Some Industry insiders believe South African casinos could reopen soon in the new Advanced stage of level 3 lockdown. This would certainly be a massive economic boost, although timelines are unclear and many risk assessments are being done.

slot machines south africa
Source: Benoit Dare on Unsplash

Until recently, South African casinos had no reason to believe that they would be able to reopen, post COVID-19 lockdown measures, any time soon. However, as Moneyweb reported on Friday the 12th of June, that may have all changed.

With the country coming down to Alert Level 3, most economic sectors have been permitted to operate while taking certain precautions – to the extent that even professional sports have been allowed to resume.

However, the ban on entertainment venues and personal care services (including hairdressing) was expected to hold fast for the foreseeable future. Now a change in regulations, published on Thursday the 11th of June in the Government Gazette, has given operators new hope.

What the Gazetted Regulations Say

Cinemas in the country submitted an application to collaborate on a coordinated industry opening with their competitors. The gazetted regulations don’t stipulate a timeline, but they do show that the government is working on a plan that will allow theatres to resume operations in this way.

From there, insiders believe it’s a small step to opening South Africa’s popular land-based casinos once again. There has been hope for this to happen as early as 1 July, and Tsogo Sun Gaming Chief Executive Officer Chris du Toit says there “is no reason” why they wouldn’t be able to.

Well-Position for Safety Measures

In many ways, casinos are well-designed for and very adaptable to efforts to control the spread of the novel coronavirus. The fact that they can be configured to minimise and mitigate infection is one of the arguments that proprietors are putting forward for reopening.

For example, as Du Toit explained to Moneyweb, every second slot machine could be switched off thereby ensuring social distancing among players. This was among the measures taken at Botswana’s Grand Palm Hotel, Casino and Convention Resort when it re-opened at the beginning of June.

In addition, casino floors are heavily surveyed with strong security and strict access control already – all of which should make it easier to limit the number of people on the floor at any given time. Establishments around the world have all introduced controls that South African casinos could apply.

In Illinois, casinos have refrained from offering food in the traditional buffet format, and Poker rooms (which involve players handing chips and cards) have been banned in Pennsylvania. Handwashing stations have appeared on some Las Vegas floors, and pool parties stipulate social distancing.

Bulgarian regulators have ruled that gamblers must wear gloves and masks at all time, and plexiglass dividers between each slot machine are being considered in Canada’s British Columbia province. These ideas could all be adapted as necessary and incorporated into South Africa’s plans.

Local operators have also suggested limiting crowds, enhancing cleaning routines, and regularly screening all patrons for fever. Reopening does need to be carefully planned out, but it could mean a major boost for the economy – which is causing as much concern as COVID-19 these days.

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