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Will International Gambling Travel Be Shot Down By Ebola?

Aug 14, 2014









The outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus and the shooting down of MH17 might usher in a less willing to travel gambling public.

International travel is a big part of the gambling world these days. Gambling hubs around the world are re-branding themselves as “destinations” with amusement parks, shopping malls and resorts all adjacent to or part of massive gambling complexes and casinos. The meteoric rise of Macau is huge casino gambling news and has set off a chain reaction of development across south east Asia with nations both adjusting their laws and building the infrastructure required to attract overseas gamblers.

So important are these traveling punters that nations will do almost anything to attract them. Russia’s recent law to allow casino operation in Sochi, for example, was coupled with the possibility of Chinese gamblers being able to visit the region without a visa. The globalization of gambling has increased competition putting pressure on the traditional hubs of gaming like Monaco, Las Vegas and the manifestly suffering Atlantic City.

Virus And Violence Threat Increasing

• Ebola kills 90% of victims

• MH-17 shot down by SA-11 Surface-to-Air missile

• Overseas casino strategy might face market squeeze

Chinese gamblers are the market focus, of course, but none of the smart strategies dreamed up by the consultants ignore the rest of the world. Flying off to gamble in exotic places has long held an allure that has beckoned those fiscally fortunate enough to enjoy it. Approximately 20% of gamblers in Las Vegas are foreign visitors who have flown in to experience the famous city and all its many pleasures and diversions, and like everywhere else, they want more.

But whilst huge investments are being made to attract this global market, is the globe about to make traveling itself rather unattractive? Whilst the technology behind travel gets ever more reliable and safe the world in which we find ourselves traveling is becoming just a little less predictable and just a touch more dangerous. The increasing risk from ever more dangerous war zones to international travel routes coupled with the Ebola virus doesn’t really make travel as attractive as it was but a few weeks ago.

The Ebola Virus

On Saturday the 2nd of August a 72 year old woman arriving at Gatwick Airport, London, having traveled from the Gambia collapsed after disembarking the plane. She was sweating profusely, vomiting heavily and was rushed to hospital where she later died. Airport staff were duly concerned and worried, especially when people with medical qualifications started taking their names, and the media went into a frenzy of fear-inducing headlines.

Had the Ebola virus claimed its first victim on British soil? Were we witnessing in Africa the start of a global pandemic of this deadly disease? Is the world about to collapse into a post-apocalyptic society where we will all have to become subsistence farmers or road-warrior-esque gang members? The panic was palpable, and completely misplaced. Tests on the lady in question, post mortem, showed she didn’t die of Ebola, but the initial terrified reaction by all concerned is most telling.

Ebola was first isolated in 1976 during an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever in Zaire and Sudan and was named after the Ebola river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the banks of which many initial victims lived in Yambuku. With a gestation period of anywhere between 2 and 21 days the symptoms usually begin with flu-like fever, fatigue and abdominal pain but rapidly develops into an impairment of blood clotting and internal bleeding.

Of course there are viral diseases around the world that every year claim large numbers of victims but what made Ebola so frightening was the death rate amongst those who contracted it – 90%. This makes it one of the deadliest viral infections the world has ever seen, and the current outbreak has killed over a 1000 people with the potential to kill millions. Perhaps then it is no surprise that staff at Gatwick reacted in the manner they did, maybe we should all be worried.

War zones And Weapons

Whilst Ebola might make sitting around in an airport (or indeed in a blackjack tournament) with people you don’t know that originate all over the world not the most attractive way to spend time, the shooting down of MH17 in the Ukraine made sitting in a metal tube at 30,000 feet seem positively dangerous. Of course this was but the latest instance of a plane load of innocent passengers being blow out of the sky, it happens far more frequently than you might imagine.

A Russian fighter jet shot down Korean Air Lines flight 007 in 1983, the American warship USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air flight 655 in 1988 with a surface to air missile, the Rwandan presidential airliner was downed by ground fire in 1994, and the Ukrainian military downed Siberia Airlines flight 1812 over the Black Sea in 2001 during a military exercise. These things, as they say, just happen sometimes. However MH17 is different and heralds a very different world.

The SA-11 surface to air missile system is an air defense weapon system in use with numerous armed services (including both Ukraine and Russia) and whilst not at the bleeding edge of technology it is still an effective counter to both fixed and rotary wing threats. That one of these advanced systems was in the hands of people willing to fire on an unidentified cruising jet is wholly frightening, military mistakes are one thing, lunatics with the ability to bring down airliners, another entirely.

The advances in man-portable weapons systems, and the increased ability of extremists to access more complex military technology, are likely to raise the number of instances where once immune high flying jets are in direct danger of being targeted over any of the numerous war zones and trouble spots that airlines fly through every day. The exotic allure of traveling to gamble in foreign places on the other side of a troubled world might no longer be as attractive as it once was.

Read more about the threats to gambling travel.

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