As the cruise industry works to figure out exactly what the future will look like aboard ships, one space in which they’ll be making major changes is the casino.
Table games and slot machines are major money-makers for most cruise lines, but also potentially problematic in the age of social distancing.
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How Might Cruise Ship Casinos Change?
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen much speculation about how life aboard cruise ships might be different when finally they return to service. From limiting capacity on ships to temperature screenings at ports, every aspect of the experience is being looked at in order to find ways to keep passengers safe.
So far, however, little has been said about one of the hottest spots on most ships, the casino. From the buttons which are pressed in order to set the reels of a slot machine in motion to the cash and chips which change hands at the blackjack table, casinos are rife with potential problems.
How might some of them be solved?
Here are some of the changes we wouldn’t be surprised to see coming down the pike.
1. Fewer slot machines
In a world that promises to be borderline obsessed with social distancing, it seems likely that casino floor plans will undergo a few major changes. Currently, machines tend to butt up against one another, putting players in what is sometimes ridiculously close proximity. While fewer machines — with space in between each — might make it tougher to find a machine, gamblers will no doubt appreciate the extra space.
2. Physical barriers between players
Should casinos want to keep the number of machines they currently have on their floors yet allow passengers to feel safe in the space, plexiglass walls between each game might be a solution. This same technique could theoretically be implemented at gaming tables, with barriers between each of the players.
Of course, this particular approach would give an already busy cleaning staff even more to deal with as they’d presumably need to regularly disinfect the booth-like space of each machine, perhaps even after each player.
3. Frequent chip cleaning
Your typical casino chip gets passed around like a bottle of cheap vodka at a frat party. Even washing or sterilizing the chips on a daily basis would prove insufficient, given that studies have found that significant amounts of bacteria and fungi can be carried by the markers. If casinos continue to use chips, they’ll need to find a way to sterilize them quickly, effectively and often.
4. Cash- and chip-free gambling
With technology such as Princess Cruises’ Ocean Medallion, it’s increasingly simple to do pretty much every shipboard transaction by touching wearable technology to a sensor. There’s no reason this same technique couldn’t be applied in a casino setting, allowing players to easily transfer money from their account to a dealer or slot machine.
Already, the technology exists to use your keycard in this manner, so taking things a bit farther and allowing contact-free transfers seems like the next logical step.
5. A bigger emphasis on alternate forms of gambling
Already, many cruise lines offer passengers the ability to play a limited number of games on the interactive televisions in their staterooms or on the line-specific mobile apps. This could easily be expanded, although it might be difficult to convince gamblers that sitting in their stateroom is as entertaining as being around the literal bells and whistles which are part of the casino experience.
6. Completely redesign the modern slot machine
One of the biggest challenges in a casino will be the slot machines, where players much push a button or pull a handle in order to set the reels in motion. Might we see a complete re-invention of the modern slot machine, with, say, a foot pedal being used as opposed to a finger-pressed button?
While this might at first seem extreme, it’s a logical alternative that could, in conjunction with machine manufacturers, be a game-changer (pun intended) for the industry.
7. Germ-fighting “goodie bags”
Already, some land-based casinos are considering giving arriving players bags which would include such items as a mask, sanitizing wipes, and a pointer-like device with which to push the buttons of a slot machine.
Similar items could be distributed to guests in shipboard casinos, although there are questions as to how far employees could (or would be willing to) go in order to enforce their use.