It appears everyone in the industry is preparing to reopen their casinos and/or card-rooms. One thing for sure, from the reopening procedures that I have seen, there really is not an established set of procedures that anyone is required to do. Base on all my research in COVID-19 and my knowledge of casino and card-room operations, the following procedures need to be the “core” procedures to reopen.
- Temperature checked at the door before entering.
- Mandatory face masks wore while in the casino.
- Mandatory sanitizing/washing of hands upon entrance to the casino; sanitizing as they enter a table game.
Some casinos are not making the customers wearing of face masks mandatory, and they are going to have some problems keeping a safe environment for both customers and employees. Of all the COVID procedures, wearing a face mask at all times is the most important. Social distancing is important, but social distancing needs diminish if everyone wears a face mask.
- Temperature checked when entering the building to work.
- Mandatory face mask wore while working on the casino floor and near other employees.
- Mandatory sanitizing/washing of hands before they enter a table game to deal, and then again when they leave the table (for break or game rotation).
- COVID RNA testing is important, but resources are limited. This procedure can be treated as “optional” until test resources become available.
If management does not make the customers wear a face mask at the table, the dealers need to be assigned protective face shields, and it is highly recommended that the dealers be given N95 face masks. This will keep the infection to the employees at a minimum.
Sanitizing surfaces and equipment:
- All surfaces need to be wiped down on a regular basis; when the customer leaves a game, and/or once an hour.
- Playing cards deal face-down to the customers need to be replaced every few hours, or as needed.
- Casino chips need to receive cleaning/sanitizing once a day (table and cage).
The CDC has stated that fomite transfer of the virus is minimal due to the nature of the virus and surfaces it can be transfer from (see link: https://www.aol.com/article/news/2020/05/19/cdc-virus-does-not-spread-easily-on-contaminated-surfaces/24356961/). Even though, sanitation of surfaces and chips still have to be accomplished on a regular basis.
Following is an excellent article on how COVID-19 is infectious to the human body. The article goes on to explain how COVID-19 is transferred from one person to another (primarily through aerosol droplets). This article gives the reader a true understanding as what to fear and prepare for when dealing with safety issues in the casino/cardroom environment https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them.
If anyone has any questions about these casino/cardroom safety issues, please feel free to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org. I have also attached the link to my article on protection strategies for dealing with COVID-19 in the casino/cardroom https://www.casinojournal.com/articles/93592-developing-a-coronavirus-protection-strategy-for-casinos-and-cardrooms.
Please stay safe out there.
Over the past month I received mostly questions regarding table games and the effect that COVID, and game restrictions due to social distancing have to do with table game profitability and safety. Following are a few of these emails.
Just wondering if you know of any safeguards being used or suggested for live poker play? Since everyone touches the cards and chips, how can a casino provide any protection for the players or dealers? Thank you for your thoughts.
The issue in live poker (hold’em, seven-card-stud, etc.) is not that the players touch the cards and chips, it is the number of players allowed at the table. Under many of the jurisdictions’ reopening guidelines the game cannot have more than four players at the table (based on social distancing requirements). Normally, games with 8 to 9 players are considered strong games, 6 to 7 players considered weak games, and 5 or less players will break down. You might be able to spread five handed games for less rake/collection, but it might not be worth the space if you are also allowed slots and other table games. I doubt you could keep a four handed game going regardless the rake/collection. I have advised several of my clients to hold off opening poker for now and wait until social distancing requirements have relaxed.
BTW, infection from touching cards and chips is quite low (known as fomite transfer). The big infection vehicle is droplets released from an infected customer’s nose and mouth during sneezes, coughs, and even through normal conversation. If you make it mandatory that the customers wear a mask at all times, and that they have to wash/sanitize their hands on a regular bases (as well as employees), then you still will be safe to change the decks once every couple of hours, and sanitizing the chips used once a day. If wearing a mask while in the casino is not mandatory, then you’re asking for trouble, and your employees and customers will be in an unsafe environment.
Thanks for the update and I hope you’re well. Following up on your risk factors I have a question. In an effort to reduce as many touch points as we can, I would like to offer UTH as a face up game where the guests don’t touch the cards at all. I’ve looked online to see if there’s anything on how much of the house edge we would be giving up and haven’t found anything official other than some comments on reddit and other blogs. If the game were dealt in this manner would it become beatable? I’m sure you’re getting inundated with emails/messages with all the casinos closed but if you have time for an opinion, I’d appreciate it.
Reply (first time):
If you have been intending to make a game change to face-up UTH, then go ahead, but don’t make this change because of COVID. Right now you will have too many issues on your plate to make a game change. A game change is something you don’t want on your plate right now.
I would conduct a risk assessment on your geographic area. If the number of infections cased to population in your area are low, I would deal the games as normal with the exception of social distancing of one player every other seat (like the other games). If your risk is high because there is an elevated infection level in your area, I might not open alternative “touch” games at all (or any touch games). Remember, playing cards and casino chips have the same issue. If you find it’s too dangerous to touch the cards, it’s too dangerous to touch the chips. Doing your geographical and demographic risk assessment is the first step.
By doing a risk assessment you will be in a better position to know what you have to do to keep the customers and staff save. The important step in the next month is to reopen as safely as possible, and then expand from there. It won’t be like it used to be, not for many months, possibly never again.
Reply (second time):
I wanted to follow up on your questions. I’m hearing that regulators in some jurisdictions will not allow card games where the players touch any of the cards. To answer your original questions; the games you mentioned, UTH, should be fine to deal the player’s original cards (hole-cards) face-up. The rule of thumb when looking for possible customer card information collusion is to gain knowledge of a total of 35 or more cards before making a decision. For example; Caribbean Stud Poker is open to collusion since a 7-spot game allows the “advantage players” in collusion to know the value of 35 cards plus the dealer’s exposed card (total 36 card information). Even if you allowed players to wager on all possible table spots, UTH would not provide enough card information knowledge to give up an advantage. Just be sure to keep the dealer’s cards unexposed (and protected) until they need to be exposed. If you have any questions, please let me know.
I was hoping you could answer a question or point me in a direction of resources. We are debating on whether to open with table games. We are looking at 3 spots per table. What would be the minimum bet at each game type to make profitable? We currently have class II and class III games. Class III is only blackjack. Class II is blackjack and carnival with a house take of the drop. Appreciate any information you can provide.
I hope you are staying safe. The question you ask is somewhat complex. Attached is a spreadsheet I designed for BNP’s Cutting Edge presentation in LV. The spreadsheet is used to illustrate what minimum bets are needed to cover the cost of a dealer and a portion of the floorman’s cost. There are several yellow cells where you can change the variables. These variables include average wager, number of hands wagered, house advantage (H/A%), rounds dealt per hour, and labor cost. By changing some of the variables, you will be able to develop a good idea what the revenue, related labor costs, and whether the game can produce a positive gross profit. Remember, this gross profit will later be reduced by equipment costs, promotional cost (think comps), and other operational costs related to that table game.
The H/A% to the right of the model are estimated H/A% for the different games you offer. The estimated H/A% takes into consideration any side bet. The average bet per customer would then take into consideration any amount wagered on side bets. Also, remember to use only the amount of money that is on the layout at the time the dealer starts dealing the game. Do not include any additional funds used to place call bets or other bets placed after the round begins and before a decision is made. I didn’t include side bet affect in BJ since the side bets vary and the amount/frequency varies greatly as well.
Play with the model a little bit, and if you have any questions afterwards, feel free to email me and ask. Good luck with your project and casino reopening.
I even received an email from a casino executive who had something other than a COVID-19 related question:
Recently at one of our casinos poker rooms a dealer was stealing chips from the pot at a 9 handed NL game. What he would do is while making change during the course of action he would shortchange the pot to the eventual winner by $1. He would make the incorrect change and leave the stolen dollar in his chip tray. Once he accumulated $25 worth of stolen chips, he would remove the $25 chip by palming it and placing it in his sock. Eventually a player at his table noticed and notified our poker manager. Which I believe is what we are hoping for, the players to monitor the amount they receive when winning a pot. I was wondering if you knew of any additional steps, we can implement to stop this from happening again? Our dealers do not bring their own chip tray to the table.
Stealing in poker usually happens by shorting the pot during the process of making change (I imagine changing a $5 chip and spraying only four $1 chips back into the pot), or by collecting the pot rake and jackpot amount, and stealing a dollar or two as the collection and jackpot amount is dropped. In the first example, the dollar comes from the player winning the pot, and in the second example the dollar comes from the house. Since your dealer was converting 25 dollar chips to a green check, he was probably working on the theft collection for over an hour.
The best way to catch this type of stealing is to have someone in surveillance conduct special operations of each dealer once every one or two months. The surveillance operator watches the dealer over a period of several downs to see if they are stealing. Once your operator gets some experience looking for these steal moves, they become easy to spot. You really need to catch three or more incidents before acting, which means termination.
When I was working as a consultant at a Southern California cardroom, I had surveillance run a sweep of all the poker dealers every three or four months. Then when we caught a dealer stealing, we made a big deal about it so the other poker dealers would see we were watching. The other dealers would be “good boys and girls” for several months. Then several months later, we would run another surveillance sweep until we caught someone else.
I’m always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; don’t hesitate to contact me through email. I answer emails about gaming every day! email@example.com. I really am here to help.
Cheers and good luck.
Bill Zender and Associates