The Cruise and Airplane Industries Return to Business, While Finland Introduces Changes to Land-Based and Online Casinos

Industries hit hard by coronavirus have lately been emerging from under the lockdown. Losses of many sectors are already so large that staying longer in quarantine would render their recovery impossible.

Hence, they have slowly been returning to life, despite rising death rates in the USA, Brazil, Russia, and elsewhere. The airline industry that is estimated to lose $113 billion due to the quarantine inaction is beginning its recovery process, as countries let their airlines partially resume flying. The cruise industry will soon return its ships to service, judging by the new Sail Safe program recently announced by Norwegian Cruise Line. The cruise sector was not only badly hit financially, with Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corp., and Norwegian Cruise Line sinking by more than 50 percent, but it also experienced difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic that other industries did not encounter. In March, at least seven cruise ships were in limbo, because their passengers had Covid-19 and were not accepted by any country.

The gambling industry has been in decline since March. The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimated three months ago that America would lose $21.3 billion in direct spending by consumers, adding that this would be the best-case scenario. If casinos stay shut for longer than 3 months, their losses will skyrocket. Heeding the warning, casinos across America welcomed their customers at the beginning of June. Now they are operating under the new safety rules. Gamblers cannot enter their premises without face masks and temperature scanning. They are also reminded to keep physical distancing and wash their hands at sanitation stations located now on every floor. There are also plexiglass barriers between gamblers and dealers, and tables are covered with the same acrylic glass to ensure their thorough cleaning. Dices, chips, and cards are sanitized, while the number of slot machines and players at poker tables are significantly reduced. Not operating at full capacity, casinos will not make usual profits, but staying in lockdown for longer would be even less profitable for them.

More concerned with people’s health than profits, other casinos still stay closed. Finland, which shut down all its gambling sites and slot machines across the country in March, plans to reopen them only in the middle of July. Until then, Finnish gamblers can enter neither old nor new casinos, called in Finnish “uudet kasinot,” obliged to gamble only online. But even at virtual casinos, the Finnish government is imposing some restrictions on customers’ gambling activity by tightening limits for online gambling. It seems strange that at the time when all casinos encourage their clients to gamble more to reduce their losses, Veikkaus, the Finnish government-owned casino agency, does exactly the opposite: it urges them to spend less. But, then, the Finnish government and Finnish people themselves have a unique approach to gambling. They view gambling as an enterprise that benefits Finns and the country. The government invests money received from Veikkaus in schools, art, science, education, and sports. Knowing this, Finnish players look at gambling as their civic duty and say that, whether you win or lose, a Finn always wins.

The Finnish government’s concern with the wellbeing of Finnish players is so deep that it has recently prevented them from spending large amounts on virtual gambling. Aware of the people’s tendency to gamble more online during the quarantine and worrying that, in so doing, Finnish citizens will exacerbate their worsening financial situation, the government has lowered the maximum loss limit from 2,000 euros to 500 euros per month. The maximum loss limit has been lowered from 1,000 euros to 500 euros per day. As these numbers show, a player who has spent 500 euros within one day will not be able to wager more until the following month. Finns might be displeased with these restrictions, but the government is sure that these changes will help diminish economic, social, and health harm caused by gambling during coronavirus.

With the same purpose in mind, Veikkaus will soon remove around 8,000 of its slot machines from supermarkets, kiosks, bars, and gas stations. Although last year, the agency promised to take out only about 3,000 of its gaming machines, it has now decided to double their number, because Finns have been gambling more online in the national lockdown and might have become addicted to this. The agency explains its decision to remove more slot machines than was initially intended by its desire to make wagering a less risky proposition. Finns, however, should not worry that they will not be able to bet on slot machines when they come to a grocery store or stop at a gas station. Last year, Veikkaus maintained around 21,500 of the machines around the country. Getting rid of 8,000 slot devices would be a drop in the ocean, which they will not even notice.

Meanwhile, all slot machines in Finland are in quarantine. Although the Finnish government has already relaxed the national lockdown, it still keeps gambling sites inactivated, planning to let people use gambling machines on July 15. Veikkaus says that when the government lifts the quarantine restrictions from slot machines, it will install plexiglass shields between them in order to contain the spread of coronavirus.  The agency also intends to follow the quarantine rules established now in all opened casinos and ask people to sanitize their hands and keep social distancing.

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