Some Canadian Casinos Begin to Cautiously Reopen

The Canadian government and its health officials have implemented a slow, cautious reopening plan after the coronavirus pandemic prompted mass closures in mid-March. While the virus remains alive and threatening, the plans to reduce the spread have worked. And as nonessential businesses begin to open their doors once again, casinos join that group with great vigilance mixed with hope.

Canadian Coronavirus Status

The charts for Canada overall show great progress in reducing the spread of Covid-19.

As of June 24, the number of reported cases is at an extreme low,. The journey to that point was not easy, as evidenced by this chart. It shows the peak happening in mid-April and the reduction of cases that followed, with great strides punctuated by temporary setbacks.

Covid chart

To date, Canada recorded 102,242 cases that resulted in 8,484 deaths. Per territory, Quebec and Ontario were the ones with the majority of cases.

  • Quebec = 54,937 cases, 5,441 deaths
  • Ontario = 34,016 cases, 2,631 deaths
  • Alberta = 7,825 cases, 153 deaths
  • British Columbia = 2,849 cases, 171 deaths
  • Nova Scotia = 1,061 cases, 63 deaths
  • Saskatchewan = 757 cases, 13 deaths
  • Manitoba = 315 cases, 7 deaths
  • Newfoundland and Labrador = 261 cases, 3 deaths
  • New Brunswick = 165 cases, 2 deaths
  • Prince Edward Island = 27 cases, 0 deaths
  • Repatriated travelers = 13 cases, 0 deaths
  • Yukon = 11 cases, 0 deaths
  • Northwest Territories = 5 cases, 0 deaths

With all of that in mind, territories have begun to open businesses in phases, with casinos finally starting to take the padlocks off their doors.

Casino Companies Follow Protocols

Large corporations that operate numerous casinos across Canada have worked closely with local governments to follow the rules and open their properties cautiously.

The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation received authorizations in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick this month, but the company has yet to establish an official reopening date. GCG operates Casino Nova Scotia properties and Casino New Brunswick in their respective territories.

Century Casinos operates five properties in Alberta and resumed their operations on June 13. This applied to Century Casino Edmonton, St. Albert, and Calgary, as well as Century Mile and Century Downs. All properties opened for slot machine play, VLTs, and off-track betting, all with sanitization and social distancing measures in place.

However, Century Casinos has yet to authorize any table game play. That includes everything from blackjack to roulette and poker.

Gateway Casinos & Entertainment began opening its signature MATCH Eatery and Public House locations in casinos around in British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta. The company’s website made no announcement about its significant number of casino properties, though.

Individual Casino Openings

Several Alberta casinos under the management of Gamehost opened last week, including Boomtown Casino, Great Northern Casino, and Deerfoot Casino. The initial welcoming process opened slot machines, along with food and beverage services, but allowed for no table game play.

River Cree Resort and Casino was another Alberta establishment that recently reopened. The June 12 door-opening offered slot machine play only.

Government Orders

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union represents casino employees and worked with officials to begin the reopening process. Manitoba casino supervisors returned to work this week to prepare for the anticipated July 2 opening. That date may change, however, as Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries must approve casino plans and authorize their reopening.

Saskatchewan put casinos and bingo halls in its Phase 4.2 in the reopening plan, alongside movie theaters, libraries, and museums. Though officials have dipped their toes into the Phase 4 waters, there is no date for these types of establishments in which social distancing will be more difficult.

British Columbia gaming facilities may be given authorizations to reopen soon, but the BCLC and Attorney General David Eby are being cautious. They have noted that any types of table games involving cards and chips – like poker – will be last on the list of activities to restart.

Ontario is one of the provinces yet to authorize casino reopenings, but representatives of the gambling properties appeared before a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs to plead for the opportunity. They expressed concerns about the economic impact of the lockdown thus far and the importance of reopening soon.

CGA Helps Push to Reopen

Canadian Gaming Association President and CEO Paul Burns has been making the rounds and speaking with government officials to urge them to authorize casinos to reopen. Burns attended the Ontario meeting and has been using the CGA’s influence to try to push for reopenings.

A recent post on the CGA website noted that Alberta and Nova Scotia were the first to welcome charitable gaming centres and casinos to reopen, and others should follow.

“The Canadian gaming industry is uniquely qualified to implement enhanced health and safety measures,” the website read, “as we are the most highly regulated industry in the hospitality sector, and gaming sites implement operating standards that cover all facets of our operations on a daily basis.”

Further, the CGA pointed out that there were approximately 100,000 front-line employees out of work during the coronavirus-related shutdowns. The CGA is advocating for as many of them as possible to return to work.


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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