Industry continues to react to ‘unprecedented’ COVID-19 situation

Heightened safety measures, big money donations and corporate statements have been evidenced once more as the industry continues to update on COVID-19 protocols.

With a vast majority of land-based establishments entering a period of temporary closure across the US, an advocacy group is calling on state and county health departments to immediately shutdown ‘games of skill’ machines.

Situated in gas stations, corner stores, restaurants, clubs and bars throughout the Keystone State, Pennsylvanians Against Illegal Gambling is calling for the pause to be hit due to public health concerns related to the spread of coronavirus.

The group is calling on the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as well as county health departments throughout the Commonwealth, to order business owners to immediately shut down any machines operating in their establishments.

“At a time in which Pennsylvania casinos have made the difficult but appropriate decision to shut down to protect the health of their patrons, employees, and the public, these machines continue to attract gamblers of all ages,” said Peter Shelly, spokesperson for Pennsylvanians Against Illegal Gambling

“You don’t have to be a health expert to know that the extended period of times in which players interact with these machines could accelerate the spread of coronavirus to some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

North of the border, Peter Meredith, chairman of the board of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, has called for continued support given the significant global uncertainty that has been felt by the rapid spread of COVID-19.

After suspending operation at its 25 facilities across Canada, Great Canadian states that the effects of the emergency could be felt for some time.

“Under the strong leadership of Rod Baker, the company’s CEO, our caring, diligent and experienced management team is working with our Board to actively monitor the implications that COVID-19 has had- and may have- on the future of our business,” Meredith states.  

“We would also like to acknowledge the incredible efforts that have been undertaken, and continue, across the company by our operating teams who have been working tirelessly throughout this period to ensure the health and safety of our team members and guests.

“This unprecedented situation has no playbook, but our team is well prepared and well-equipped, and making thoughtful decisions on a day-by-day or even hour-by-hour basis. We are making vital strategic and operating decisions to ensure that the company is in the best possible position to withstand the ongoing volatility.”

Meanwhile, Loto-Québec has donated CA$1m to Québec’s Moisson network of food banks which will be distributed between the 19 centres to aid them in their mission of helping the most vulnerable. This continues on from a number of donations already carried out by the crown corporation.

Back in the US and Churchill Down Incorporated has gained unanimous approval by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to reschedule the 146th Longines Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby to September 4 and 5, 2020, respectively at Churchill Downs Racetrack.

This includes the approval of five additional race days for Churchill Downs to run from September 1-5 and will replicate many of the activities typically held during derby week.

Furthermore, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has announced the creation of the ‘COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force,’ designed to help mobilise the private sector to assist in ongoing efforts undertaken by state agencies and the Nevada Health Response Center. 

Heading up the force is Jim Murren, who vacated the role of CEO and president of MGM Resorts International this week, earlier than had been planned, to assist with the business’ continuity.

Sisolak’s initiative aims to tackle a number of challenges affecting the state, notably unemployment and securing continued medical supplies. Murren will first assemble a leadership team to establish what is needed and how it can be distributed throughout the state. 

Entertainment Laboratories, who were warned of potential licence revocation in Sweden last week, has also provided an update on how the outbreak could impact its operations across a number of jurisdictions.

George Ustinov, CEO and president of Enlabs, explained: “In Lithuania, all public premises are closed, currently until March 27, a date that can be extended by government decision. In Lithuania, Enlabs operates twenty LBOs, which are thus closed. In Latvia, all LBOs and casinos are closed. Enlabs operates eleven LBOs in the country, which are thus closed.

“Also in Estonia, all LBOs and casinos are closed. Enlabs does not conduct any such business in Estonia. Enlabs has chosen not to lay off employees in the LBOs. Despite the shutdowns, all of them receive full pay. Other markets where Enlabs operates are not affected to a greater extent.

“The large number of cancelled and postponed sports events, leagues and tournaments all over the world results in reduced activity in our betting. In 2019, our LBOs accounted for six per cent of the group’s revenue and our online betting accounted for 24 per cent of the revenue. 

“We believe that the negative impact on betting will continue until games in sports leagues and tournaments resume to a normal extent. Other products show increased activity. If this will fully compensate for the loss of revenue that occurs in betting, it is not possible to judge with certainty.”