Once the quarantine is over and legitimate casinos are allowing gamblers to enter once again, what can they expect to encounter in terms of social distancing practices?
Perhaps live blackjack and similar live dealer games offered at offshore betting sites are providing a primer for how domestic facilities will operate once doors open.
The New York Times is reporting that Nevada casinos are preparing for an early June reopening of many casinos, and they are working on social distancing policies to prevent coronavirus exposure to their gamblers.
“The days of 16 people standing around the dice table high-fiving one another are over for now.”
Adam Wiesberg – General Manager, El Cortez Casino
Facilities will be limited to 50% capacity due to new Nevada Gaming Control Board guidelines. Operators are also thinking about raising minimum bets to make up for reduced customer loads and losses experienced during the shutdown.
Let’s take a look at some of these policies and see how they stack up against the best in online blackjack and live dealer casino games.
Players No Longer Able To Touch The Cards
Not touching cards while playing online blackjack is no big deal. And because blackjack hands are always dealt face up, it shouldn’t matter to in-person players, either.
But it does.
Gamblers at brick-and-mortar casinos are used to touching their cards, whether in contemplation or just as an effort to psychologically maintain control of their hands. Players also often tap their cards when calling for a hit.
Online blackjack, be it live dealer or video 21, does not require the physical touching of any cards, and as long as online gamblers maintain the cleanliness of their keyboards or mobile devices, the risk for potential infection is minimal.
Reduction Of Gaming Machines
A common method of customer separation that casinos are employing is the removal of a certain number of video blackjack kiosks, slots, and other gambling machines from their floors.
This natural creation of space between gamblers will serve as a buffer that will hopefully be large enough to minimize the risk of further spread of coronavirus-infected molecules.
Despite this precaution, it can hardly compare to the safety that a sanitized environment can provide. According to health organizations around the globe, the safest place is at home where online casinos are a convenient option.
Don’t be surprised to see separator barriers placed on the sides of these video blackjack machines and other gaming terminals in the near future, similar to urinal separators in men’s bathrooms. Gross!
Floor Markers For Gamblers
Social distancing requirements suggest at least six feet of separation from other humans (like Kevin Bacon, almost), and casinos have planned to place tape along the floor as a guide for gambler positioning. This will cause table limits to be sure and will reduce the action significantly.
These guidelines were mentioned specifically for the game of craps, so the defined parameters for blackjack are still under consideration. At the very least, betting behind blackjack players might be a long-distance affair.
Blackjack Betting Arenas + Mobile Play
All of these distancing guidelines inspired a flawed, yet amusing, idea for the future of blackjack play in casinos that could potentially adhere to modern health regulations and provide for live betting opportunities in this brave new virus-riddled world.
So how can brick-and-mortar casinos take these cues from their online counterparts and establish safe places to play?
Obviously, the first thing to do would be to lobby states to allow for domestic online gambling, as only three US states (DE, NJ, PA) offer such services. But that will take ages, and the political environment doesn’t currently support such in most areas.
So…Blackjack betting arenas!
Because live blackjack allows for betting behind players, it can serve as a spectator sport of sorts, as bettors are wagering on the actions of others.
A potential consideration for domestic casinos to offer a similar experience without having bettors approach the table is some sort of vaulted seating arrangement where the proceedings can be seen. Blackjack bleachers, perhaps.
This plan would cause observers to be within close proximity of other spectators, so although they are removed from the blackjack table and exposure to the players, they would still be within the sphere of potential contagion. Of course, the seats could also be spread out.
Another option would be to do what offshore casinos do with their live dealer games: The dealer is alone at the table, and real cards are dealt. Meanwhile, computer software presents those real cards on interactive screens in front of individual players.
This could be done at retail casinos via kiosks, and these kiosks could be spread around the tables as needed. Then, an attendant could simply wipe down the screen after each patron leaves the game.
There are other options inspired by online play, too.
Getting rid of physical chips is a big one. While you can be sure casinos will clean these, a bettor who just won a stack of chips may tip a cocktail waitress with one, tip the dealer with another, give a few to a friend, and so on. Many casinos use plastic “rewards cards” to handle betting balances for digital games, and that could be done with physical games like blackjack, too.
Bettors may also benefit from being able to play local mobile blackjack and other casino games. While most states have laws against online gambling, as long as the gambling takes place on the casino floor via mobile devices geo-fenced to the property, that might be an easy pill for legislators and regulators to swallow.
Regardless of whether the country is ready for it or not, domestic USA casinos are preparing to open within the next few weeks, and gamblers can expect a much different experience than their last visit.
If you haven’t become familiar with online blackjack or other games during the layover, now would be a great time to check them out.
Once your local casino opens back up, you might find that there’s no real reason to go back!