reat Canadian Gaming Corporation has announced it will shutter all 10 of its B.C. casinos and all its Ontario operations to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. The company said the “temporary” closures would go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, and were in conjunction with the BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC) and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), the governing bodies for all gaming in those provinces.
“While there have been no cases of COVID-19 reported at Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, this measure has been deemed to be in the best interests of the public’s health and the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19,” the company said in a statement.
Great Canadian owns 10 casinos in B.C., including the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, and Elements Casinos in Surrey, Chilliwack and Victoria. The Hastings Racecourse and Casino in Vancouver and Chances in both Maple Ridge and Dawson Creek are also affected.
The fate of all other casinos in B.C. is still an open question. BCLC would not say definitively if it was ordering casinos across the province to close. BCLC issued a statement earlier Sunday saying it was “actively monitoring” the “evolving situation” of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the meantime, BCLC said it had made operational changes along with casino operators to promote social distancing, following public health guidelines. Those measures include increasing space between slot machines and seats at table games. Additional hand sanitizing stations and cleaning measures have also been introduced, BCLC said. Signage has also been put up to inform players and staff of the new measures.
“We continue to permit players who wish to wear flu masks in B.C. casinos to do so, providing that all security identification protocols are followed,” the statement reads. One Vancouver casino, the Parq, confirmed it had announced to customers that it was ceasing casino promotions in an effort to encourage social distancing.
B.C. health officials have urged public and private entities to limit social gatherings to 250 people, leading to several questions on whether casinos would close. BCLC has answered many of those questions on social media with a rundown of the measures it is taking.
Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is temporarily shutting down all of its casinos as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. “The health and safety of casino customers and employees is a priority for OLG and its service providers,” a statement read Sunday. All casinos were expected to shut down by Monday.
The OLG says it will provide an update on when the casinos will reopen, taking into account guidance from public health authorities.
Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara also released a statement announcing the temporary closure of their casino and resort operations as a precautionary measure. “The health and wellness of our guests and associates is our top priority” said Niagara Casinos president Richard Taylor.
The news comes after Ontario confirmed 39 more cases of coronavirus, bringing the province’s total to 142. OLG made contributions of $992.8 million for the employment of 17,600 people at OLG, including the resort casinos it owns.
The union that represents the bulk of employees at Casino Rama, owned by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, is "currently and aggressively" pursuing a potential closure of the gaming facility due to the COVID-19 threat. Corey Dalton, president of Unifor Local 1090 said in a Facebook message Friday that Ontario casinos should immediately cease operations and follow Quebec’s lead.
Casino du Lac Leamy in Gatineau is one of four Quebec casinos shut down in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Loto-Québec, which operates the casinos, said the moves were in line with previous provincial government measures banning indoor meetings of more than 250 people.
The Crown corporation had already announced that stage shows were discontinued at the Casino Lac-Leamy and the Casino de Montréal.
In the original announcements, Loto-Québec said the closures were meant to be in effect until April 12, when the situation was expected to more stable. It’s unclear whether that remains the expected reopening date. The casinos and two provincial gaming halls have about 5,000 full- and part-time employees.