On Sunday morning, dozens of people formed a line outside Casino Regina.
One of them was Bradford Jones. He said he was hoping for a taste of regular life and that he was looking to “get back out into the world (and) feel a little normal again.”
Saskatchewan residents can now visit casinos and bingo halls again as of Sunday, June 20, after the province moved to the second phase of the reopening plan and removed COVID-19 public health restrictions.
A maximum of 150 people are allowed in the venues, as well as recreational facilities and libraries, according to the government.
The casino in Regina informed Global News that it was full 45 minutes after it opened.
Shanna Schulhauser, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Gaming Commission, said it’s a good sign because the COVID-19 closure cost them.
She told Global News that “We’ve been looking forward to it for weeks,”
She also added that “Once we were confirmed that we were able to reopen in (Step) Two, we immediately went into reopen mode and started dusting off our plans,” standing in the Casino Regina lobby shortly before doors opened at 9 a.m.
She told Global News that the casino had lately been closed for around six months and had been closed for a total of ten months.
She estimated the cost of the closure at “about $100 million in lost revenue.”
She explained that the reopening meant they could resume accepting payments and that the casino could begin recalling more employees.
She added that in December, the casino temporarily laid off 570 full-time staff. The remaining 327 will return when the third phase of the reopening plan begins on June 20, according to Schulhauser.
Staff have implemented health measures such as limiting games, requiring patrons to maintain adequate social distance, and evaluating customers for COVID symptoms.
Staff are keeping health and safety in mind, according to Schulhauser, and are excited to return.
The general manager of City Centre Bingo in Saskatoon claimed the same thing.
When government regulations forced the doors shut, Gordy Ouellette told Global News that he fired the whole staff of about 40 employees late last November.
He said the bingo hall suffered “severe financial losses.”
He added that “It’s going to be a couple years battling back from it,” adding that forecast assumes the bingo hall can have a full complement of customers.
With less than 150 customers, the bingo hall, according to Ouellette, is unable to pay its bills.
Both he and Schulhauser said they’re looking forward to the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions in Phase Three, which is scheduled for July 11.
Before the COVID-19 Delta variant spread across the country, Saskatchewan planned a reopening strategy.
Schulhauser said the casino’s staff was focused on the reopening, but she was concerned about another wave of the pandemic.
Ouellette expressed his hope that the case counts remain low.
For now, one player says she’s enjoying the sense of community.
Candace Nicklin said that “It’s just fun to get together and see friends,” telling Global News she’s played bingo with her parents and sisters since she was a child.
She expressed her desire to return to the venue once the government announced its reopening.
And it paid off. She already won $500 before the interview.