Along with other casinos in British Columbia, River Rock Casino (pictured above) is ready to reopen on July 1 as the province enters the third stage of its COVID-19 restart plan. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Province to ease restrictions
Casinos remain some of the last properties not to have reopened in British Columbia as the Canadian province gradually lifts its COVID-19 restrictions. However, that could soon change with the region set to enter the third step of its coronavirus reopening plan on July 1.
Although the provincial government has not officially announced that casinos will reopen, operators in the region are confident that they will welcome customers again this week. River Rock Casino, British Columbia’s largest casino operated by Great Canadian Casinos (GCC), tweeted earlier this month to confirm the reopening date:
The British Columbia Lottery Corporation, the gaming regulator in the province, has confirmed that casinos must adhere to certain restrictions when they do reopen. Measures will include mandatory spacing between slot machines and plexiglass barriers between card tables and casino cages. Staff must also undergo training regarding health and safety protocols.
Casino operators raring to go
British Columbia is the only Canadian province that has forced its casinos to remain closed throughout the entire pandemic. They shut down in March 2020 and have remained that way since. Because of the detrimental impact this has had on gaming revenue, operators have expressed excitement over plans to finally reopen this week.
we are gearing up and we are all in”
Chuck Keeling is executive vice president of GCC, which operates nine casinos in the province including Vancouver’s Hastings Park and Hard Rock Casino. Commenting on the reopening, he said: “It won’t be official until the provincial government announces it, but at this point, we are gearing up and we are all in, in terms of getting ready for July 1.”
Keeling said GCC has already called back hundreds of furloughed employees in preparation for the reopening. “We’re running north of 90% of those that we are calling… they’re coming back,” he added. Although his company has avoided labor shortages reported by some other hospitality businesses, Keeling said GCC will face challenges from “systemic issues across the market.”
GCC’s revenue plummeted in Q1 this year with its casinos closed. The firm reported revenue of $52.3m during the quarter, a drop of 81% year-on-year. Net loss grew to $44.2m during Q1 from $28.5m in 2020, while adjusted EBITDA fell 80% to $20.5m.
Canada’s gradual reopening
Canada’s provinces are in different stages of reopening as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the country. In total, around 59% of the nation’s casinos are open, although the majority of these still have strict capacity restrictions in place.
Casinos saw high traffic numbers over the reopening weekend despite restrictions
Earlier this month, gamblers returned to casinos in Saskatchewan after more than six months of closures in the province. The reopenings came as the region entered phase two of its COVID-19 plan, but gambling venues remain limited to a 150-person capacity. Casinos saw high traffic numbers over the reopening weekend despite restrictions.
Similarly, Loto-Quebec began gradually resuming business at its gaming properties in Quebec following an easing of restrictions this month. The state-run corporation relaunched operations at its bingo and kino halls on June 14 and followed this with a number of its casinos restarting on June 21. The operator expects to reopen Casino de Montreal on June 30.
Alberta entered phase two of its ‘Open for Summer Plan’ in early June, allowing Century Casinos and other operators to reopen their casinos in the state. Gambling venues in Alberta closed down in December 2020. The province expects to enter stage three of its reopening plan on July 1, lifting all remaining restrictions.