More Canadian Casinos Reopen Slowly After Coronavirus

About two weeks ago, we reported on a number of Canadian casino operators reopening their land-based operations. Months of shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic created a strong desire to open their doors again and start on the road to economic recovery.

The key to reopening successfully was caution. Casino operators had to implement new safety protocols, including limited capacity for social distancing purposes and new sanitizing procedures. By working with government and safety officials, Canadian casinos started to wade into post-Covid waters.

Latest Covid-19 Numbers

Per the Government of Canada and its Public Health officials as of July 6, the numbers were:

  • Total cases to date: 105,935
  • New cases in 24 hours of July 6: 399
  • Total deaths: 8,693
  • New deaths in 24 hours of July 6: 9

This chart shows that Canada had been on a downward trajectory for reported cases and deaths for several weeks. The recent small-but-prominent spikes have been concerning, but officials urged more caution. And, of course, Canada continued to close its border to the US and its rapidly rising numbers.

Covid-19 chart - Canada July 6 2020

In a territorial breakdown, some patterns emerge:

  • Quebec = 55,937 cases, 5,577 deaths
  • Ontario = 35,948 cases, 2,689 deaths
  • Alberta = 8,389 cases, 155 deaths
  • British Columbia = 2,978 cases, 183 deaths
  • Nova Scotia = 1,065 cases, 63 deaths
  • Saskatchewan = 805 cases, 14 deaths
  • Manitoba = 325 cases, 7 deaths
  • Newfoundland and Labrador = 261 cases, 3 deaths
  • New Brunswick = 165 cases, 2 deaths
  • Prince Edward Island = 32 cases, 0 deaths
  • Repatriated travelers = 13 cases, 0 deaths
  • Yukon = 11 cases, 0 deaths
  • Northwest Territories = 5 cases, 0 deaths

The larger territories present the most worries; most new cases report from Quebec and Ontario. Experts are watching all of the numbers very closely for further spikes.

Loto-Quebec: July and August

Not only does Quebec lead Canada in Covid cases and deaths, the decision-makers at Loto-Quebec have been watching American casinos open too quickly and then see new outbreaks. Caution is the word.

Loto-Quebec did schedule some tentative openings, though limiting customers and hours, and creating distance between machines will be required. Even so, bars and show halls within those establishments will remain closed. And there will be no poker at this time, as it requires players to handle chips and cards, which is prohibited.

The Hilton Lac-Leamy will open next week, with several operations – Casino de Charlevoix and Mont-Tremblant among them – scheduled for July 16 openings. Casino du Lac-Leamy will open on July 23, and Casino de Montreal will unlock its doors on August 3.

Even so, Loto-Quebec confirmed that it will lay off 2,250 employees as of July 21. They also implemented a wage and hiring freeze for the indefinite future.

Saskatchewan: This Week

The Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority (SIGA) announced that its seven casinos will reopen on July 9 at 6pm. Each property will limit the number of patrons to maintain social distancing, and employees will wear masks and gloves. Employees will be screened before every shift and trained on all new health protocols.

Players will find distanced slot machines for their gambling entertainment, but SIGA will not authorize any table games at this time. Electronic versions of games like blackjack and three-card poker will substitute.

SIGA President and CEO Zane Hansen noted the hard work being done to prepare for safe reopenings. “I’m very excited for our team members to return to what they do best – providing the best entertainment experience possible for our guests, even if that experience now looks a bit different.”

Century Casinos Open

On June 13, Century Casinos opened all of its Alberta casinos in coordination with Alberta Health Services. That followed the opening of associated restaurants and off-track betting operations June 1.

Century management noted that its casinos implemented “comprehensive sanitizing and social distancing protocols.” The details of requirements for customers are not so readily available, however. Casino websites ask patrons to cover their mouths when they cough, wash their hands often, and stay two metres apart from others. The onus seems to be on the customers.

Gateway Casinos Undecided

Some of Gateway Casinos & Entertainment’s properties could have opened by now. The governments of Ontario and Alberta gave approvals to many venues already.

It seems that Gateway wants to prepare a protocol schedule that will stand for all of its properties, and it is not ready. This means that its 27 gaming properties in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia remain closed with no opening date on the calendar.

Even so, many of its restaurants in the casino properties have reopened.

At the same time, business dealings hit a rough patch as well.

A December 2019 agreement to sell Gateway to a New York-based acquisition company – Leisure Acquisition – for $1.5 billion is on hold. Several postponements regarding the closing of the deal pushed it to April, then June, and now December. Leisure noted recently that it may terminate the agreement if the deal is not complete by July 15, 2020. That is next week.

The Leisure buyout of Gateway was also going to put Gateway on the New York Stock Exchange. Taking the company public may now be on hold or cancelled as well, depending upon the outcome of the deal.

Caesars Windsor: Not Yet

Caesars Entertainment recently opened its properties across America. With no nationwide regulations in place and few states wanting to wait longer to open casinos, Caesars allowed most of its casinos to open their doors. Time will tell if they remain open.

The Caesars Windsor property north of the border, however, did not open. And there is no word as to when it will unlock its doors. Caesars has not commented on the reopening, despite Ontario having given the green light to many other businesses to reopen.

One of the issues may be that the Windsor property derives about one-third of its business from US customers, and the border remains closed indefinitely.


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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