Note: this article is a personal opinion piece and an insight into the assessments we are making with regards to reopening our business. If you are considering hosting an event during the coronavirus pandemic, please check the latest government guidance and check with your local authority if required.
Everyone knows about the Covid-19/coronavirus pandemic and few industries have been hit as hard as us in events.
Right from the outset of the crisis we said we didn’t expect to be working any events before Christmas, and even then that is ambitious, but over the past few weeks we have been looking at ways in which we may be able to provide casino party entertainment under coronavirus restrictions.
As it stands, we are not currently taking any bookings – even for events in 2021 – but plan on opening the book in October. Typically we offer our customers set packages, depending on their individual requirements, budgets and number of guests, but in the current climate this will not be possible. Each job will have to be individually assessed, priced and risk assessed in the current environment and this blog posting is really to show you the considerations we are making at present. As the situation is constantly moving, and as all events are different, the steps we may take at individual events may change, but you can be assured that we take the pandemic very seriously and will put all the measures we can to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, and to keep our staff and guests healthy.
At the time of writing, it is not allowed to have gatherings of more than 30 people – and even these are subject to restrictions. It is reasonable to expect that this number will rise in the future, and that people will want to have entertainment at parties, such as birthday parties, wedding receptions and Christmas parties, provided they can be done in a covid secure way. When the time is right, we will look to offer our services and we expect that some of the following procedures and considerations will be made when putting together packages for our clients.
We do not expect to be able to offer all of our games in a covid secure format. We are currently developing our blackjack and roulette games to be played in a socially distanced manner, using the 1m+ guidelines, however it is unlikely that we would be able to offer our Texas Hold ‘Em poker offering to anything other than a party within an existing social ‘bubble’ due to the close proximity of the players and the passing of chips and playing cards between players.
Restrictions on numbers
Real life casinos were hoping to reopen on 1 August but were unfortunately not given the green light despite creating a new protocol that included restricting the number of players on any given table at a time, erecting Perspex screens and putting in place sanitisation measures.
We expect to run the tables at less than 50% capacity to allow social distancing. That means a maximum of three players on the roulette table and blackjack table (although each would be able to play two boxes).
In roulette, a player’s colour chips would be removed from circulation and replaced by a new colour for the next player. The used chips would be fully sanitised before being rotated back in.
With blackjack we also expect to use colour chips, rather than cash chips. Each player would be given non-denominational chips of their own colour, to be kept separately in the chip tray. As with roulette, these would be taken out of circulation and sterilised before being rotated back in. We will also not allow guests to cut the cards, or try their hand as a croupier, which we regularly do if requested.
PPE and sanitisation
Alcohol based sanitiser will be made available throughout the event and guests will be asked to use this before joining the table and playing. Our staff will be provided with PPE, including face coverings and face shields to minimise the chances of cross infection between them and the guests, and they will be required to sanitise their hands at the end of every game. If Texas Hold ‘Em is offered, staff will additionally be required to wear gloves during the game.
Additional staff will be required to support with the regular sanitisation of equipment and to provide crowd management, most likely at a ratio of one additional staff member for every two tables, as well as allowing additional breaks to staff due to the hot working conditions.
In order to maintain social distancing we will space out our tables more widely than usual, and may rope off the playing areas, with only players allowed in. We will use, where possible, our larger VIP tables, which give more space and a greater distance between staff and guests. We are also looking at erecting screens between tables, as used in barber shops, where it is not possible to have 4m between the tables.
Often fun casino nights take place in loud environments (much louder than real world casinos) as we share space with DJs, live bands and so on.
As a result, when players ask questions or make actions, we often find ourselves leaning in to be closer to them (in order for us to hear them, or them to hear us) and raising our voices (again, considered to raise the risk of passing infection). Neither of these is possible in a covid safe environment where we want to maintain social distancing. Add in PPE and face coverings making communication even more difficult, and we can see that loud environments will create a challenging environment for us.
The solution may be to insist on working away from the main party room, or that volumes are lower than usually found at parties.
More tables/longer shifts
Typically we operate for two-to-three hours at an event. A solution to the reduced capacity can be to increase the number of tables (space permitting) and/or increasing the length of game time. At parties where people are in groups, such as company Christmas parties, where the venue is filled by several companies or departments, we can look to arrange dedicated tables or timeslots for specific groups, to avoid mixing of groups.
Bespoke risk assessment
It goes without saying that we will conduct a full risk assessment before committing to any bookings. To be clear, we are not saying that all of these processes will be in place when we return, however they are all aspects that we are looking into. If such gatherings are allowed under restrictions, it is hard to see how it would be able to operate economically with all processes in place, however it is highly likely that at least some of them will be required for the safety of our staff and guests.
The upshot is that a covid secure party will be different to what we are used to, and there will be some additional expenses occurred. Last weekend I trialled a blackjack game at home, wearing PPE and putting in place the chip sanitisation processes we mentioned earlier. While it was a slightly surreal experience, our family members enjoyed playing and mentioned that they would find it quite fitting to go to a socially distanced fun casino party this Christmas or New Year, as it would sum up 2020 perfectly and give them a lasting memory of this strangest of years!
We’re currently also working on how we can offer a photo booth service in a covid safe environment and if you want to get in touch and have a chat about what may be possible for your party this December, please feel free to get in touch through our Contact page.