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The European Casino Association (ECA) has said that the European land-based casino sector has been hard hit by the pandemic.

ECA this week released statistics that show a devastating year for the bricks-and-mortar gambling industry through a poll of members.

The European casino industry was closed for an average of 136 days in 2020 and most operators have been closed for the first quarter of 2021. Seventy percent of casinos are currently shut down, with some exceptions this year, including Luxembourg, Spain and Monaco, but with restrictions.

The industry lost an average of over 37% of normal operating days last year and revenues have fallen by over 50%. The majority of ECA members do not have a clear schedule for the official reopening in 2021. Before the pandemic members employed 70,000 staff in their 900 casinos, an employment number that is likely to fall to 50,000 when reopening is allowed.

ECA chairman Per Jaldung said: “This is the deepest trough the European land-based casino industry has ever experienced. The financial impact of the pandemic on the land-based casino sector has been extreme and these numbers show the economic realities of Covid-19 on the European land-based casino sector.

“Some casinos have closed permanently and many casino employees have lost their jobs. We are under no illusion that the industry can return to ‘business as usual’ any time soon. We are, as a matter of fact, very far from business as usual.”

Restricted opening hours, maximum occupancy and amenity limitations, social distancing protocols, restricted gaming offers, protective measures including plexiglass, masks and on-site testing are just some of the hurdles that the land-based casino business is currently facing.

Country to country variations in the restrictions and mandates have also been compounded by regional variations within national borders. These restrictions are the next major challenge for a sector that the pandemic has hit the hardest.

ECA secretary-general Hermann Pamminger said: “Guests want to visit casinos again. The relaxation and tightening of numerous lockdowns in 2020 demonstrated the ability of the land-based sector to safely and responsibly return to business.

“Guest registration has enabled quick and practical social distancing measures and casinos have implemented comprehensive hygiene initiatives, far exceeding local requirements, ensuring that our guests feel comfortable and safe.

“Our industry is part of the service and tourism sector in which we employ a large number of highly trained and motivated people. The closures affected 130,000 direct and indirect employees, not only across our gambling facilities but also in our restaurant and entertainment areas.

“Our employees cannot wait for the day business is back to normal and they can once again welcome guests to their casino and entertainment venues, but our industry continues to need support to achieve this during an extraordinarily challenging period.”

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