On Monday, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. said that it would take the necessary steps to reopen 11 of its casinos in Canada’s most populous province on Friday.
The new date for Ontario to begin Step Three of its COVID Reopening Plan is this Friday, July 16. Officials had previously stated that the province would not begin that phase until at least 21 days after beginning Step Two, which began on July 1.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced last Friday, July 9, that the province has met the requirements to move on to the next step.
This means that casinos will be able to open at 50% capacity by the end of the week.
Representatives from the Canadian Gaming Association, national tourism and hospitality officials, and Ontario municipal leaders all called for casinos and other tourist attractions to reopen as soon as possible.
Casinos in Ontario were among the last in the country to close their doors. Some, like Caesars Windsor and two casinos in Niagara, closed when the pandemic began in March 2020 and haven’t reopened since.
While US casinos enjoyed a significant reopening – even at lower capacity due to COVID-19 social distancing standards – their Canadian counterparts stayed closed for the majority of the year, as the provinces did not have the same early access to vaccines. That led to a prolonged wave of cases that taxed hospitals and other health resources.
Great Canadian CEO: Staff Displayed “Resilience”
Casino Woodbine, Great Blue Heron Casino, Casino Ajax, Elements Casino Mohawk, Elements Casino Flamboro, Elements Casino Brantford, Elements Casino Grand Rivers, Shorelines Casino Belleville, Shorelines Casino Peterborough, Shorelines Casino Thousand Islands, and Shorelines Slots at Kawartha Downs are among the Great Canadian venues that will reopen on Friday.
Terrance Doyle, Interim CEO of Great Canadian, stated in a statement that the company is preparing to rehire thousands of workers.
Doyle said that “I want to thank our entire team for their resilience and patience the last 17 months, and I look forward to working with our team and welcoming our guests back to our Ontario properties. As we move into the current stage of the provincial plan to reopen the economy, I’m eager to continue working with key stakeholders on the next phase of reopening when it is deemed safe to do so.”
The Pickering Casino Resort will open its gaming floor in the near future, according to Great Canadian’s announcement on Monday. It was supposed to open in April 2020 before the pandemic. The casino will open soon, according to company officials, but the rest of the resort’s amenities will open next year.
In Ontario, Great Canadian owns 14 properties. Harness tracks are two of them. Even though bettors and spectators are not permitted to watch races at the Innisfill track, Georgian Downs is already open and holding races. In September, Flamboro Downs will restart live racing. But for now, the Dundas venue remains closed as well.
The company also owns and operates casinos in British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
Windsor, Niagara Casinos Planning Reopening
Great Canadian isn’t the only casino operator in the province.
Casino Niagara, which is owned by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation and operated by Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, tweeted on Sunday that the two properties are “reviewing the requirements” and will announce a reopening date soon.
Burns claimed in a press conference last week that the two casinos employ over 4,000 workers.
Caesars Windsor, which operates across from Detroit, plans to reopen as soon as Tuesday.
According to Burns, the three southern casinos, which are located right across the US border, attract more than 12 million visitors each year. About 25 percent come from outside Ontario.