado Casinos?
The best way to figure out whether customers will really come back is to look at casinos that had to close and reopen. Or rather, an entire city.
Macau is the Las Vegas of China. Its strip of casinos and hotels is just as grand and elegant as the Vegas Strip. The city’s economy is also just as dependent on casinos. After the coronavirus outbreak:
- Tourist arrivals in Macau dropped by 95.6% in February 2020–compared to February 2019.
- Casinos only opened half their gaming tables.
Those numbers don’t bode well for the Colorado mining towns that run on casinos. Even if the casinos open, the people will return slowly. Once Macau’s casinos reopened, foot traffic was still 92% lower than the previous year. That could be people who are not only afraid of coronavirus exposure, but who have also taken a financial hit during the outbreak. If Macau’s numbers are any indication, Colorado’s casino towns do not have a quick recovery to look forward to.
How Casinos In Colorado Are Putting Social Distancing Measures In Place
While the casinos are closed, they are preparing for customers to return with social distancing measures in place. Social distancing remains important in Macau. For example, Macau’s baccarat tables seat four people instead of seven. This puts a chair between each player and adheres to social distancing guidelines.
Colorado casinos are already preparing for similar measures. Eldorado Resorts, which owns Lady Luck Casino in Black Hawk, lists the ways it’s preparing to get customers back onto the floor. It’s promoting hand washing, delivering additional sanitization training, and providing hand sanitizer throughout the casino.
Other casinos have more specific social distancing measures. Ameristar Black Hawk lists far more specific actions they’ll take to protect employees and customers from the coronavirus. Some of these steps include:
- Removing chairs from gaming and dining tables.
- Deactivating some machines to increase distance between players.
- Increasing air circulation inside the casino.
Clearly, there’s a range of reactions to the coronavirus. Some of them focus on hygiene, while others create social distancing strategies. Anyone looking for a casino to go should monitor the steps their casino of choice is taking to control the virus’ spread. It takes more than proper hygiene to protect yourself from the virus.
How The Casinos Are Handling Widespread Furloughs And Layoffs
The casinos are nothing without all the employees on the gaming floor and throughout the resorts making them run. Unfortunately, since Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered the casinos closed, Colorado casinos have had to lay off and furlough large swaths of employees.
Cripple Creek alone lost 2,000 employees to the state-wide closings. And that’s just one of Colorado’s three casino cities. However, some employees are faring better than others. Despite everyone having to apply for unemployment, furloughed employees have a job to go back to and, if their employer offers them, their health care benefits. Laid-off employees lose their health benefits along with their jobs. That’s a challenge for anyone who gets their health insurance through their employer and who finds themselves out of work.
- Paid its employees through the first two weeks of furlough.
- Let its employees use accrued PTO.
- Continued providing health care benefits.
This sounds like a feel-good story (what passes for one mid-pandemic, anyway), but there’s a strategic reason for Monarch’s (relative) generosity. Monarch Casino is still planning for its newest hotel, spa, and resort expansion slated to be completed in summer 2020.
Monarch Casino has one of the most aggressive and ambitious comeback strategies among the Colorado casinos. No one else has boasted about expanding business during the pandemic. However, slow foot traffic once casinos re-open could make it difficult to initially pay all of its returning employees. It could also be difficult to get people to spend money after weeks or even months of unemployment checks that may or may not cover the bills.
However, Monarch Casino will also have a full workforce to leverage, which will benefit employees and customers alike. Employees won’t be spread too thin, and customers will receive plenty of attention from the staff.
Whether Monarch Casino can overcome these challenges remains to be seen. It’s positioned itself to be a customer service leader when it opens, but whether enough customers return to make this strategy pay off remains to be seen.
A Snapshot Of Casinos Amid Coronavirus Closures
There’s no way to sugarcoat the damage being done to the gambling industry. Billions of dollars across the country are being lost to casino closures. Everything from employees’ jobs to customers gambling in the casinos to customers relaxing at the resorts, spas, and hotels have ceased.
However, casinos are trying to keep customers happy until they can come back. But when customers finally return, business will be slow. Even if foot traffic returned to pre-outbreak levels, social distancing requirements would reduce the number of people at each table and each row of slot machines. That caps the revenue the casino floor can generate.
And that’s without considering the employees. While some employees are furloughed, others are laid off from casinos and aren’t expecting a return to normalcy. Many casinos won’t need the full staff they had before. Most of them certainly aren’t as gung-ho as Monarch Casino.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a huge toll on casinos, their employees, and their employees’ families. Casinos’ reactions have ranged from pessimistic outlooks to visionary optimism. But everyone who walks back into a casino will return to a different gambling environment. Nothing will be the same after these closures.