The Wait Continues for Land-Based Casinos

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Kinshasa, Grand Hotel, Casino
Photo by Kaysha on Unsplash

As lockdown restrictions ease across Ireland, the hospitality sector can start to breathe a sigh of relief. Venues that have had to reduce or even suspend service completely can begin to look forward to welcoming customers and generating revenue once again. But not all hospitality venues are considered equal.

Retail, B&Bs, hotels, and self-catering accommodation will reopen on June 2, including the unrestricted use of indoor dining and bar areas, as well as on-site leisure facilities. Outdoor bars and restaurants will follow suit on June 7, with outdoor dining in groups of up to six people.

However, it will be another month before discussions will begin concerning the reopening of indoor dining restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and casinos.

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While other businesses have been open for part of the pandemic, nightclubs and casinos have largely been closed since the country first went into lockdown, in March 2020.

Brick and mortar casinos, such as Fitzpatrick’s Casino in Limerick, were forced to close their doors at the start of lockdown and cancel events until further notice. There is, however, cautious optimism on display with the website accepting Christmas party bookings.

The casino sector was well placed to adapt to lockdown, with live casino games and Covid-safe studio broadcast ‘TV Games’ providing Irish players with plenty of online casino options.

There are obvious advantages to online casinos, such as no overheads and no seasonal slumps, which the pandemic has thrown into sharp focus. Online gambling has risen across the globe in lockdown, and Ireland is no exception.

Yet land-based casinos contribute to Ireland’s tourism economy. Under Irish gambling laws, land-based casinos are technically prohibited, however, a loophole allows for members-only gambling clubs. Ireland has around 12 such establishments, with the majority located in Dublin. An estimated €65 million is generated each year from land-based casinos or private members’ clubs.

According to Tourism Ireland, the island welcomed 11.2 million visitors to our shores in 2018, generating an overall revenue of €5.86bn. Whether green passports will allow tourism to flourish in the latter half of 2021 remains to be seen. It is likely to be ‘staycationers’  then, rather than overseas tourists, who will be frequenting casinos and nightclubs come July.

Without a definite opening day being confirmed, land-based casinos must continue to wait to learn their fate. That does not mean, however, that they cannot start to prepare. Regardless of who the clientele is, these venues will need to be fully staffed.

With hotels such as Limerick’s Radisson Blu Hotel hiring new staff in preparation for reopening, we could see the same thing across the land-based gambling sector.

In the meantime, players can continue to play at online casinos. An increase in sports betting is also expected, as outdoor sports are once again allowed from June 7, albeit without spectators.