According to the American Gaming Association’s casino reopening tracker, 766 casinos have reopened in the United States, while 223 remain closed as of June 23. That’s enough data to see what gaming centers did right and wrong after reopening their doors to the general public. It also provides enough data to provide some lessons for other businesses looking to reopen, particularly those that draw large crowds in close quarters. There are many fascinating abandoned casinos around the world that you should visit.
Overall, what casinos have done in the new reopening phase is communicate safety to customers properly, said Flinn Flexer, chief operating officer of Runtriz, a technology solutions provider in Los Angeles that works with major casinos such as Caesars Entertainment Corp. on its consumer experience. Safety as a strategy is the new term on the Las Vegas Strip, and that was the theme of the reopening.
Big Changes for the Casinos
Casinos are changing the way they engage with customers in a post-pandemic world, according to Flexer, by taking a page from the book of other reopened businesses—particularly overseas.
When you walk into a Vegas casino, for example, you’ll see thermal cameras at the entrance, Flexer explained. In other countries, such as Asia, thermal cameras are more accepted and even expected by consumers, says one Las Vegas casino customer. If a customer’s temperature is 100.4 or higher, they have discreetly pulled aside and asked to retest, Flexer explained. If one‘s temperature is still 100.4 or higher, they are courteously asked to leave. The Nevada Gaming Control Board does not require hotels to install thermal cameras, but it does want them to check hotel guests’ temperatures when they arrive. Thermal cameras will be used by some properties to streamline the initial temperature screen. Visitors will be allowed to enter if their temperature is less than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature rises any further, the guest will be required to wait 15 minutes before being tested again.
According to Flexer and other casino experts, casinos are making a slew of additional changes to keep customers safe and engaged, and those changes are expected to be permanent. Aside from casinos, there are many famous abandoned buildings around the world to explore.
Most casinos focused on threats of cross-contamination through ventilation ducts and had to put in extensive filtering systems to massively upgrade their air conditioning and vents, said Sam Zietz, CEO of GRUBBRR, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that works with casinos to create self-ordering gaming table kiosks that allow customers to order food and drinks, play games, and even cash out without a human-to-human interaction. Casinos also concentrated on physically dividing customers and casino workers through Plexiglas barriers, with the goal of imposing social distancing by limiting capacity.
That is just the beginning. Here are some lessons other industries can take away from how casinos evolved.
1. Customers who want to return must see that there are clear safety precautions in place.
A few of the casino’s safety measures are readily apparent to the average customer.
Casinos have made masks and gloves accessible to all customers and have put in place several sanitation guidelines on the gaming floor, said Tammy Kleinman, a senior analyst for Notion Consulting, a global change leadership company.
They have their photo taken after taking the required temperature check so that if their temperature is high and those who try to enter despite the dangers, can be tracked down inside the casino.
Kleinman has some advice for business owners who want to open their doors to the public:
Of course, the danger is that patrons will feel so safe that they will ignore the ongoing risks and begin to relax their protocols, such as removing masks—which are now required in Las Vegas casinos except when a guest is eating or drinking—when they become uncomfortable sitting close to other patrons or cutting their hand-washing regimen short.
2. It is okay to take it slowly.
While it appears that Las Vegas is open for business, sports arenas, large performance venues, and buffets are currently closed.
Even the poker room, which is a mainstay of the casino scene, Kleinman said, is still closed. This is because management has yet to find an effective way to keep players safe while maximizing the quality of play; a typical table has about 10 players, and due to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s distancing and congregating rules, this is not an option for now.
Corporate America must acknowledge that fully going to reopen businesses will take time and patience, she continues, and timetable their reopening based on science, not emotion, politics, or economics.
3. Customers and employees expect management to follow the rules.
Consumers, particularly younger patrons who believe they are less at risk, will not take the new rules of engagement seriously if there is no clear policing, according to Kleinman. Mandatory masks will help, but social distancing remains a problem, particularly in local bars and at larger casino games like craps tables, which attract chevaliers.
4. Consult with Professionals.
The science of sanitation and containment is complicated, and public-facing businesses may need to follow casinos’ lead and hire outside experts to handle critical situations. Station Casinos, which owns 17 casinos in Las Vegas, uses the following protocol for room recovery if a guest room has been occupied by someone who tested positive for COVID-19, according to Kleinman.
5. It takes time to change habits.
Gaming is a social activity by definition, but changing people’s perceptions of what social activities are will take months. The biggest challenge for any change is to… show them it’s worth the investment, according to a recent study of 50 Fortune 500 executives, according to Kleinman.
There will be resistance and noncompliance until people internalize the need to routinize new patterns and accept that our world has changed for the foreseeable future, she said. Corporate leaders must accept this and involve customers and employees in the change process.