How Canada and USA are Working to Re-open Casinos

Just like the political landscape has changed in the United States, so has the gambling scene. For years, the casino industries have provided people an escape. An entertaining night out. Not to mention all the action they could ask for. But over the past few months that luxury has been shelved. Banks of slot machines are not taking deposits, or handing out withdrawals. Once prominent table games like blackjack, craps and roulette have been pushed to the background. And poker rooms everywhere are not flush with anything. That is, until recently. Have you seen the videos? Casinos are re-opening, and gambling is back.

“T-minus 8 hours,” read the June 3rd tweet from the D Las Vegas, a downtown hotel and casino nicely situated on Fremont Street. “Looking forward to re-opening our casino and welcoming everyone back at 12:01 a.m.! See you then.”

A short time later, just after the clock struck midnight, it followed with this, “Drinks are being served, the Long Bar is back,” with a picture of one of its bartenders pulling a Tom Cruise from the movie Cocktail.

The D Bartender

 

The Long Bar is certainly a feature attraction at the D, which has won a USA Today Readers Choice Travel Award. As the name suggests, the bar is long, and it extends out onto Fremont Street allowing people to stand on the street, have a beverage and revel with the masses. Incidentally, inside and upstairs, the D proudly boasts another option for those imbibing, the Canada Bar. However, with cross-border travel to the U.S. still prohibited, that’s something to keep in mind for the future, eh?

New Re-opening Concepts

Over on the Las Vegas strip, you might say it’s a Wynn-win for gamblers and casino employees as well, and the fervor is palpable.

“This closure may have temporarily taken us out of Wynn and Encore, but it couldn’t take the Wynn and Encore out of us,” read the tweet from Wynn Las Vegas this past Friday. “We are proud to welcome you back.”

The proclamation was accompanied by a heartfelt video, in which the casino boasted about its efforts during lock down. How it vowed to keep all 15,000 staff members employed, and did with full pay, and how they in turn went about helping the community in a time of need.

“We focused our five-star level of service to all who needed it,” said Matt Maddox, CEO of Wynn Resorts. “In our communities and in our homes, we were there with food, supplies and love.”

A few tweets later, the Wynn announced it will be re-opening its buffet this week. With a “re-imagined all-you-can-eat concept that combines the abundance of the traditional buffet with the benefits of a full-service restaurant.”

It seems like a healthy improvement. All the tasty benefits of a buffet, but from a slight ways away?

Bright Lights, Big City & Boxing

The situation is similar all-around sin city. The excitement at the big resorts, which have been itching to welcome in patrons for some three months now, is overflowing on their various platforms.

“Boxing is back,” screamed the hashtag headline on a tweet from MGM Grand, as if it was landing a huge uppercut on the coronavirus. Perhaps even a knockout blow.

“Your health and safety are the center of all we do. We’re ready to welcome you back to the experiences you love, curated with your safety in mind. Get back to safety,” read another post, promoting the hotel and casino’s seven-point safety plan designed to reduce the odds on staff and customers coming into contact with the virus.

According to its website, the plan at MGM Resorts International consists of the following:

  • Screening, Temperature Checks & Employee Training
  • Mandatory Masks & Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Physical Distancing
  • Hand Washing & Enhanced Sanitation
  • HVAC Controls and Air Quality
  • Incident Response Protocols
  • Digital Innovations

Re-Opening the City of Angels?

The scenario is a tad different in Los Angeles, where casino executives are monitoring the re-openings in Las Vegas. And they’re green with envy too. Both the Commerce Casino, which offers the largest poker room in the world, and the Bicycle Casino, host of the world-famous Live at the Bike, are playing the waiting game.

“Friday’s used to look a lot different in the Fortune Terrace,” noted a post from Commerce Casino. This included a before and after shot of its bar area. “Hang in there, the wait is almost over.”

In the before shot, the room is packed and lively, the big screens are on, the drinks are flowing and the action is hot, with spectators in behind the gamblers marveling at the amount of chips being tossed around. In the after shot, the room is empty, no dealers, no players, no televisions, no nothing.

Gambling halls in the state of California are not folding, they’re just holding. Ten minutes from the Commerce, at the Bike, management is busy getting ready for that day when they can swing their doors open to the public, a day they hope comes soon.

The Bicycle casino

 

“Gearing up for your return,” wrote Bicycle Casino, where executives have been using lock down to revamp the interior with state-of-the-art gaming equipment. “Custom made 9-foot poker tables, newly installed and ready-to-go. We are looking forward to announcing a reopening date very soon! Thank you all for your patience.”

Safe-Guarding & Sanitizing

Foxwoods Resort Casino, a legendary hot spot for gamblers in Connecticut, posted the “Welcome Back” signs at exactly 9 a.m. on June 1st, more than two-weeks ago.

“Take a look at how quick and easy the entrance safety screening is,” it noted on twitter. With a short video of a security guard walking someone through the process. It literally took seconds. Since then, it’s been posting non-stop on social media, announcing restaurant re-opening, promoting players who have hit big jackpots, and introducing new health and safety measures. It wants guests to stay in confidence.

“Our team is implementing additional safety standards and cleaning protocols for hotel visits. The Fox Clean door seal will indicate that your room has been completely sanitized,” read a tweet featuring a picture of the new door seal.

foxwood casino re-opening

 

Not-So-Crazy Canucks

Clearly, casinos in Canada are not rolling the re-opening dice on a dicey dilemma. All bets are off in the land of the true north, strong and free. The Canadian government is playing it much safer than its counterpart stateside. Fallsview Casino, for instance, has been spending most of its time on social media posting glorious pictures of the Falls, and all that Niagara Falls has to offer, rather than promoting its shops, fine dining, and gaming experience.

fallsview employees

 

“We look forward to seeing everyone again. But until then, our Niagara Casino family wants to thank each, and every one of you, for doing your part. Together in heart but safer apart. Thanks for staying safe,” it said.

At Caesars Windsor, a Goliath of a casino situated on the waterfront of the Detroit River, there hasn’t been much activity on twitter either. Its pinned tweet is from May 27th and says, “we continue to closely monitor and follow government guidelines and look forward to restarting our Colosseum shows when it is safe to do so.”

No mention of gambling, only that the casino is “working diligently with the artists’ agencies to confirm new dates into the fall & early 2021.”

Government Decision

It’s the same story all over Canada. The bells and whistles of slot machines are just not ringing. Poker players have had to rely on sites like Party Poker and PokerStars to get their fix, and roulette? Well, in this country it’s more like a game of Russian roulette. Nobody wants to be seen as re-opening too soon.

In Quebec, we got this note from Casino Montreal on May 27th, and not much else since. “According to the directions of the public health department, as a preventive measure, Casino Monteal will close at midnight tonight for an indefinite period. It is a government decision.”

Further east, Casino Nova Scotia’s actions “have been guided by the direction of our government and public health authorities. Similarly, the re-opening of our property will only happen when we can ensure the health and safety of our team members and guests. See you soon.”

Casino nova scotia

It’s important to note, Canadian casinos have stepped up through the pandemic, and Casino Nova Scotia is no different.

“During these uncertain times the best thing we can do is help one-another,” it said back in March, as it donated all of its perishable food items to Hope Cottage and Feed Nova Scotia, “in an effort to support those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

On the west coast, at River Rock Casino in British Columbia, it’s been eerily quiet as well. Real quiet.

“In conjunction with BCLC, River Rock Casino Resort has temporarily suspended all operations as of Sunday, March 15th at 11:59 p.m.,”. This was tweeted out on March 16th, one of its last posts on the platform. “We appreciate your understanding during this unprecedented situation.”

Unprecedented is right! What are the odds?

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio and has interviewed a number of the world's top poker players and gamblers. A former radio and television broadcaster, Derrick was brand manager for Poker Pro Canada magazine and has written for a variety of publications, including the Toronto Star & Windsor Life.

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