Casinos and bingo halls in Ontario are seeking permission to re-open earlier, after a report emerged claiming representatives of the casino industry association appeared before the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee on Friday, during the briefing day for the tourism and hospitality industry impacted by the temporary closures.
Casinos Up and Ready
As each sector of the industry had the chance to explain the degree of material impact of the still ongoing health crisis on the business, Paul Burns, President and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) used the opportunity to outline before the committee members the industry’s preparedness to resume operations.
Mr Burns informed the committee that casinos in border areas are ready to re-open and will soon be followed by those in Niagara Falls and Windsor, as the industry developed an extensive list of measures to mitigate risk, including 50% capacity, physical distancing, improved cleaning protocols to implement disinfection, as well as eliminating playing spots. Slots that are generally packed closely together will be set up differently, to allow for space between players, while table games such as blackjack and poker will feature removed seats from the tables.
The recent development brought clarity to the situation regarding casino intentions to re-open, as earlier in June there was a report stating that casinos were not in a hurry to return to business, amid the industry uncertainty. One of the largest operator, Gateway Casinos, halted construction of its new multi-million-dollar facility in North Bay, which was expected to open this year, yet the company explained its focus lies in getting back to operations its existing casino facilities in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.
Hope Regulars Will Return
But the re-opening of the casinos does not mean the return of their guests, as many of them are seniors and will definitely be weary to return amid the existing health risk, albeit mitigated by the gaming venues. Some industry analysts even go further to suggest casino operators should start talking to customers through loyalty programs, as well as inform them on what casinos could look like after the re-open.
Unlike casinos which are pushing for an early re-start, the industry is proposing to re-open bingo halls later, of course with the necessary requirements to ensure physical distancing in place, including removing or covering chairs from tables and utilizing staggered seating.
The question that remains to be answered is how many of the land-based gaming facilities regulars switched to the online gaming options during the casino closures and how many of them will be willing to return. If gambling preferences have permanently changed to online gaming, it will place the casinos at a significant disadvantage, on top of the one related to sports betting.