Find out how gaming leaders see casinos shifting from face-to-face experiences to contactless service in order to survive the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has done devastating damage to the entire hospitality industry. Hotel profits have been decimated, restaurants have been forced to drastically transform operations to survive, and casinos have been emptied. In March, only 1.5 million travelers visited Las Vegas, down from 3.7 million the year before. In April, many casinos and casino-resorts were closed entirely. Businesses are desperate to return to normal life and reopen to the public—and slowly, that’s beginning to happen. Now comes the challenge of safety.
For hotels and restaurants, there are technologies and distancing procedures that can be immediately implemented to drastically reduce risk and almost entirely eliminate face-to-face interactions. Casinos, on the other hand, face maybe the toughest safety challenges of any hospitality business. Interaction is fundamental. Holding cards, passing chips, exchanging money, playing a slot machine—nearly every action players and dealers take involves some form of physical touch and closeness.
With physical distancing and strict safety measures set to remain in effect even as businesses reopen, casinos are facing immense pressure to completely revamp operations and keep everyone safe. But how is that even possible right now? And what does it mean for the future of gaming? Here’s what three gaming leaders see coming for casinos and casino-resorts:
1. Cash may never completely disappear, but cashless options will reassure cautious players.
Add Covid-19 to the mix, and we’ll see a faster shift away from cash. Twenty-nine percent of consumers are extremely worried or very worried about catching the virus from cash. Those perceptions are fueled by news reports that the Fed quarantines cash for seven to 10 days to slow the spread. That will impact when, where and how often people play casino games.
Only 26% of customers used cash for transactions in 2019, marking yet another year of decline for cash. But while it’s faded rapidly in other industries, cash still has a strong foothold in the casino industry, thanks to player traditions and superstition as well as cash slot machines.
It remains to be seen whether cash will be completely eliminated in the future, but for now, it should be discouraged wherever possible. Cash-heavy games, especially traditional slot machines, shouldn’t be in the first phase of games reopened. Meanwhile, you may not be able to ban cash payments altogether, but you can provide cashless and touchless options to give more cautious players confidence in their safety and help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
2. Whether high-tech or low-tech, contactless service is a must.
Guest amenity deliveries will be consistent with In Room Dining (IRD) protocols and delivered with contactless procedures whenever possible.
From laundry to dining deliveries, the Wynn Las Vegas is introducing contactless service and procedures to keep employees and guests safe. They’re not the only one: MGM is taking contactless service even further, and has implemented contactless check-in for their hotel, digital dining menus, and a system to text patrons when their restaurant table is ready.
Think of the current technology and processes you have implemented: how much of it can be used to transition face-to-face interactions to contactless ones? Do players need to touch chips and cards in every game? There’s no shortage of solutions that can help casino-resorts eliminate touchpoints and make patrons feel safe when they return: mobile apps, in-room tablets, touchless gaming solutions, and mobile check-in technology are just a few.
If you already have some of that technology in place, you can begin leveraging it immediately. But even if you don’t have the technology stack, it’s imperative to reduce physical touch as often as possible. Think of how to cleverly implement distancing measures throughout your property, disinfecting protocols at tables, and more.
3. Overall, digital experiences are the future—now’s the time to invest in them.
The digital transformation that we know consumers want to create a more frictionless type of environment is going to be the norm. We’re not going to exchange money as often. We could use our smart device as a room key, we can use that as a digital wallet.
— Jim Murren, Nevada COVID-19 Task Force Leader and Former CEO of MGM International
As both the former CEO of MGM International and a COVID-19 Task Force Leader, Jim Murren is one of most qualified leaders in the gaming industry to advise casinos on the safety measures and tools they’ll need to combat coronavirus challenges. In his interview with Fox5 Las Vegas, he covered topics ranging from testing capabilities and temperature checks to where he sees the industry shifting. According to Murren, innovation follows every crisis, and this will be no exception. It’s time for casinos and casino-resorts to make frictionless digital experiences the new standard.
He specifically highlighted some of the strategies and tools already covered, like contactless service and cashless payments, but also a few less mainstream ideas. He suggested that the way casinos exchange chips will be altered or outright eliminated and that electronic game tables will see a major spike in popularity.
The industry was already pushing towards a digital evolution—but COVID-19 has taken going digital from a nice-to-have and made it a need-to-have. Making guests, players, and employees feel safe and cared for will be the hallmark of success for reopened casinos, and technology can be the competitive safety edge you need going forward.
Casinos and casino-resorts cannot go back to operating the way they always have—not now, and probably not ever again. To establish a new normal, leaders must be willing to evolve in order to match safety standards and draw in guests.
As you formulate your recovery strategy, keep in mind that there will be no quick fix for all of the challenges COVID-19 has brought on the gaming industry. But the more you can pivot to contactless service, touchless options, and digital experiences from the start, the more future-proof you’ll be. As circumstances continue to evolve throughout the summer and the rest of the year, you’ll be positioned to evolve with them and recover well.
Looking for ways to implement contactless check-in, service, and dining options in your casino-resort?