Largest Canadian Casinos Begin to Plan for Reopenings

It is possible that the coronavirus pandemic is subsiding in its intensity and eagerness to spread. More than two months of stay-at-home orders and self-quarantines throughout Canada may have stopped COVID_19’s expansion.

After Canada watched it tear through Asia and Europe at the beginning of 2020, its government and health officials watched it take hold in Canada. By the middle of March, they had ordered the shutdown of almost all non-essential businesses across the country. That, of course, included casinos.

As of May 25, Canada’s reported cases showed a pattern of decline for the month but not as steadily as officials had hoped. And the pattern of deaths had been quite erratic. The key numbers were:

  • Total cases to date: 85,711
  • New cases in 24 hours of May 25: 1,012
  • Days of decline in a row: 4
  • Days since all-time daily high of 2,760 new cases: 22
  • Total deaths to date: 6,545
  • New deaths in 24 hours of May 25: 121
  • Days of decline in a row: 0
  • Days since all-time daily high of 207 new deaths: 24

Many businesses will not reopen until the numbers show more of a steady decline. Casinos will likely be some of the last venues allowed to reopen.

River Rock Casino in BC

There is no information regarding the reopening of casinos in BC like River Rock.

At the beginning of May, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said casinos were not on her priorities list. “It would be last on my list to reconsider for reopening at this point,” she said. “I would have to be convinced that there’s a valid reason and a safe way to do it, and I think that’s something that is for further down the line.”

That was nearly one month ago.

One week ago, however, some businesses began to reopen with social distancing measures in place. That second phase of the reopening plan also allowed for some restaurants and retail stores to reopen. The third phase begins on June 1 for some schools. But larger venues for concerts and tourism are relegated to Phase 4, which is said to be contingent upon a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus.

Casino de Montreal in Quebec

The casino website and news outlets provide no information regarding the reopening of Casino de Montreal.

Since Montreal has been the epicenter of Quebec’s COVID-19 spread, it is on a slower path than most cities in most provinces. Just this week, some restrictions lifted in Montreal, but it will be well into June before larger venues are considered.

Caesars Windsor in Ontario

The story of Caesars Windsor remains the same as it did at the beginning of May. Casino and union officials have been discussing reopening possibilities with government and health officials for many weeks.

Several weeks ago, Unifor Local 444 President David Cassidy said he feared that the casino would be one of the last facilities allowed to reopen in Windsor. They have discussed everything from cleaning and disinfecting all casino chips to placing barriers between seats and players to accomplish proper social distancing.

Ontario is currently in its first stage of reopening that started on May 19. Retail businesses, construction projects, and libraries reopened – with limitations in many cases – but many other businesses won’t be allowed to reopen until July or August.

Casino Niagara and Fallsview Casino in Ontario

Neither casino has yet offered any reopening information. They are likely in the same situation as Caesars Windsor, awaiting more information from Ontario officials.

However, just across the border, Seneca Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls on the New York side is much closer to reopening. The property has been implementing stringent safety measures and will require temperature screenings for all workers and customers, personal protective equipment for all workers, masks for all workers and customers, and controlled social distancing.

This will begin in June. And with the border between Canada and the United States still closed to nonessential travel, Ontario players are out of luck for visiting any casinos any time soon.

River Cree Casino in Alberta

The Enoch Cree Nation has been outspoken about its multi-million-dollar losses during the pandemic. A six-month closure will result in $22 million in lost revenue. Further, the casino already laid off 900 employees from the casino, of which 300 were indigenous or aboriginal, including 200 Enoch Cree band members.

The hurt goes even deeper, as River Cree is a part of the First Nations Development Fund along with several other casinos. They use slot revenues to help 41 nations in Alberta to the tune of approximately $88 million per year.

Alberta has been slowly reopening its businesses via gatherings of up to 15 people and domestic travel without isolation requirements. That first reopening phase began on May 14 with more sections of Alberta participating from May 25. Casinos are not yet prioritized.

Provincial Plans

As expected, each province will set their own plans in motion depending upon the rates of infection and death in their own areas of Canada.

The Globe and Mail is updating its reopening page consistently and detailing plans by province.


Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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