Among the backdrop of a global pandemic and the uncertainty currently plaguing the casino industry, there are a few bright spots to be had. Yes, a majority of casino properties across the US have shut down for a minimum of two weeks, all professional and collegiate sports are on hiatus, and social distancing is being fed to the masses.
But you have read enough of that. To break up the bad headlines, here are some slivers of good news to enjoy:
#1. Some casino corporations are still paying employees
Over the years, there have been some truly dark moments in the casino business. With most casinos closed nationwide, we are perhaps currently witnessing the darkest. But there are also moments where the industry puts its best foot forward.
Just look at the two historical cities known for gambling: Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Some of the big-name casino operators have decided to continue to pay employees and help ease the financial burden associated with properties shutting down.
Wynn Resorts started first, and it seems it is going above and beyond most other casino companies. Wynn is paying both full- and part-time employees plus paying estimated tips for 30 days.
Caesars Entertainment is offering two weeks’ pay to all employees across its vast network of properties around the US. Eldorado Resorts (which Caesars is currently merging with) also announced it would compensate all employees with its standard rate of pay for two weeks.
MGM Resorts International is paying furloughed employees (part-time and full-time) for two weeks, with benefits through June 30.
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City are more properties that are extending pay and benefits for a few weeks to aid their employees.
This is just a small glimpse of how casinos in various states are helping their workers in an industry that employs thousands of people.
Research by the American Gaming Association (AGA), says property closures will directly impact 644,000 casino and resort employees or 98% of the total US casino workforce.
Casinos have no playbook to reference, and no industry standards to fall back on. One day they are operating and the next, ordered to close. It’s good to know some companies are taking the necessary steps to ensure their employees are taken care of in a time of crisis.
#2. Sports betting apps are still live in Nevada
Despite the complete shutdown of the Las Vegas Strip, casual and expert bettors can continue to use Nevada online and mobile sports betting apps. (There was confusion for a while regarding whether they would remain if the physical casino component closed.)
Although the betting menu may be limited, some people may find it comforting to know a finite amount of odd, and diverse sports are still chugging away.
Unfortunately, there is a caveat to this. In Nevada, you must register for an online account in person. With properties closed, this means no new customers can sign up. NV sportsbooks also require that you fund your account in person. So, if you find yourself on a string of bad bets, and hit that zero balance mark, you’re out of luck.
William Hill, however, announced updates to its app, allowing for electronic deposits. Whether other sports betting operators follow this path is yet to be known.
#3. Strong February for East Coast sportsbooks
It may be the last good month for sports betting for a while, but damn was it a great high point. Pennsylvania gambling operators reeled in a whopping $10.8 million in revenue off of $329.8 million in bets.
The neighboring New Jersey gambling market saw similar results with sportsbooks generating $17 million in revenue off of $494.8 million in bets. The percentage of bets placed online (88.2%) was also up from January and accounted for $436.5 million in bets.
These numbers will before forever linked to pre-quarantined times, and while the numbers may not directly affect you, the consumer, they are a bright spot as the sports betting industry goes more and more mainstream.
#4. Maryland sports betting is moving along
In the fall, Maryland residents will have the chance to vote on if sports betting should be legalized. The issue will be placed on the November ballot and, if approved, will give the legislature the go-ahead to craft suitable legislation.
One of the key issues holding back a full-blown sports betting bill was the lack of representation of women and minority-owned businesses. The issue directly mirrors what happened in neighboring Washington, DC. Instead of sports betting licenses only being held by major companies, bars and restaurants (some of which are owned by women and minorities) can apply for a Class B license to operate sportsbooks.
Regardless of when sports betting comes to Maryland, the issue is being discussed and moving in the right direction.
#5. Virginia sports betting may soon be a reality
Lastly, Virginia sports betting is a governor’s signature away from becoming a reality. While the bill is limited and includes no betting on colleges in Virginia and no prop bets on any college sports at all, it does represent bipartisanship and brings sports betting to the Commonwealth.
Not all sports betting bills are perfect. Some bills restrict who can and can’t operate a sportsbook. Others limit the types of wagers you can place, provide no responsible gaming protection or limit betting to retail only.
The common thread, however, is providing customers a legal and safe way to bet on sports. And in doing so, slowly chipping away at the illegal market.
In due time
The gaming industry may be in crisis mode right now. But in time, slot machines will be plugged back in. People will hover around a craps table once more. Sportsbooks will switch on TV screens. Casino resorts will welcome back employees and guests.
We will usher in the post-COVID-19 gaming world, but we must remain optimistic that that day will come sooner rather than later.