A war on two fronts
Per Jaldung, president of the European Casino Association, highlights the effort that will have to be made to deal with the economic consequences for the industry.
As it is happening worldwide, European casinos are among the activities suspended for Covid-19, whose return to “normal” is longer and uncertain. Per Jaldung, president of the European Casino Association, highlights the effort that will have to be made to deal with the economic consequences for the industry, because of the forced and due closure caused by the health emergency. From Macau, where they resumed operations on February, the 20th, but with extremely low turnover, to Las Vegas, where Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak closed them, extending the order at least until May, the 1st, casinos all over the world are experiencing an unprecedented crisis, due to the pandemic from Covid-19. In all parts of the planet, apart from a few small exceptions, they were among the first facilities to be closed, and among the last, at least so it seems, to open again, once the emergency will moderate and we will move on to the one that in Italy is called “phase two”. With serious consequences on the economic and employment front, bearing in mind that, for example, most of the Us casinos fired almost all their employees. The Swidsh Per Jaldung, president of the European Casino Association, takes stock of the extremely serious European situation, as well as of a jungle of national rules, but united by the closing order. European Casinos, like all economic activities, are hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis. What kind of initiatives can and will the Eca take to support them?
“The Eca is monitoring the situation very closely. Casino operations around the world have closed down without knowing when they will be able to re-open. We are currently carrying out an ongoing survey amongst our members to find out to what extent they are impacted, what kind of measures they are implementing and how they are handling this dramatic situation. The Eca acts as a point of contact for all its members and shares updates on how to handle the crisis. We will also work with other stakeholders at EU level to call on policy makers to take action to deal with the economic consequences of the pandemic for the land-based casino sector.”
In which European countries the situation is particularly severe? “Italy and Spain are among the most affected countries, but every European country is facing severe difficulties. Everybody is fighting a “two front war” at the moment, one against the virus and one for economic survival”.
In your opinion, how long will it take to go back to normal? “We are living in uncertain times, and as the situation changes every day, it is very difficult to say if business will get back to normal anytime soon. Different countries are currently establishing plans to figure out how to get back to some kind of normality. We expect that casinos will be among the last businesses to re-open, following restaurants, theatres, and cinemas. However, we recommend our members to stay in touch with respective regulators and other stakeholders to share their planned measures in order to prove to them that they are ready when the time comes”.
How will the Covid-19 emergency change the land-based casino business in the immediate future but also in the medium and long term? “In the short term operators are just trying to survive, duck and keep the cost to a minimum. There is no revenue coming in whatsoever. Operators are also aware that once the pandemic is over, it will be a slow start. Some customers might be hesitant to visit casinos and other entertainment facilities where lots of people gather, no matter what the governments decide In the longer term, we expect that everything will be back to a new normality, as experience confirms that casino players like the social dimension that a visit to a casino represents. However, this might take longer than we think, maybe a year or more. Unemployment will rise during the months to come and people will watch how they spend money. The casinos are an integrated part of societies and will come back together will all other businesses, not by themselves. It is important to understand that the casinos are important economic motors and starting the casinos up will help any city to revive and get the wheels turning again like hotels, taxi, flower shops, food deliveries, cleanings services, etcetera”.
Is the online market an opportunity for land-based casinos? “It is an opportunity in some jurisdictions, and the Eca will continue its efforts to make European stakeholders and national governments understand that every licensed European casino should also be allowed to offer its products online, either on its own or together with an experienced partner in online gambling – but always under the national laws and regulations. In this regard, one of the biggest concerns for the Eca is the illegal online gaming market that is currently running out of control all over Europe. We will call on governments to establish and/or enforce restrictions like payment and IP-blocking in order to protect customers and to ensure that money spent on gambling is taxed in the country where the gambling occurs. Another concern of ours is that these illegal operators don’t adhere to the rigorous anti-money-laundering framework that applies to all licenced and regulated casino operators in the Eu”.
How are land-based casinos revising their business strategies? “This situation can represent an opportunity for land-based casinos to revise their business strategies. For the time being, we do not see any major change of direction, but it is most likely that in the coming months we will see new strategies, like for example establishing an online distribution channel”.
What would you feel like saying to casino operators and their employees, in this dramatic and urgent situation? “In these difficult times, we must stand together and try to limit the damage as much as possible, but also seek support from the institutions at both national and European level. The priority is undoubtedly the safety and health of employees and customers, but we would also need concrete support from the government institutions to cope with expected huge economic losses”.