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Coronavirus: Why are B.C. bars open when casinos are closed?

Last Updated Aug 31, 2020 at 12:25 pm PST

FILE -- This Feb. 22, 2019 photo shows stacks of gambling chips at the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City N.J. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

Casinos will "last" on Dr. Bonnie Henry's list of B.C. businesses allowed to reopen

Closed indoor environment and older clientele make casinos risky for COVID-19

BCLC plans to reopen casinos once safety plan is approved

NEWS 1130 is working hard to get you the information you need about the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are responding to your questions in a segment we call NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.


Nancy: “Why would the province open nightclubs and strip bars in [Phase 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan] and not casinos? In casinos people aren’t naked and patrons aren’t drunk! In casinos people aren’t dancing and drinking and flirting at the slot machine! What is [provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie] Henry thinking? Or not thinking?”


B.C.’s restaurants, bars, hotels and many other businesses were allowed to reopen in May under new guidelines as part of Phase 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan. Nightclubs have been able to reopen, but restrictions force them to essentially operate like pubs” patrons must remain at assigned seating and dance floors are closed.

In Phase 3, hotels, resorts, spas and RV parks reopened.

But casinos aren’t specifically listed in any of the plan’s four phases.

Gambling facilities present a “more complicated consideration” than most businesses, according to the restart plan, and industry associations will have to come up with plans for safe operations before they can reopen.

On April 30, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said casinos “would be last on my list to consider for reopening at this point because we know that that type of environment is a closed environment – an inside environment.”

“We know that many of the people who frequent that environment are older people or people with underlying illnesses, perhaps. People who are more vulnerable to having severe illness from COVID-19.”

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation has submitted a plan for the safe reopening of casinos to WorkSafeBC and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, according to spokesperson Cecilia Ho.

Once the plan has been approved, BCLC will reopen facilities across the province, she said.

“Specifically, to support physical-distancing at B.C. casinos, BCLC plans to reconfigure seating at slot machines and table games to ensure a two-metre distance between players. Physical barriers (such as plexi-glass) would be installed where this is not possible or where casino employees, such as dealers or cash-cage staff, must interact with players,” Ho said.

She said casino employees will also ensure physical distancing is maintained and provide hand sanitizer.

“Ongoing [sanitation] of touch points and gambling equipment, such as chips, will occur. To minimize touch points, we are also planning that the types of table games offered will change to allow only games in which cards can be dealt face up, and that players will not be permitted to touch cards,” Ho said.

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