CGA: Ontario casinos ready to reopen, bingo halls to follow
Casinos and Bingo Halls in Ontario request authorization to reopen earlier, after a report emerged claiming representatives of the casino industry association appeared before the Finance and Economic Affairs Committee at Friday, during the information day for the tourism and hotel industry affected by the temporary closures.
As each sector of the industry has had the chance to explain the degree of material impact of the still ongoing health crisis on the company, Paul Burns, President and CEO of Canadian Gaming Association (CGA) took the opportunity to highlight to committee members the industry’s readiness to resume operations.
Mr. Burns informed the committee that casinos in border areas are set to reopen and will soon be followed by those in Niagara Falls and Windsor, while the industry has developed a long list of measures to mitigate risks, including 50% capacity, physical distancing, improved cleaning protocols to implement disinfection, as well as elimination of playing areas. Slot machines that are usually very close to each other will be configured differently, to leave space between players, while table games such as blackjack and poker will have seats removed from the tables.
Recent developments have clarified the situation regarding intentions to reopen casinos, as earlier in June the was a report stating that casinos were in no rush to resume operations, amid industry uncertainty. One of the biggest operators, Gateway Casinos, halted construction of its new multi-million dollar facility in North Bay, which was due to open this year, but the company explained that its goal was to put its existing casino facilities back into service in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Married.
I hope the regulars will come back
But the reopening of the casinos does not mean the return of their guests, as many of them are elderly and will certainly be tired of coming back amid the existing health risk, albeit mitigated by the gambling venues. Some industry analysts go even further, suggesting that casino operators should start talking to customers through loyalty programs, as well as educating them on what casinos might look like after reopening.
Unlike casinos which request an early restart, the industry is proposing to reopen bingo halls later, of course with the necessary requirements to ensure physical distancing in place, including the removal or covering of chairs from tables and the use of staggered seats.
The question that remains to be answered is how many regulars of land-based gambling facilities have switched to online gambling options during the casino closings and how many of them will be ready to return. If gaming preferences have permanently changed for online gaming, this will place casinos at a significant disadvantage, in addition to one related to sports betting.