ECA details the scale of the challenge facing Europe’s land-based casinos

The European Casino Association has detailed the “devastating” effect of COVID-19 on the region’s gambling industry, stating that the land-based casino sector has taken the brunt of the impact.

Detailing the results of a members poll, the association says that European casinos were closed for an average of 136 days in 2020, with the vast majority unable to welcome guests in 2021 thus far.

It is added that 70 per cent of casinos in Europe remain closed with exceptions, such as Luxembourg, Spain and Monaco, having reopened in 2021 under specific restrictions, while the worst affected casinos, such as in Sweden, have been closed for an entire year. 

Further findings state that European land-based operators have seen revenues fall by over 50 per cent in the last year, and that the majority of ECA members do not have a clear schedule for the official reopening of their businesses.

Employment in the sector is also slated to take a significant hit, with ECA members’ 900 casinos employing over 70,000 pre-pandemic, a figure which is expected to slide to 50,000.

“This is the deepest trough the European land-based casino industry has ever experienced. 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,” stated Per Jaldung, ECA chairman

“Some casinos have closed permanently, and many casino employees have lost their jobs. We are under no illusion that the industry can return to ‘business as usual’ any time soon. We are, as a matter of fact, very far from business as usual”.

Restricted opening hours, maximum occupancy and amenity limitations, social distancing protocols, restricted gaming offers, protective measures including plexiglass, masks and on-site testing are just some of the hurdles that the land-based casino business is currently facing. 

Country to country variations in the restrictions and mandates have also been compounded by regional variations within national borders, with these restrictions said to be the next major challenge for the sector.

“Guests want to visit casinos again,” added Hermann Pamminger, ECA secretary general. “The relaxation and tightening of numerous lockdowns in 2020 demonstrated the ability of the land-based sector to safely and responsibly return to business. 

“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. 

“Our industry is part of the service and tourism sector in which we employ a large number of highly trained and motivated people. The closures affected 130,000 direct and indirect employees not only across our gambling facilities but also in our restaurant and entertainment areas. 

“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, but our industry continues to need support to achieve this during an extraordinarily challenging period.”