There is a light at the end of the tunnel for casino operators in Canada.
Closed since the middle of March by the provincial governments due to the Covid-19 pandemic casinos in Ontario and New Brunswick are set to reopen on September 28th. Casinos all across Canada became a casualty of the pandemic as they were identified very early by individual provincial
governments as a potential health risk to Canadians as the country fought the spread of the Coronavirus with all it’s legislative power.
The Provincial health authorities recognized that casino patrons are often in very close proximity with other gamblers, as well as casino staff such as dealers, waitresses and bartenders. If casinos were to remain open, a super-spreader situation could easily be imagined so drastic measures were taken in the interest of public health. While many jobs were put on hold or lost altogether, both the Federal and Provincial governments had little choice but to close casinos down as they are charged with keeping the public safe.
Larger questions remain regarding what the landscape of the brick and mortar casino industry will look like coming out of the pandemic. After being asked to isolate for six months, there are fears that the general public might not be comfortable standing elbow to elbow with other gamblers at a roulette wheel or blackjack table. Poker tables present more acute issues as patrons are notorious for passing illnesses to others as there is more focused interaction between players with poker chips and cards as they travel around the table. Operators must consider the future risk tolerance of it’s customers that enjoy table games as the future of the current model of casino operations depends on those players eventually coming back at the historical levels that the industry has seen for decades.
The reopening of casinos in Ontario and New Brunswick only allows for slot machines to start. Also, the casinos will have to operate under the no more than fifty people in a building restriction currently in place in both provinces. No other amenities are allowed to operate, such as bars or restaurants, so the overall casino experience will be much different until gatherings of larger numbers are allowed by the Provincial authorities Great Canadian Gaming Corporation executive Rob Baker stated that “The reductions will be especially significant for our Ontario properties where, due to the 50-guest maximum restriction, we expect no material financial benefit to the company from our 11 Ontario locations”.
Baker continued, “I’m pleased we are able to safely reopen our facilities in Ontario and New Brunswick, allowing us to bring back to work team members in each province. Once open, gaming revenues in each jurisdiction will be significantly reduced due to operating restrictions.” Casinos in British Columbia remain closed, the Provincial Government has not provided a timeline for casino operators to reopen as Coronavirus cases have not subsided to levels that the government deems as safe.