asinos across Ontario are cleared to reopen Friday at 50 percent capacity as the Canadian province enters into Step 3 of its phased reopening roadmap. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has established an inter-agency task force to monitor cash transactions.
Gateway Casinos said it will reopen all its facilities as of today, except for Casino Rama, which will reopen July 29. Gaming venues in Hanover, Clinton, Sarnia, London and Woodstock all confirmed their openings for Friday.
As for Casino Niagara and Fallsview Casino, they will open for business starting July 23. Fallsview Casino will open 24-hours a day and in addition to the slot machines, it will offer “limited table games”. Table games and the poker room will not be available at Casino Niagara.
“We are excited to finally re-open casinos and community gaming centres across the province and welcome back our employees and valued customers into a very safe environment for gaming and dining. As always, the health and safety of our employees and customers are paramount,” said Tony Santo, CEO at Gateway Casinos. “We look forward to a safe and steady restart and the return to full operations as soon as possible.”
“We’re actually recalling staff that have been off since before the pandemic began, so March 2020. So, some of the employees have been off for 17 months. It’s been great to make those calls,” said Gateway Casino Hanover’s General Manager Derek Tierney, as reported by CTV News London. “Things will look a little different, but some things will look familiar. We’ve still got our directed signage on the floor, and hand sanitizing stations. Our buffet won’t be open yet, but it’s still really good to be reopening.”
All gaming centres will operate under provincial COVID-19 guidelines, with PPE for staff, mandatory masking for guests, hand sanitation stations on the gaming floor, and plexiglass barriers. Table games will remain off-limits, and the casino's buffets won’t be available yet either.
As for the new task force, it consists of representatives from the AGCO, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG). In July 2020, Canada’s financial intelligence unit, FINTRAC, released a report that showed a marked decrease in the amount of Large Cash Transaction and Casino Disbursement Reports being filed since lockdowns were instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also raised concerns about money laundering methods that involve the placement of illicit cash into the legitimate financial system.
The task force will be closely watching cash transactions at casinos and member agencies can take appropriate action within their legislative mandate if any unusual patterns or transactions of concern are identified.
“OLG maintains strong relationships with our task force partners and looks forward to continuing our collaboration to monitor and detect potential money laundering. Money laundering has no place in Ontario’s gaming industry. As patrons return to the province’s casinos and gaming sites, we will be working closely with our colleagues at the ACGO and OPP to proactively identify suspected illicit cash and ensure that appropriate actions are taken using our capabilities and those of our task force partners,” said Ian Messenger, Director, Anti-Money Laundering, OLG.
Casinos in Ontario closed in March 2020, reopened October 2020, shut down again in December 2020, reopened once more in February 2021, and closed again in April.