Casinos used to be the ultimate playground. They used to be the spot where adults could get away and let their inhibitions go for a little while. Whether it was on the tables, at a pool parties or at a cool show, it was a getaway that’s now somewhat been forgotten. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreading around the world, casinos were forced to close all around the world. While some have reopened, the experience is no longer the same. Let’s take a look at 10 ways that US land-based casinos have changed as a result of the pandemic. 

Smoking Banned

Casinos used to be one of the last bastions where you could smoke indoors. Of course, in some Asian countries, smoking inside is not a problem but in North America, it’s mostly been banned everywhere except for casinos. Well, with COVID-19 being a virus that impacts the respiratory system, some casinos have cleared the smoke and no longer permit it.  

Of course, a lot of people don’t smoke and are probably loving the change. However, if you were one to fire up a smoke from time to time, you’ll now have to walk to the outside of some Vegas casinos before you can have a drag. 

Chatting At The Tables 

One of the best features of places like Las Vegas is the social aspect. You can sit around a blackjack table and befriend complete strangers as you both go on hot streaks. Or you can gather around the craps table and have a little party as players win or lose. That’s all dead for now as casinos are compelled to enforce all sorts of safety regulations. 

To start, there’s social distancing, which makes it hard to play with anyone at a craps table – let alone a crowd. There has to be tons of space between you and the next person for slots and if you’re sitting at the blackjack table, there’s plexiglass in between. All of that makes it tough to have any type of social fun.  


A masked dealer stands at an empty blackjack table with plexiglass dividers

Plexiglass surrounds a blackjack dealer at the MGM Grand Detroit casino.

Playing Poker 

In the height of the first wave of COVID-19, the poker scene was completely dead. Normally, the World Series of Poker is the place to be in the spring but alterations had to be made since travel was shutdown. For the most part, all tournaments that could be moved online were moved online, and then the rest of in-person events were canceled. 

Things are starting to get back to normal but it’s a new normal. Poker rooms in casinos are allowed to have limited attendance or limited amounts of players per table. Tournaments are still mostly a no-no although some places in the world are allowing them. Hopefully this changes soon as the poker community has been hit hard by the pandemic. 

Pool Parties 

Remember pool parties in Las Vegas? Those were great. After a Friday night of gambling on The Strip, you’d unwind on Saturday afternoon in the sun – enjoying some shade in a cabana. That’s not happening these days as pool parties would be viewed as the ultimate spreader events.  


Casinos are known as gaming hubs but they also welcome a lot of entertainers. After all, Vegas has all sorts of shorts and many venues from Casinorama in Canada to MGM National Harbor in Maryland host all sorts of big acts. They help draw people in to come and play. 

Nowadays, these types of shows have gone completely dark. Britney Spears and Lady Gaga aren’t performing nightly and Cirque Du Soleil has actually gone bankrupt. Hopefully with the vaccine starting to get going, people can get some protection and these shows can go back to business. For the time being, many of them are on the brink of going out of business. 


Masked players bet on roulette

Masked players bet on roulette at the Strat hotel-casino in Las Vegas.

Dining In Restaurants 

Just like casinos tend to host hot shows, they also host trendy restaurants. Las Vegas has become one of the culinary capitals of the world as where else can you go to a restaurant from Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay or Joel Robuchon that are all within a 10-minute drive of each other? 

For now, many of these restaurants are completely closed down. Indoor dining is sparsely allowed – depending on where you are in the country – but in Las Vegas, buffets are closed. The other issue is that many of these types of places aren’t built to survive such a shutdown, let alone a downturn. Unless people come back in droves, you can expect a lot of your casino favorites to be closed down by the time you return. There simply isn’t the type of foot traffic they need these days for them to hang on and survive. 


Spas are another business that’s had to adapt and while some are operational, it’s fairly clear that the experience is not the same. Having a masseuse rub you down in rubber gloves while they’re sweating behind a face shield is just not anyone’s vision of Zen. On top of that, stays in spas have to be scheduled and are typically limited in time. That’s because since they have to limit the amount of people that can come in at one time, they want to make sure that nobody is hogging the amenities 

Big Crowds 

While this is a more general point, it’s one of the things that makes Las Vegas the place to be: big crowds.  

When the UFC event is just getting going or it’s just come to a conclusion and crowds pour into the casino, there’s always a rush. Or if crowds are hanging out in Eataly at the Park MGM or gearing up for a Lady Gaga show or a Vegas Golden Knights affair. Or even just walking The Strip and seeing the people drinking and stumbling, doing street art or flicking those promotional cards. Right now, Vegas – and many other casinos – are complete ghost towns. 

Watching football in the sportsbook on an NFL Sunday used to exciting. Nowadays, you can still do it but everyone has to be socially distanced and there is sparse cheering. It’s simply not the same.   


Sole masked player sits at a slot machine

A sole masked player on the slots at the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas.


Welp. Not a lot needs to be said here. As you can imagine, those swanky Vegas night clubs – and almost every other one that’s in a COVID-19 impacted region – has been shut down. Sadly, these have been a low priority on the totem pole in terms of helping them reopen. If you’re one of the ones that likes to dance the night away (and possibly get lit), you’ll have to find somewhere else to do it. Nightclubs just aren’t happening these days. 

Meeting Chicks 

This one somewhat goes hand-in-hand with the last entry in our list. If you’re single and have been thinking about meeting someone at a casino, it’s much harder to do these days. This mostly relates to Las Vegas casinos where hitting on and picking up chicks as par for the course. Well, that’s much harder to do these days if you have to wear a mask. And if there are no pool parties, restaurants, nightclubs or shows, you’re fairly limited as to where you’ll meet your love interest. Even meeting at the slots is a challenge since everyone has to be socially distanced. 

Looking for love of any type is tough these days but hopefully we get through the worst of the pandemic soon and get back to the normal ways. 

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virgina and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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