US gaming industry hit hard by COVID-19, but gave overwhelming support

Las Vegas strip
Las Vegas strip

By now, no one can be shocked by the amount of economic damage caused by COVID-19 around the world. What had been viewed as just a momentary setback when the global pandemic began has turned into a massive saga of plummeting revenues and skyrocketing unemployment that has endured for a year. While COVID-19 vaccines are beginning to be introduced, it will take a while for their effects to be felt, which means the global economy will continue to suffer. The casino industry took a massive blow from the coronavirus and saw properties shut down for months on end, with some permanently closed. A new report just released by the American Gaming Association (AGA) shows the impact on the U.S. gaming segment caused by COVID-19, but also reveals how operators didn’t waste time implementing new social responsibility protocols to help communities deal with the situation. 

According to the AGA report from last week, 989 casinos in the U.S. closed because of the pandemic. Those closures led to around 650,000 employees being furloughed or permanently let go. As a result, $105 billion in economic activity was lost across the country, with 564 communities that had relied on revenue from gaming operations losing a major source of funding. Overall, the first 11 months of the year saw total gaming revenue drop 32% compared to the same period a year earlier. 

Despite struggling to keep their operations afloat, gaming operators didn’t hesitate to step up and provide assistance to the communities they served. The AGA points out that, partially through the operators’ efforts, the country was able to implement procedures quickly and effectively that will help the recovery process. Those efforts were initiated immediately, with casino operators donating protective gear, masks and other equipment needed to stave off a larger COVID-19 attack. They also tapped into their logistics and supply chain channels to ensure coronavirus test kits could be distributed everywhere without delays.

Casino operators have also donated huge amounts of food to families in gaming communities that were impacted by the work stoppages. A number of casino companies agreed to continue to pay their employees during the shutdown, and more have created emergency relief funds that offer financial assistance to former and current employees. Even as the future economic situation still remains somewhat murky because of the prolonged pandemic, many casino operators have been working hard to keep communities moving forward.

The AGA’s report includes a quote from Andrew Walsh, the deputy chief of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Homeland Security Division, who asserted, “The best thing I can say about the gaming industry during the pandemic is that to them it wasn’t a competition to see who could reopen their properties first…They did everything they could to help each other with the safety and security measures that were put in place to protect people who came to town.”