The casino industry across the globe has been shaken within the last year and a half with the onset of the pandemic being a huge surprise to all. Inessential businesses which include casinos and other gaming properties have struggled to reopen amid the crisis, in addition to the long list of precautionary measures and health guidelines the operators are required to adhere to.
While a number has since resumed operations in an effort to combat incurred losses, the threat of the highly transmissive Delta variant has forced many to hit the pause button once again as authorities clamor to manage the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Macau: Casinos remain open despite new local cases
Asia’s gambling capital remains open to its local population amid the crisis but continues to keep its doors closed for foreign travelers with the exception of the leading feeder market for its casinos, China. In spite of this, heightened restrictions are in place for travelers arriving from specific locations in the neighboring country due to the increased number of cases recorded.
While its 41 casinos continue operations, it doesn’t mean the territory is not affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Just last week, a variety of entertainment venues which included cinemas, theaters, indoor amusement parks, video game arcades, internet cafes, and nightclubs, were ordered to temporarily shut down in the wake of new Covid-19 cases.
Macau Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng announced that “the government now does not have plans to close casinos, because the problem did not happen there.”
“Last time we closed casinos for  days because the infections had activities in casinos. This time the infections have not, but if we find any cases in a casino we will close that casino immediately”, referring to the previous 15-day closure in February 2020.
Philippines: Manila casinos and poker rooms closed
One of the fastest growing poker hubs in the region, the Philippines has not seen a breakthrough for live poker since over a year ago. With new cases quickly on the rise, the capital of Manila has surged back into even tighter restrictions last August 6th and will continue on through the 20th. Dubbed as the ‘Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ)’, the latest mandate requires all individuals to be confined into their homes with only essential services running. All casinos including poker rooms remain closed for the time being as the country braces the looming threat of the Covid-19 Delta variant.
Malaysia: Genting Malaysia remains shuttered since June
Nearby Malaysia is suffering the same boat as Philippines, recording continuously increasing Covid-19 cases as high as 18,000 new cases a day. Its sole casino operator, Genting Malaysia has since suspended operations last June 1st as the country went into a nationwide total lockdown.
The temporary closure remains in effect and stands to be the third time the complex has closed down – the first one for three months during the initial outbreak of Covid-19 (March 18 – June 19, 2020) and the second one, being earlier this year for four weeks under Malaysia’s second Movement Control Order (Jan 22 – Feb 17, 2021).
India: Goa and Sikkim casinos closed, WPT and APT goes online
India’s licensed land-based casinos in states Goa and Sikkim are likewise closed at this challenging time and are reported to be unavailable until the implemented curfew is lifted. Goa’s curfew was initially put in effect last May 9 but has been extended multiple times. Most recent directives see the curfew to be carried out until August 16, 2021. Sikkim casinos on the other hand, were allowed to reopen early last July but have been forced to close again due to an increase in new COVID-19 cases only two weeks after.
On a lighter note, poker players shouldn’t fret on the nonexistent live poker action in the country as world renowned brands including World Poker Tour and Asian Poker Tour are refocusing their offerings on the online field at the moment. The APT Online series hosted on Pokerbaazi.com just concluded its 44-event line up a couple days ago, recording a total of IN₹ 8.07 Lac (~US$ 1,087,820) in prizes awarded. This year’s WPT Online India festival on the other hand, is currently underway on Adda52 boasting a massive prize pool of 25 CRORE GTD available until the end of the month.
Singapore: Marina Bay and Resorts World open with reduced capacity
The Lion City’s casino duopoly, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa are both currently open with the latter operating at a reduced capacity until August 18. A notice from RWS’ official website stated that a “two players per table” limit at its gaming tables and bets from standing players “will not be accepted” in addition to its “stringent safe management protocols across the resort” is in effect to limit any possible outbreaks within the complex.
Singapore’s other major casino, Marina Bay Sands, reopened last August 5th following a two week closure after a confirmed Covid-19 cluster was traced back to it in late July. Additional precautionary measures along with an enhanced testing regimen of its employees have since been implemented with the reopening. MBS also boasts of its impressive vaccination rate among staff members of which have reached nearly 90% as of the moment.
Vietnam: Everything closed – Country under strict lockdown
While Vietnam has been a stellar example of how to handle the pandemic last year, the Southeast Asian country has also been recording a fast spread of the disease with numbers climbing up to over 9,000 cases per day. Currently, the country is under a strict lockdown which means all gaming properties are closed until further notice. Phu Quoc’s Corona Resort & Casino, the only casino in Vietnam where locals are permitted to gamble, has been closed since July 19 due to a “government announcement”.
The last major festival in the country happened last April 2021 with the first ever World Poker Tour DeepStacks Hanoi event seeing a substantial 1,410 entries across thirteen events and awarded a total grand prize pool of VNđ 17,866,042,000 (~US$ 774,960). Local player Nguyễn Văn Phinh claimed the Main Event title for VNđ 842,000,000 (~US$ 36,522) and was further crowned as the Player of the Series champion for his impressive deep runs.
South Korea: Casinos operational under reduced capacity
South Korea’s casino market is mainly targeted towards foreign individuals with locals only restricted to Kangwon Land for their gaming needs. Latest updates see the capital of South Korea, Seoul to be put under the strictest level of social distancing as positive new cases have begun to rise. While casinos throughout the country remain allowed to serve its patrons, a reduced capacity is currently in effect ranging from 30-40% of pre-pandemic levels. Kangwon Land, for one, has reduced its casino’s maximum daily guest capacity to 1,800 as compared to its original 6,000 visitor capacity.
In spite of casinos remaining open at this difficult time, the pandemic has greatly affected the status of live poker events being hosted in local pubs or convention centers. All events welcoming over 100 participants are currently banned with operators like WCOP, J88PT or APL being forced to reduce its event offerings to a bare minimum.
Cambodia: NagaWorld still closed
Although hundreds of casinos run operations in Cambodia, only a fraction offer poker games, the majority of which are situated in the capital Phnom Penh and the ever-changing seaside town of Sihanoukville. Most consistent is NagaCorp’s NagaWorld, the only casino resort authorized to operate in the capital, which has been shuttered since early March after 11 personnel tested positive in that same month. The Cambodian government moreover, has recently announced a 14-day curfew covering all cities until August 12 as the nation attempts to curb the growing outbreak which began last February.
Sri Lanka: Bally’s, MGM, Bellagio, and Stardust closed under further notice
All four casinos situated in Colombo, Bally’s, MGM, Bellagio, and Stardust which cater to poker players in Sri Lanka, remain closed until further notice as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues. The country is in the middle of tightening Covid-19 restrictions as its death toll climbs intensively per day. The rapid spread of the Delta strain is traced back in Colombo which may unfortunately result in a long wait for live poker action to return to the city.
With options very limited across Asia, it appears casino and poker enthusiasts may have to sit it out for a while as countries brace the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The once booming region for entertainment and gambling seems to be cast under a darker light nowadays as restrictions tighten up yet again.
Stay tuned for more updates as we bring you the latest news right here at Somuchpoker.