SA Casinos Make Slow Post-Lockdown Return

South African casinos are resuming business following COVID-19 lockdown measures. The return will not be easy, with several infection controls in place.

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SA Casino Industry Makes a Slow Return

The South African branch of network PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted a Gross Gambling Revenue (GGR) jump from R27 billion to R35 billion, between 2016 and 2021. That assertation, however, was made before the novel coronavirus pandemic – and before the lockdown and economic fallout that followed. So, what is the situation now?

Entertainment Industry Returns

Casinos, cinemas and restaurants (for sit-down meals) have been allowed to reopen across South Africa on Monday the 29th of June. Several caveats were in place, as per the Disaster Management Act, to attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. These included crowd control so that venues filled to only 50% of total capacity, prohibition of on-location alcohol consumption, and forbidding indoor smoking.

Casino operators also expected general social distancing rules to be enforced, along with physical barriers between dealers and players, a stipulation that every second slot machine be switched off and granting MVG (Most Valuable Guest) only access to several areas. Although insiders acknowledge that the return will be difficult, they have also expressed their appreciation.

Many restaurants now open under advanced level 3 lockdown

Slow Start Anticipated

Authorities announced in mid-June that casinos, hotels, restaurants, resorts and other entertainment venues would be permitted to reopen, although no official timeline was given. Even without exact dates, the news was enough to boost plummeting casino stock market prices and top establishments began preparing for when they’d be able to welcome their guests back.

Some proprietors noted that their venues were especially suited to enforce social distancing measures, saying that casinos are always closely monitored with security surveillance and identity document checks. In an official statement, industry heavyweight Sun International said they anticipate “a slow start” to resumed trade.

A significant restructuring of resort and hotel properties is necessary and planned, Sun International added, and while the revamps will be difficult the group acknowledges their importance. These changes are the best chance that their premises and facilities have for long-term survival, their official statement continued.

Tsogo Sun Looks Towards Online Business

Sun International contemporary Tsogo Sun has a strategy of enhanced hygiene and other safety measures in place, but the operating company is also looking at online business escalation. While the company is estimated to have lost more than R200 million due to lockdown measures, it doesn’t expect to recover with its land-based revenue alone.

Instead, Chief Executive Officer Chris du Toit explains, the group is at a very advanced stage in their move into online casino games and sports betting. Describing the development into this separate market sector as a “natural progression”, Du Toit continued that Tsogo Sun would be attempting to increase its smartphone penetration.

This penetration currently allows better interaction with customers, so that they are aware of activities and special offers and could also be leveraged as a gateway to a mobile and desktop betting platform. Online gambling in South Africa has already proven to be popular, and the lockdown period has made people more aware than ever of the capabilities of their connected devices.

SA’s Infection Rate Continues Climbing

Though reopening gambling and other entertainment venues will no doubt give South Africa’s flagging economy a much-needed boost, the country is still facing the COVID-19 crisis. After less than 1000 deaths in April, over 168000 cases have now been recorded. On Thursday the 25th of June, daily case numbers rose by more than 6500.

The line between breathing life back into the financial sector and preserving the lives of the citizens is a tough one to walk, as nations around the world are being forced to do now. In Texas, for example, the easing of lockdown measures was paused as infection rates jumped up again. Whether this will be the case in South Africa is not yet known. For now, gamblers can enjoy their casino games – at safe social distances of course.


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