As Las Vegas has begun reopening, many have flocked to party Sin City. But the tourism numbers for the summer of 2021 are still well below pre-Covide levels. This is because, for much of the population, Vegas has an image issue. People fear the crowds and the potential spread of contagion.
The casino resorts in Vegas have been working hard on implementing new health and safety guidelines to try and reassure people that a Las Vegas vacation will not send you home with a case of COVID-19 as a souvenir. Many shows have remained suspended, some buffets remain closed, restaurants and spas are operating on limited capacity, and even some common resort amenities were at least temporarily axed (i.e. valet service).
But these changes don't just impact your average tourist, drastic changes have been made to the gaming floor. These changes, which are meant to promote cleanliness and encourage social distancing, have no doubt have an effect on the social interaction that is key to the gambling experience.
For slot players, new social distancing measures have meant there is a reduced variety of machines to choose from. To support social distancing, slot machines have been spread further apart. On the upside, this means that slot players can enjoy a higher degree of personal space, but on the flip side they will no longer be able to enjoy the social aspect that comes with gambling. It makes it difficult to share a big win when machines (and patrons) are spread so far apart.
This lack of social interaction and spreading out of machines can also have a drastic impact on machines that feature progressives or group bonuses. Progressives will not rise as quickly, and smaller progressives mean less appeal for these machines. For machines that offer a bonus to an entire group of players at a bank of slot machines, the lack of machines and social interaction diminishes the attraction to play and the limited machine participation results in smaller bonus round winnings. Even machines that aren’t dependent on group bonuses or progressives can attract crowds with their big wins, engaging bonus rounds, or extra-large screens. With Covid fears and the limitations of social distancing, the crowds are smaller. This is like putting a limit on fun and excitement.
The social aspect of gambling, or now lack thereof, also has an impact on table games. Some of the most popular table games operate the best when there is a lot of interaction between the players such as with craps and poker. A lack of interaction definitely has an impact on betting habits as well as the popularity of many of these games.
At many casinos, there are still limiting how many people can be at a table. A table that sat 8 may now only feature 6 chairs. And they are discouraging the gathering of large crowds that you often see at craps tables.
Another part of the new safety standards, are barriers separating the dealer from the players, and measures will be taken to reduce patron contact with dice, cards, and chips. While some of the barriers have come down, the move promoted a lack of interaction with the dealers, which is part of the fun of many table games. And the measures to limit patron contact with dice, cards, and chips have been a frustration to table players and likely reduced their betting activity.
All of these changes have essentially turned table-game play into something more like a virtual table game experience. Making many wonder why they bothered to come all the way to Vegas, when they can just play online at home.
With the initial reopening of Las Vegas having been capacity controlled, casinos axed many of the player promotions. This is because promotions and tournaments draw crowds and they initially wanted to limit crowds. Such promotions have been slow to come back now that Vegas is fully reopened. For players, this means limitations on, or the complete absence of, comps, freeplay, giveaways, and more. As a player, whether you are a whale or more of a guppy, this may mean paying full price for rooms and meals which leaves you less money to devote to gambling.
Giveaways and tournaments not only draw in a large number of patrons; they instill a sense of excitement on the gaming floor, hundreds or even thousands of people all competing for the big prize. This air of excitement has been largely absent in the post-COVID reopening of Las Vegas.
The new social distancing, cleaning standards, and occupancy control being implemented in Las Vegas are necessary. But all of these new practices and guidelines have the potential to negatively affect the gambler’s experience. The lack of social interaction as well as the other limitations will most certainly impact both the time and money spent on the gaming floor. Only time will tell if this new normal permanently impacts gambling habits and revenue.
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