No doubt, Colombians have long awaited the reopening of casinos. According to IGamingBusiness, the Colombia Ministry of Health approved the reopening of casino and bingo halls within the jurisdiction.
However, to forestall the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, these casinos and bingo halls must comply with strict health and safety measures.
Consequently, before the approval was made in July, the Ministry also approved a pilot program. The pilot program authorized the local municipalities to approve venues suitable for reopening. Meanwhile, as at that time, the biosecurity protocols for casinos and bingo halls had not received approval.
Furthermore, casinos and bingo halls have a huge hurdle to climb. All the safety and health measures must be adhered to by staff and customers.
Safety and Health Measures
Apart from other measures such as washing hands, wearing face masks, and using hand sanitizers, the Ministry also outlined other health measures. Similarly, the safety and health measures outlined by the Colombia Ministry of Health are as follows:
Barriers: Casinos must construct physical barriers to separate players.
Disinfection: The casino and bingo hall operators must disinfect all the devices that were used.
Consumption of food and beverages: Indoor consumption of food or alcoholic drinks at the casino halls are prohibited
Other countries with a booming casino industry have also adopted some of the measures listed herein.
Will the casinos adhere to all these measures? Most likely, because non-adherence of these safety measures means the closure of the casino hall. Obviously, no casino or bingo hall wants to be shut down again after a very long break.
Evert Montero Cárdenas is optimistic that casino and bingo halls will adhere to all the safety and health measures outlined by the Ministry. Evert is the President of Fecoljuegos added that “we are committed to the health and wellbeing of Colombians; therefore, we shall adopt to the new safety and health measures”.
The Loss Incurred during the Closure of Casino and Bingo Halls
According to some experts, the losses incurred by the casinos run into millions of dollars. Apart from the casino halls, the government also lost so much in tax revenue. The casino industry association in Colombia, called Fecoljuegos, believes that the tax revenue lost by the government is estimated at COP225bn (£46m/$60.1m/€51.2m).
Imagine what these monies would have contributed to the Colombian economy. It is believed that these funds would have improved the public healthcare system in the country. Also, more than 240,000 families rely on the activities of the land-based casinos to get their income. It is hard to envisage how they scaled through the lockdown. No wonder the call for the reopening was so loud that the Colombia Ministry of Health had to step in.
Meanwhile, some casinos had to lay off their workers to stay in business. This has also increased the number of unemployed persons.
Surviving during the Shutdown
It was almost impossible for land casinos to make any profit during the shutdown. In most cases, some casinos had to merge or device other means to stay in business.
On the other hand, most land-based casinos shifted their focus to online casinos for real money. Since players were not allowed to move about, the only way to access casinos was online. This means that land casinos with an online presence may not have felt the shutdown’s impact like others. Colombia’s regulator has also shifted its focus to online gaming. The regulator had to pass regulations that would allow the introduction of several modes of gambling like video bingo, liver-dealer casino, etc.
Future of the Colombian Gambling Industry
With most businesses embracing the internet, it is time for the Colombian gambling industry to do the same. The tale wouldn’t be the same if there was a huge online presence of most casinos.
Consequently, the huge losses recorded by casino and bingo halls during the shutdown would not have been so much. Since the government also regulates the activities of online casinos, they would also get some tax revenue from the operation of online casinos.
It befits the Columbia regulator and other land casinos to embrace online gambling like other economies.
Will the Colombian Gambling Industry Survive the Post-COVID-19 Era?
Industry watchers are hopeful that the casino and bingo halls will bounce back after recording so many losses. Don’t forget, most of their top customers may not come back in full swing too. The COVID-19 pandemic affected other sectors of the economies. Therefore it is difficult to predict how long it will take for the gambling industry to come up to speed again.
Finally, as part of future plans, casinos and bingo halls should swing into action and embrace online gambling. This is the best recovery plan that they can undertake at this critical time.