Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd., which owns Kamloops’ two casinos, is in the middle of reopening preparations as B.C.’s gambling industry prepares a return to business under COVID-19 safety protocols.
On Tuesday, May 25, the provincial government announced its four-step plan for easing restrictions under the pandemic, with casinos and bingo halls getting the green light as early as July 1, depending on case counts and immunizations, after being shuttered for more than a year, since March 2020.
The BC Lottery Corporation has released details outlining what changes patrons can expect to see at places such as Aberdeen’s Cascades and the North Shore’s Chances casinos, which includes Plexiglass barriers at table games and players prohibited from touching their cards.
According to the BCLC, specific reopening details for each casino are being developed through consultation between the Kamloops-based Crown corporation and its service providers, ministry staff, public-health officials and WorkSafe BC.
Gateway spokesperson Tanya Gabara was not able to confirm if the company will open its Kamloops, or all its operations, if permitted, on July 1. Nor could she confirm if pre-closure staffing levels will be restored at the Kamloops casinos or what their occupancy limits will be.
Gabara told KTW via email that the company can only confirm what has been released by BCLC. She said Gateway is working as quickly as possible to finalize plans and that she will have more information “in the coming days.”
“But I can say we are very excited to see casinos and community gaming centres included in [Tuesday’s] announcement of the provincial restart plan,” Gabara said. “We look forward to welcoming everyone back as early as July 1, 2021.”
According to the BCLC, at least two metres of space will be required between table games, slot machines and other gambling equipment to support social distancing. Barriers will be in place where physical distancing isn’t possible or where casino employees, such as dealers or cash-cage staff, must interact with players.
Occupancies will be reduced to match the number of seats on gambling floors, in combination with occupancy for adjoining restaurants and lounges. Players won’t be permitted to touch their cards and, as a result, only table games that allow for cards to be dealt face-up will be available, with the exception of squeeze baccarat, which utilizes one-time-use cards.
The BCLC said casino staff will be required to complete detailed training about enhanced health and safety protocols and will monitor capacity and other facility standards, including air quality.
The industry has been preparing its COVID-19 protocols since as early as last summer.
Gabara said Gateway has been working diligently for months to make its facilities a safe environment for the return of both guests and employees, noting casinos are among the most highly regulated environments and, as such, staff are familiar with the implementation and enforcement of strict compliance requirements.