British Columbia Casinos Remain on Lockdown Year into Pandemic

With British Columbia’s casinos on shutdown for nearly a year now, the province has no fixed plans as to when a full-scale reopening my happen.

British Columbia Casinos Continue to Face Hardships 

For the past 350-odd days, casinos in British Columbia have been on lockdown. On March 16, 2020, Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry said that all gambling facilities must shutdown and comply with public health protocols with the country facing the highly-infectious disease brought on by the COVID-19 virus. 

Now, with a year almost gone, gaming businesses are still in the dark as to when they could flip the lights back on. This comes in the context of growing support for legalized online casinos and sports betting in the country, but hardly any support for BC’s ailing casino businesses.         

However, stakeholders are already on the move. BC Lottery Corporation, head of iGaming Stewart Groumoutis has confirmed that the regulator is already looking into possible solutions, involving stakeholders in the process. 

However, no exact date can be given as to when BC casinos may restart operations. Cited by media outlets, Groumoutis explained the difficulties regulators and health authorities face in reintroducing casino businesses to public access.

“It’s a complex consideration for what that looks like for reopening. We are in constant contact, and we can say that the conversations are very positive. Everybody recognizes this is something we all collectively want to happen.”

BC Lottery Corporation, head of iGaming Stewart Groumoutis

Optimistic Despite the Turndown

Casinos have incurred expenses from not just failing to turn a profit for an entire year but also the ad-hoc measures they have had to adapt to. Properties had to re-order their gaming floor layouts so as to ensure that social distancing was kept on the off-chance they were allowed to return to work.

In some cases, rearranging gaming floors cost owners up to $2 million. Chances Gaming, a gaming venue in Kelowna, had to remove all its 400 bingo seats and then space out the remaining slots so as to comply with health prerequisites, said owner Stan Walt

Despite these costs, though, Walt has been bidding his time. He said that he would be willing to reopen any time regulators give a formal go-ahead with an additional ventilation system ready to kick in and keep air purified and fresh. 

However, with social distancing measures in place, seeing bingo return would be a tough sell. Walt is optimistic even though he doesn’t foresee a full return to normalcy until late 2022 or even 2023, and he told Castanet.

While the pandemic has proven difficult for casinos, so has a corruption case probing links between gambling bosses and organized crime groups in British Columbia. 

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