Casinos Close Across Canada Due to Coronavirus Concerns

It has been building to this level for weeks. A virus that seemed to have started in a Chinese city has spread throughout the world, putting Italy and other European countries in desperate positions and virtual country-wide lockdowns. North America is now facing the same viral spread, and governments in the United States and Canada are acting accordingly.

Logically, this means that most casinos, bingo halls, and card rooms are closing temporarily. The countless ways that a virus can spread in such places dictated the move.

Playground Poker, One of the First to Close

It is a tough decision for any establishment to make. Outside of large casino corporations, most don’t have the luxury of high profit margins and revenue to spare. Nevertheless, they know their customers could be at risk and choose to move proactively.

Such was the decision of Playground Poker Club. On March 13, Playground was one of the very first to announce that it would close. “Playground will cease all operations as of 4:00am on Saturday, March 14. … Playground will close and remain so until further notice.”

By midnight on March 13, management decided to shut it all down without waiting any longer.

Earlier last week, Playground’s first decisions included mandatory hand sanitizing for every person entering the premises, cleaning poker chips on a daily basis and rotating chip sets, providing disinfectant wipes to all players and staff, and increasing resources to the custodial team.

Less than 24 hours later, Playground decided to suspend all poker tournaments, reduce cash game activity, suspend massage services and cancel brunches, introduce a screening questionnaire to patrons about travel and symptoms, and check the temperature of all entering the premises.

Later that same night, Playground decided to close altogether.

Today, they also announced the postponement of the WPTDeepStacks series scheduled for April 16 through April 27.

Initial Reactions by Casinos Across Canada

They tried. Casinos of all sizes tried to fight the idea of closing completely.

All of them increased cleaning services. They wiped down gambling machines and disinfected chips and cards as best they could. They increased the availability of hand sanitizer and signage about proper hygiene. Casinos implemented every policy possible to try to mitigate the spread of the virus.

All efforts were fairly extraordinary and admirable.

While the Canadian government continued to proceed with caution, provincial governments acted more swiftly in the past week. Most ordered the shutdown of places hosting large gatherings, such as casinos.

BC Closures

The announcements came quickly through this past weekend.

River Rock in Richmond was one of the first British Columbia casinos to make its announcement.

“In conjunction with BCLC, River Rock Casino Resort will temporarily suspend all operations as of Sunday, March 15 at 11:59pm. While there have been no cases of COVID-19 reported at River Rock Casino Resort, this measure has been deemed to be in the best interests of the public’s health and the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.”

In fact, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation did announce on March 16 that all casinos under its oversight must be closed by noon that day. The decision was a result of the directive issued by Attorney General David Eby and supported by Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry.

Quebec Closures

Casino Montreal is a smaller casino but actually announced sooner than BC casinos that it was closing according to public health measures. It closed at midnight on March 12, as did all casinos overseen by Loto-Quebec.

The closures of all Loto-Quebec casinos are for an indefinite period of time. The websites for the casinos also note: “It is a government decision.”

Ontario Casinos All Closed

There are many casinos in Ontario, all overseen by Ontario Lottery and Gaming. From Caesars Windsor to numerous Gateway Casino properties and to Casino Niagara and Fallsview, all websites note that the properties are closed. Casinos closed their gaming floors at 4am today, and all resort operations ended before noon.

Fallsview notes that it is a precautionary measure, though a temporary one.

“This action is consistent with the recommendations of the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health related to the new precautionary measures for COVID-19. We will provide an update on when the casino will re-open, taking into account guidance from public health authorities.”

Manitoba Open but Limited

As of March 16, Casinos of Winnipeg is still open, as is Club Regent Casino. Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries noted that the properties now undergo a rigorous cleaning and sanitization process. Players can access disinfecting wipes and still play slot machines.

However, there are no bingo games or table games like blackjack. And those slot machines and electronic games have been staggered, meaning only some are on for customers to reduce contact between players and practice social distancing.

There is little doubt that this will change in the coming days, as few public gathering spaces remain open.

Casino Management Companies Join in Suspensions

As if the provincial closures weren’t enough, casino management companies also weighed in today.

Great Canadian Gaming Corporation announced the suspension of gaming facilities in Ontario, BC, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Closures went into effect today, March 16, and will remain in place until further notice.

Gateway Casinos & Entertainment did the same for its casinos, as directed by advisories in Ontario and BC. Gateway properties ceased operations at all facilities via orderly shutdowns that ended by noon today, March 16.

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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