BC Casinos Reopen After 16-Month Shutdown, Live Single-Game Betting Soon

Posted on: June 30, 2021, 11:56h. 

Last updated on: July 1, 2021, 08:31h.

After being closed since March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, casinos in the Canadian province of British Columbia will finally reopen on Thursday morning.

BC Casinos reopening
The River Rock Casino in Richmond, BC, is one of nine Great Canadian Gaming Corp. casinos slated to reopen Thursday for the first time since March 2020. (Image: Richmond News)

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. issued a release early Wednesday morning announcing that its nine gaming venues in the country’s far western province would reopen the following day. One of its properties, Hard Rock Casino Vancouver, is scheduled to open its door at 7 am PT.

Just weeks ago, the company had only one of its 26 casino properties open. As of Thursday, nearly half of them will be.

Allowing casinos to reopen on Thursday had been anticipated to take place for weeks. July 1 had been the targeted date for British Columbia to enter into Step 3 of BC’s Restart, the province’s COVID reopening plan.

Getting there means at least 70 percent of the province’s population has received at least one dose, and the province’s case count and hospitalization rate continue to decline.

In the statement, Great Canadian Interim CEO Terrance Doyle resuming operations is an “exciting development” for the company.

Importantly, these reopenings mean over 1,000 of our team members returning to work and generating revenue for the province and our communities,” Doyle added. “With the reopening of our properties in Ontario on the horizon, we are poised to begin rebuilding our business.”

Under the BC reopening plan, casinos – along with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs – will operate at reduced capacity. For casinos, that means gaming stations can operate at around 50 percent of capacity.

As a result, the number of available slots will be reduced, as will the number of seats at table games. Great Canadian added that food and beverage service at its establishments would be limited for now.

Ontario Casinos Reopening Likely in Three Weeks

Besides the Hard Rock, Great Canadian’s properties in British Columbia are River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, Elements Casino Victoria, Elements Casino Surrey, Casino Nanaimo, Elements Casino Chilliwack, Hastings Racecourse, Chances Maple Ridge, and Chances Dawson Creek.

With BC casinos soon to open, the rest of Great Canadian’s casinos that remain closed are based in Ontario. However, it will be at least three weeks before gaming venues there reopen.

Canada’s most populous province just entered Step 2 of its reopening plan on Wednesday. Casinos can reopen with restrictions when Ontario enters Step 3. That will require at least 70 percent of adults there to have one shot of a vaccine, with 25 percent fully vaccinated.

Great Canadian operates 14 casinos in Ontario, and other companies – including Caesars Entertainment and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment – also operate casinos there.

Unlike the US, which had plenty of vaccines early in the year and were able to get more people vaccinated in the spring, Canadian officials could not get the same access to vaccines, as the country imports most of its medicines from its southern neighbor. So, while US casinos were reporting record-breaking performances, nearly all casinos in Canada were ordered to close or stay closed, as officials sought to contain the virus.

Single-Game Sports Betting Bill Clears Final Step

Casinos reopening in British Columbia may not be the only good gaming news for the province.

On Tuesday, C-218, the bill that legalizes single-game sports betting in Canada, finally became law, as it received the Royal Assent, the last stage it needed to clear. When the bill will take effect remains to be seen.

“Bill C-218 will come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council,” Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti said in a statement Wednesday.

Last week, the British Columbia Lottery Corp. (BCLC) said PlayNow.com, its sports betting application, would be able to offer single-game betting “shortly” after the Royal Assent. Currently, PlayNow only allows customers to make parlay, or multi-game, bets.

BCLC reaffirmed that statement Wednesday on Twitter, saying PlayNow would be able to offer single-sports betting “on the date the federal government” makes the law effective.

PlayNow is also available in Manitoba.