Anyone looking to gamble in Ireland’s casinos right now will find themselves bang out of luck – by which we don’t mean the roulette wheels have all been rigged, or the blackjack dealers have developed god-like powers of hitting 21 with every hand. Nope: the casinos are all currently closed as part of the country’s response to the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s not just the casinos that are in a state of limbo right now. In a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the craic has been put on hold across the nation, with most indoor gatherings banned, non-essential venues like museums and gyms forced to lock their doors, and restaurants only able to provide food delivery and takeaway services only.
How long will it all continue? Well, as in so many countries in these very strange times, anything could happen in the weeks and months to come. Leo Varadkar, the deputy head of the government, has said Ireland will remain at Level 5 until December. But after that, it very much depends on what the numbers say, Covid-wise. Whilst Varadkar has recently announced an easing of restrictions for a couple of weeks over Christmas, however this does not include the reopening of other facilities like bars, restaurants and casinos.
The fact is, there’s really no telling when it’ll be back to business as usual. This ambiguity is certainly a blow, and not just for the casino operators and passionate punters who actually live in Ireland. After all, some of these casinos are a big draw for tourists who flock to the Emerald Isle every year.
Take the famous Sporting Emporium, which is located right in the heart of Dublin and just moments from the iconic drinking dens of Temple Bar. Since opening in 2005, it’s become known as arguably the most prestigious and well-known casino in the country. With its spacious gaming rooms, it’s popular not just with seasoned gamblers but also newbie dabblers, stag and hen nights and the like.
Dublin sightseers who love slots tend to make a beeline for Playland, which claims to have the biggest slot machine floor in the country – and we’re not about to argue with them. There are hundreds on offer, from cutting-edge video slots to traditional fruit machines. Plus, there are automatic, electronic roulette tables that provide an interesting, automated alternative to the more traditional casino experience.
No discussion of Dublin’s gambling scene should neglect to mention the city’s two outposts of the Fitzpatrick’s casino empire. This is a company that’s been in business for decades and has popular casinos in Limerick, Tallaght and Dun Laoghaire, as well as in the capital itself.
Meanwhile, visitors to Cork with a taste for gambling will definitely have the Macau Sporting Club on their radar. Covering 13,000 square feet, it brings a glamorous, Vegas-like buzz to this corner of Ireland, with the likes of blackjack, roulette and baccarat all on offer, as well as a restaurant serving locally-sourced beef and seafood. As you’d imagine from this bona fide tourist attraction, the venue has special packages catering to lads and girls’ nights outs, as well as corporate parties.
Of course, talking about all of these venues is tantamount to teasing in the age of Covid-19, with casinos remaining closed for the foreseeable future. Putting our optimistic hats on, there’s every possibility that the gambling palaces will be allowed to resume trading at some point in 2021 – even before the fabled Covid-19 vaccine hopefully comes along and nudges us from the new normal back to the wonderful old normal. When that bright moment comes, visitors to the Emerald Isle can look forward to big nights out in the places we’ve mentioned above.
In the meantime? Well, anyone looking to scratch the gaming itch in Ireland does have other options to distract them. Take a bow, online casino sites. Thanks to a whole array of top online operators (you can browse through many of the best examples at TopRatedCasinos.ie), it’s possible to play poker, baccarat, blackjack, roulette and hundreds upon hundreds of slots games from the safety and comfort of your computer or mobile device.
Sure, you won’t get quite the same kind of glitz and glamour as you would when stepping through the doors of the Sporting Emporium in Dublin or the Macau Sporting Club in Cork, but even so – seeing what Lady Luck has in store for you online can be a satisfying stopgap until the bricks-and-mortar venues come back to life. And it has to be said, some of the progressive jackpots available to players in Ireland are exciting enough to almost make you forget about land-based casinos altogether. Emphasis on almost: we’re looking forward to seeing all of you back in Dublin’s casinos, and in the entertainment palaces across Ireland, as soon as those roulette wheels start spinning again.
Image: Gregory Dalleau Unsplash