VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — B.C. casinos could be welcoming gamblers back as soon as Canada Day, but it’s a safe bet those venues won’t look the same as they did before they were shut down more than a year ago.
The province announced a four-phase reopening plan Tuesday, with each phase contingent upon low case counts and high vaccination rates. Phase Three will allow people who haven’t been able to play a slot machine or bet on a hand of blackjack since March of 2020 to get back in the game.
BCLC’s Lara Gerrits outlines some of the COVID-19 precautions people should expect.
“Players will notice that they look a little bit different than they did more than a year ago. There’ll be things like spacing between table games and slot machines; there’ll be new physical barriers – plexiglass – where physical distancing is not possible; capacity will be limited to about 65 per cent of active gaming seats … There won’t be congregation of people allowed to occur when we do reopen,” she explains.
Anyone hoping to visit a #BC casino as early as #CanadaDay will see something different than what gaming centres were like pre-#COVID19.@BCLC's @laragerrits tells @NEWS1130 seating will be at 65% previous capacity and barricades are up to ensure safe spacing. #bcpoli #gambling pic.twitter.com/YFW2zIxVSh
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) May 26, 2021
Reopening casinos won’t just allow the resumption of a pre-pandemic pastime, thousands of British Columbians will be able to return to work, and revenue can start flowing into the province’s coffers.
“Casinos offer safe entertainment and a socialization option for people. We’re excited to be a part of bringing people back together into this new normal that we’re all embarking on,” Gerrits says.
“At the same time, it’s important that casinos continue to generate revenue for provincial initiatives things like health care, education, community programs, and of course a share of the gaming revenue in B.C. and is also distributed to First Nations.”
In 2019, casinos and gaming generated more than $1.3 billion in revenue. The sector accounts for 37,000 jobs, with 10,000 British Columbians employed directly by casinos, racetracks, bingo halls, and other gaming establishments.