The European Casino Association (ECA) released figures on April 26 showing that Covid-19 pandemic restrictions at 900 casinos have cost 20,000 jobs over the past year-plus, more than one-third of the more than 70,000 jobs in place at the beginning of 2020. The ECA, which has 28 members, represents land-based casinos in the European Union.
According to the association’s website, “Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on the European gambling industry, with the land-based casino sector taking the brunt of the impact. European casinos were closed for an average of 136 days in 2020, and the vast majority of operators have been unable to welcome guests in 2021.”
The most recent polls indicate that 70 percent of European casinos remain shuttered. Some, like those in Sweden, have been closed for at least a year, although the average shutdown totaled 37 percent of normal operating days. Revenues have fallen an average of 50 percent over the year.
A few casinos in Luxembourg, Spain and Monaco have reopened under restrictive protocols. But the ECA says most of its members have no clear idea of when they will be able to reopen their facilities this year.
No Quick Bounceback
Calling the disaster the worst ever for European casinos, ECA Chairman Per Jaldung said, “The financial impact of the pandemic on the land-based casino sector has been extreme, and these numbers show the economic realities of Covid-19 on the European land-based casino sector. We are under no illusion that the industry can return to ‘business as usual’ any time soon.
“This is the deepest trough the European land-based casino industry has ever experienced.”
According to EuropeanGaming.eu, casinos that have managed to stay operational are also feeling the pinch, due to decreased opening hours, maximum occupancy rates and restricted amenities. Of course, social distancing protocols must be observed, including Plexiglas dividers on the gaming floor and elsewhere, plus mandatory mask-wearing and onsite health checks. Covid protocols vary among the countries of the EU.
ECA Secretary General Hermann Pamminger reassured governments and the public about efforts by casinos to maintain a safe operating climate. “Guest registration has enabled quick and practical social distancing measures, and casinos have implemented comprehensive hygiene initiatives, far exceeding local requirements, ensuring that our guests feel comfortable and safe,” Pamminger said. “Our industry is part of the service and tourism sector in which we employ a large number of highly trained and motivated people.”
Economic Ripple Effect
The impact is felt in the wider economy, he added, with closures affecting “130,000 direct and indirect employees not only across our gambling facilities but also in our restaurant and entertainment areas.
Pamminger said the “relaxation and tightening of numerous lockdowns in 2020 demonstrated the ability of the land-based sector to safely and responsibly return to business.”
Europeans “want to visit casinos again,” he said, a sentiment that is shared by workers. “Our employees cannot wait for the day business is back to normal and they can once again welcome guests to their casino and entertainment venues,” Pamminger said. “But our industry continues to need support to achieve this during an extraordinarily challenging period.”