So it's official now! There will be no Poker party in the Nevada desert this summer. The mother of all Poker festivals has folded yesterday. Officially, it is postponed to fall or winter 2020, talks and rumors about an online edition of the 51st annual World Series of Poker are being mentioned here and there but many believe that we are more probably heading towards a plain and simple cancellation of the world championship of our favorite game.
The Poker press is full of speculative articles about how and when casinos will reopen. The facts are now that all relevant casinos and Poker rooms are closed in the U.S. and in Europe. Some spots are reopening in Asia since the COVID-19 epidemic struck them earlier but the numbers are not glorious and the playing conditions have not returned to what they were before. Macau has kept its casinos closed for a mere 15 days only but experts believe it will take the Asian gaming and gambling capital until 2023 to get back to similar performances as prior to the coronavirus pandemic according to an article published on PokerFirma on April 16th.
Over here, in Europe, the COVID-19 tsunami has only recently arrived and while many are still chilling at home thinking that these are only a few difficult weeks during which we should be patient, some alarming signals reveal a totally different possible reality. Poker and loads of other entertainment festivals are being cancelled until fall. While Holland Casino is, for instance, constantly cancelling event after event as time goes by, others have already announced that they will not even try to get back to business before September. King's Casino boss, Leon Tsoukernik sees his first reopening window coming no earlier than September, events as big and relevant to the industry as the EPT Barcelona are on the brink of cancellation and the Spanish Poker Festival tour or the Al-Andalus Poker Circuit which I am a brand ambassador for have confirmed me through Dany Albert that 'Business is at 0% until further notice'.
The thing is, even if casinos are reopening quickly, it is highly unlikely that business will get back to normal before a very long time after a process of progressive reopening area after area. With slot machines being the core business of most of the gambling places, these are the games that will be reactivated first but one should probably not expect a 100% recovery immediately. It is more likely that casinos will have to implement restrictions and sanitary measures that will reduce their capacities in order to keep people at a reasonable distance from each other. Table games are especially problematic because there, people tend to be very close to each other and chips or cards are being exchanged and passed around augmenting the risks of spreading the virus. Let's face it, most of the casinos are gross places anyway with material and equipment hardly being seriously cleaned or sanitized and, from a hygiene point of view, they have always been problematic. Keeping people apart is especially difficult because of how games are being set up. Maybe we can imagine heads-up games or short-handed versions but getting back to full ring tables in crowded Poker palaces safely for the players and the personnel will require at least some serious ingenuity. Maybe this could be the return of digital live Poker table games widely rejected and discarded a few years ago or maybe online Poker will simply win in the end as we are seeing many big brands moving over to online versions of their upcoming festivals and championships. The online games are booming this spring for sure with stats reaching levels unseen since the early 2010s and it would not be surprising to experience a surge in illegal private games hosted in underground venues over the coming months.
It will probably all come down to what kind of solutions politics will come up with in various places. While Sweden does not seem to be going down the confinement path at all, Austria is already reopening small businesses since last week. In some other places like Belgium and Luxembourg, authorities are starting to experimentally deconfine since last Monday but all mass gathering events will be prohibited until at least September 2020. Spain and Italy, who have been particularly struck by the pandemic are considering to restrict traveling from abroad for quite some time despite the fact that summer tourism plays a key in their general economy and the Czech president, Milos Zeman, might be smashing Leon Tsoukernik's hopes to reopen the biggest Poker room in Europe in autumn by simply keeping Czech Republic's borders closed to non-essential travelers for ... hold your breath: one year (also according to a recent article on PokerFirma that was quoting a Spiegel.de post from April 20th).
If you thought the Ace on the river was a bad beat, think again ;)