Gaming Rooms & Covid: Is yours ready for the “New Normal”?

The rules have been re-written during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Right now, all of NSW, VIC & ACT are in lockdown with a knock on effect for other states that rely on tourism as a major component of their economies. Slowly but surely vaccination numbers are increasing, and commonwealth, state and territory leaders are turning to the vaccines as the key tool to opening up again. The Doherty Report has indicated that freedoms can return at 70% double-dose vaccination, and at 80% double doses Australia can open up and learn to live with Covid without fear of constant lockdowns and a return to some sort of normality.

Timelines to achieve those targets vary by state and territory – projections in NSW have 70% double doses being achieved sometime in October 2021 and 80% in November 2021. There is now hope that Lockdowns will be a thing of the past as we head into Christmas and that should really give venue owners and managers some confidence that things will start to get better soon.

It’s important then that venues take a look at their business and identify how to future-proof their operations to ride through potential complications that may come with a mutating virus lurking around. No doubt QR check-ins, hand sanitisers, physical distancing and mask wearing will continue to be key weapons in the fight against the Coronavirus well into the future. But what else can be done to safeguard your business to weather these storms?

Preparing a Covid-19 Safety Plan is a good place to start. You can identify and implement all of the regulated requirements in the operations of the room to ensure you are able to trade. 

The real question is how do you optimise gaming rooms under these “new normal” settings? And better yet, how do we get the gaming room performing like never before? The gaming operation is a key investment, and we need to extract the maximum return. Quick solutions implemented at the beginning of the pandemic have left rooms in disarray as machines have been spaced apart or dropped from the floor altogether. 

The answer is to incorporate Covid-safe settings into the design of your gaming room or floor to ensure you can adapt to various situations and respond to changing conditions without disruption to your operations.

Your Current Gaming Floor Space

Since it’s likely that square metre limits will remain in one form or another for some time to come, it would be wise to calculate your room capacity under 4m2/person and 2m2/person settings in addition to regular open trade.

Furthermore, a requirement for physical distancing within the room will likely be part of the “new normal” – can you comfortably seat your capacity trade while adhering to distancing requirements with the current room set up? Can you easily adjust at short notice?

What other improvements can be made to further minimise the risk of employees and clients unwittingly becoming infected or infecting others in the venue? What are the behaviours your customers exhibit that you need to apply the “settings” to? 

How easy is the room to clean and maintain and what features and amenities will make staff and customers feel safer in your gaming room?

An expert, holistic approach to the design and fit-out of your gaming room can start addressing these and other venue-specific considerations.

Gaming Room Design for the New Normal

In the last year, gaming operations have been pulled apart at great speed to space out machines, but now rooms are left feeling awkward and thrown together. To truly address Gaming in the new normal, there are many aspects that should be considered as part of a gaming room design for a Covid safe world:

1. Layout

The layout of the gaming room needs to accommodate for physical distancing as a long-term requirement. Not just when players are seated at a machine, but also considering when patrons enter and move about the room.

A good design will allow for an increased size in walkways and service areas, allowing for even and uncongested pedestrian traffic flow and socially-distanced common areas. The use of screens and privacy panels to separate gaming seating from thoroughfares help define the walkways and provide privacy and a physical barrier for players.

A blend of privacy gaming pods and well-spaced social gaming areas can be achieved to ensure floorspace is used effectively – you might space your machines at 1.5m apart, but is there sufficient distance between players when they’re seated, particularly where players are back to back. Thoughtful use of space is the back-bone of a good gaming room, and in modern times, the first line of defence in the fight against Coronavirus.

2. Player Privacy, Screens and Physical Barriers:

Similarly, screens and panels can be used to separate players both physically and visually when seated, particularly since machines are spaced at larger intervals there is a resulting open area where players can see each other directly between machines. This can be awkward for players, but also means there is no barrier to aerosols from someone’s cough or sneeze.

Base back screens can be used to separate players physically when on opposite sides of a machine bank.
Operable divider screens could be utilised between machines, extended to provide a screen when needed, or stowed out of the way when not.

3. Player Comfort and Amenity

Ensuring players are comfortable and have the space they need when sat at their favourite game minimises movement and encourages players to stay at the same machine for longer. This translates into a few useful outcomes when operating in the Covid environment; less maintenance and cleaning, players don’t move around as often, safe and easy to reach surfaces of drinks and food which can be consumed while seated, among others.

An elevated shelf or storage unit between machines is a great way to break up the large open area and provide a place for drinks, food and belongings to sit on, meaning that drinks are kept away from the top of the base, where many players put their feet and will keep cigarette ash from getting into drinks and food.

Soft, dimmable LED lights create a great ambience which increases comfort, but also provides soft illumination for players to see their belongings, drinks, food and any potential obstructions or trip hazards on the floor. The additional lighting makes it easy for staff to see and clean around the machines.

4. Hygiene & Cleanliness

Of course, cleaning and santising will be an even bigger focus area going forward. Regular and thorough cleaning of surfaces will ensure hygienic and safe environments for players and staff.

When choosing finishes for your room, a good designer will guide you through options and assist to make selections which not only enhance the aesthetic of the gaming room, but that have practical advantages such as Anti-Microbial laminates, Chemical Resistance properties for heavy duty cleaning, smooth finishes for easy wipe downs.

The design of the joinery also plays a part. Ensuring gaps in benchtops are eliminated, open spaces or access points into the carcasses are neatly and securely closed as well as eliminating or minimising nooks and crannies where rubbish and other mess can accumulate all help to make the room cleaner and easier to manage.

 Using moisture resistant materials suitable for the space is an important choice also. Particle Board and Chipboard materials are susceptible to water ingress which can cause swelling and ultimately mould. 

5. Flexibility

The ability to quickly rearrange and adjust your room going forward will be a very important factor. Whether it is to adjust to new spacing requirements or floor capacities, having the ability to move bases and screens quickly and easily while ensuring that the rearranged set up looks finished and fit for purpose is a game changer for venues that want to be flexible.

Capital’s fully modular base and screen solution, means all parts are interchangeable and parts are reusable. We can design a room where you are able to move bases into another position and simply purchase additional dress ends and infills which slot in to finish off the room. Use an infill or screen from one area in another.

The system is easily bolted and unbolted to enable fast and efficient reconfigurations and refreshes.

6. Custom Joinery

Refreshment kiosks, hand sanitiser stations, mask dispensers, signage and TV screens, Check-in counters, cashier desks to name a few can all be designed and incorporated into the fit out of the gaming room.

In the same way, beautiful wall panelling, or dramatic ceiling features can be designed and installed to cover unsightly walls and surfaces and provide easy to clean finishes. A ceiling feature can also be designed to visually hide large ventilation intakes or other HVAC equipment without impeding air flow.

Every venue is different. Its important to make some detailed observations and notes about the behaviours of staff and customers within the room. Identify spaces and areas that have been troublesome to maintain and clean. Look at how the room would work under various settings and think about how customers will be comfortable, safe and happy in your gaming room.

Capital Design Works offers a range of design packages from layouts, to carpet and stool selection, to full interior design of your gaming room to budgets that you set. Our experience in the industry over the last 30+ years and investment in dedicated interior design talent, means we can offer your venue a dedicated and detailed design service at a fraction of the cost. 

Get in touch with us today and we’ll help you design and build a gaming room like no other. For more information on our range of products call us on 02 8999 6422.

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