How COVID-19 Could Change the Casino Industry in the UK

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As we look ahead to the long recovery from COVID-19, it goes without saying that there are far more important issues than how the casino industry copes.

There will be long-term health ramifications and ongoing vaccination efforts; schools and businesses will have to find their way back to normal; and of course the economy will need to recover.

With all of that said though, the casino industry in the UK consists of countless businesses and accounts for a great many jobs and a whole lot of annual revenue. It’s also an industry that COVID-19 has affected in fairly dramatic ways — namely in that in-person casinos essentially had their activity halted, while online casinos provided entertainment options people could still enjoy. Given this disruption, and the size and importance of the industry, it’s worth looking into a few of the ways in which things could change as we move past the pandemic.


A Sharper Divide

The simplest change to predict is a sharper divide between online and in-person casinos. As mentioned, the in-person venues basically had to pause all activity due to COVID-19. This was initially a short-term issue until the middle of the summer, when as Bloomberg reported, Boris Johnson postponed the reopening of casinos due to the state of the outbreak. The venues eventually reopened, but a great deal of damage was done, and many would-be customers remain uncomfortable with the idea of in-person gaming.

In the meantime, online gaming has thrived during the pandemic, not just on UK casino platforms but in various forms all over the world. So the question is whether or not the balance will be restored in the months and years ahead. It’s easy enough to imagine that some who turned to online gaming with live casinos closed won’t go back. There will likely be enough business to sustain live casinos anyway, but we may begin to see more of a divide between the in-person and online businesses.


A Focus on Atmosphere & Community Online

Already in the days before the pandemic, we were beginning to see some online gaming platforms pivot toward providing more of a communal atmosphere. This means different things in different cases. Some sites are placing a greater emphasis on the ability of players to chat with one another while playing certain games. Others are getting more active on social media so as to build up player communities.
Foxy Games, arguably among the trendier gaming platforms of late, is taking a particularly interesting approach — using various small details to make its gaming seem more like a live experience. The site pitches “stepping inside the world” of its games; it heavily features bingo- and scratch card-style games, which people associate with community play; and it generally speaks to an experience more than just an arcade. It’s all somewhat subtle, but it likely previews what we’ll see more of as online casinos look to capitalise on the extra attention they’ve received during the pandemic. These businesses will seek to bill themselves as events and activities rather than just passive game sites.


In-Person Safety Efforts

If online casinos are likely to focus more on atmosphere and community, the primary changes with in-person casinos are likely to concern safety. It’s certainly possible that moving past the pandemic, people will quickly revert to past habits, and there will be less emphasis in general on sanitation, distance, and protection. But this doesn’t seem likely, particularly in the short term. As a result, we expect to see the UK’s live casino venues going to great lengths to provide safe environments. Publicly available hand sanitizer, fiberglass dividers, redesigned floors facilitating more distance, and requests that visitors wear masks are all likely.

In-Person Eco Changes

This is more of an outside-the-box idea. But it’s possible that in a bid to regain business (and perhaps attention more so) live casinos will make a bid to be part of the “eco recovery” that has been teased over the last many months. For those unfamiliar with the idea, Wired reported last summer that there are major cities “plotting a green recovery” from COVID-19. The article focused mainly on a few U.S. cities, but it’s an idea we’ve heard about elsewhere in the world as well — one of using the interruption in commercial activity as a chance to redesign cities and venues in more eco-friendly ways.

Throw in the trend toward eco-tourism — something touched on in our look at Treehouse London — and it’s actually quite conceivable to imagine casinos partially redesigning themselves with an eye toward sustainability. Casinos adopting new sustainability practices, decorating with living plants, and so on would generate positive press and offer something new to customers.

Ultimately the casino industry throughout the UK is quite powerful, and likely has the clout to recover swiftly from COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes, and the ones outlined here represent some sensible and likely ones we may see in the months and years to come.

In the meantime, keep your eyes on 1883 Magazine for fresh updates on culture and lifestyle changes around the UK.

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