Employees and customers were back at Casino Rama this week. The reopening comes after a more than three-week shutdown caused by a ransomware attack that impacted Gateway Casinos across Ontario.
Thirteen other Gateway casinos reopened throughout the province last week, including Gateway Casinos Innisfil and Playtime Casino Wasaga Beach. The reopening of Casino Rama means all 14 Gateway Casinos are once again welcoming customers.
On April 16, Gateway initially said its Ontario casinos were being closed due to a system-wide malfunction. However, the company would later admit that they were hit by a ransomware attack. As a result of the closures, many of the casino’s employees have been without a pay cheque for just over three weeks.
Staff, patrons happy to be back at Casino Rama
A small crowd anxiously waited outside Casino Rama’s main entrance just before the doors opened, ending the over three-week shutdown. Robert Mitchell, Gateway’s director of communications and public affairs, spoke to the local news outlet Orillia Matters. He said people seem comfortable returning to the casinos despite the shutdown and uncertainty about the nature of the attack.
“Customer response has been strong. The reception from customers as we welcomed them back to our casinos has been extremely positive at all our locations, including Casino Rama,” said Mitchell.
Slots and table games reopened May 9 along with Weirs, St. Germain’s Steakhouse and Centre Bar restaurants such as Simcoe Yard House. The Couchiching Court Buffet remained closed.
Difficult few years for casino employees
The shutdown came when some Casino Rama employees were still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, which left them out of work for around two years.
Greg Weaver, the second vice president for Unifor Local 1090, the union representing many of the casino’s staff, also spoke with Orillia Matters. He said the last few weeks were extremely difficult for employees left out of work due to the cyberattack.
“It was difficult both financially and mentally. It had a huge impact on their lives,” said Weaver. “Nobody expected this. It’s really hard to prepare for a cyberattack.”
Weaver says the members that are back are happy to return to work, noting that it will take some time for Casino Rama to get all systems operating at 100%.
“Not everybody is back to work,” said Weaver. “All the classifications are coming back. There may just be the odd staff shortage.”
During the downtime on the gaming floor, the hotel at the resort stayed open for guests, as well as two restaurants and the spa. The closure also saw the cancellation of several shows at Casino Rama’s premium entertainment centre. However, events were back to normal a week later. The venue is announcing the addition of nine more shows to its lineup. The list of acts includes two-time Grammy-nominated punk rock band Papa Roach and hit R&B group Blackstreet.
Gateway Casinos still investigating ransomware attack
Casino Rama was the last of Gateway Casino’s properties to reopen following the April 16 ransomware attack. Mitchell says it took time to get all the properties back online.
“Casino Rama Resort is the largest property we operate in Ontario and as such it has many complicated IT systems that simply took a bit longer to restore,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell would not provide details on whether Gateway paid a ransom to reopen. However, he did say that the company is cooperating with law enforcement and is not commenting on the ransomware actors. Mitchell also did not specify whether gamblers’ personal information had been compromised.
“Our utmost concern remains the protection of personal information. We are continuing to work with third-party experts on a 24/7 basis to determine if there has been any impact on personal information in this case,” said Mitchell. “We have notified the relevant privacy officials, law enforcement, and government regulators about the cyber incident and will continue to keep them apprised as we work to restore our operations.”
Gateway Casinos also did not specify who was behind the attack.