The gambling industry around the world has seen some hard times in the past, but few things ever hit it as hard as the coronavirus pandemic that started in early 2020. Due to high spread and mortality rates of the virus and the fact that the vaccine for the virus is still in the works, most countries around the world decided to impose some fairly strict rules to prevent and slow down the spread.
Travel, food and beverage and gambling industries were all hit very hard by these sanctions which include physical distancing and even shutting down businesses that service people face to face. In most countries including Canada, casinos and other gambling venues were closed down temporarily. Now that the governments are looking to reopen such establishments, there are many things to take into considerations.
During the initial phase, most players flocked to the best online casinos in Canada a list of which you can find on this page. However, now that live venues are being reopened, there may be some changes that will make live play more similar to online play and cashless payments are one of them.
Why the Cashless Payments?
Cashless payments in casinos are an idea that has been floated around in both Canada and other countries quite a few times in the past. The main reason that so many propagated the idea was the fact that cashless payments could reduce the opportunities for money laundering in casinos, which was a common case in the British Columbia casinos in Canada.
With physical distancing measures still recommended in Canada, it didn’t take too long for the idea to come back to the talking floor. According to Paul Burns of the Canadian Gaming Association, digital payments could make a lot of sense in the reopening phase of Canadian casinos as this would both help the spread of infection and improve the money laundering prevention.
Around the world, casinos have been opening with cashless payments and other anti-coronavirus measures such as Plexiglas compartments between seats and live game tables. Additionally, many casinos have decided to only allow ever second slot machine to be in function, thus making physical distancing possible without restricting people from playing on certain machines that are actually functional.
Canadian Casinos Getting Back into Action
Canadian casinos were all closed down back in March, when the infection spread was considered to be at the peak. In order to prevent too many people from falling ill at the same time, the government decided that places like casinos, which can easily facilitate the spread of infection, should be shut down.
To this date, Alberta has been the only province in the country to reopen casinos on June 12th, while the other provinces are still cautious and waiting for such steps, despite some provinces seeing no new cases in weeks. One of the main reasons for that is the government and casino officials still working on a plan to make it truly safe for players and staff to come back and enjoy a safe environment.
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist, has been one of the leading figures in these talks. According to Furness, casinos are high risk establishments when it comes to coronavirus, much due to their design and air conditioning models. While Furness claims it would be possible to design a very safe casino, the current designs of existing Canadian casinos are not safe enough to simply reopen without working on special measures.
Months of July and August should see casinos across Canada reopen and it is expected that cashless payments will be introduced. These have been in the works in Canada since 2019, so the entire plan was simply expedited and the possibility of playing with plastic cards instead of using cash is now becoming more and more realistic.
However, one must wonder whether cashless payments will impact problem gamblers to gamble more or those who are used to being more careful with cash simply go an extra step now that cash is not in play. While anti-coronavirus measures may work to protect players from the virus, they may cause other problems for many.
Cashless Payments Coming This Summer?
At this point in time, no Canadian casino uses a cashless payments system of any kind. However, Burns and his colleagues at the Canadian Gaming Association have been working on a plan of creating a country wide standard for them and have issued the Standards for Cashless Payments draft, which is meant to be the rulebook for digital payments in casino establishments in Canada.
July was meant for data collection and feedback accumulation, while August is the likely release month for the cashless payments as such. Once ready, the system should allow players to play without putting cash into the machines or exchanging it for chips, both of which are considered somewhat risky actions with coronavirus still continually spreading around the world.
Will Cashless Payments Help Reduce the Spread?
The big question with this, like so many other epidemiological measures introduced, is whether or not it can actually help reduce the spread of coronavirus. The officials are hoping that with players not exchanging cash with the staff, the virus will not be transmitted on casino grounds as often, but epidemiologist Colin Furness does not believe this will be the determining factor.
Instead, Furness is warning that casinos should do their best to reduce the number of customers inside the establishment at the same time and their physical proximity. Compelling players and staff to wear masks and warning them to wash their hands on a regular basis is another thing that epidemiologists agree can reduce the spread significantly.
In the end, it remains to be seen just how well the Canadian casinos will handle the situation and whether they will become a hotbed of the pandemic or simply continue their work as before. With all the new measures in place and the vaccine well in the works, we can remain hopeful that the entire situation will soon be behind us and players will be able to enjoy the thrills of casino gaming without unnecessary health risks.