They were one of the last things to close and may be one of the last to reopen but Ontario’s casinos and bingo halls are asking legislators at Queen’s Park to give them the green light sooner rather than later.
Representatives of the gaming industry were appearing before the finance and economic affairs committee at Queen’s Park on Friday. It was part of a full day of briefings for the committee from various parts of the tourism and hospitality industry impacted by COVID-19.
MPPs heard from people representing organizations such as the McMichael gallery in Kleinburg, the Stratford Festival, hotel operators in Niagara Falls as well as caterers and convention facility operators. Each industry explained how they have been impacted by the pandemic and what they need to make it back.
Paul Burns, president and CEO of the Canadian Gaming Association, told MPPs casinos in border areas such as New York are opening up and Niagara Falls and Windsor should be able to open as well.
The industry has developed a framework for reopening that includes a maximum of 50% occupancy, physical distancing, extensive cleaning and disinfecting as well as elimination of many playing spots.
Slots, normally packed closely together, would be set up so that customers are not sitting close to each other. At table games like blackjack and poker, seats would be removed to ensure proper spacing.
If and when casinos open, the industry is proposing that bingo halls open later.
“When bingo resumes, tables will have chairs removed or covered and staggered seating will be utilized to ensure physical distancing requirements are met,” Burns told the committee.
Cam Johnstone, CEO of Delta Bingo, said charities are hurting with bingo halls closed. Delta is the biggest player in the Ontario industry and Johnstone estimates charities affiliated with his halls will lose $10 million this year, across the province, charities will lose $20 million.
“I think the Premier has done a great job, as well as could have been done under the circumstances, but it’s time to get people back to work, especially in the northern regions,” Johnstone said.
No word yet on when casinos and bingo halls will be allowed to open.