Wednesday marked a key day for Great Canadian Gaming Corp., as the Toronto-based company reopened its two Nova Scotia casinos for the first time in more than six weeks.
GCGC’s Halifax casino was shut down on April 22, as Nova Scotia leaders sought to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the Atlantic province’s capital region. Five days later, the Sydney casino was also closed, as the shutdown order was then applied across the province.
According to the government’s website, Nova Scotia is on Phase 2 of its reopening plan. That means the casinos and other places that offer video lottery terminals can operate at up to 50 percent capacity. They must abide by the 2-meter social distancing guideline for people outside of their “close social group,” and they must wear masks.
The casinos are also required to close by midnight.
On its Facebook page, the Halifax casino said its hours will be from 11 am to midnight daily, with high-limit tables open at 4 pm and the main floor tables open on weekends from 2 pm to close.
If all goes well in the next two weeks, Nova Scotia will move to Phase 3. That will enable the casinos to operate at 75 percent capacity, but still maintain social distancing and mask requirements. Hours of operation would be extended to 1 am.
July 14, the expected start date for Phase 4, would be the earliest the casinos could resume operating at maximum capacity, while observing distancing and mask mandates.
Closing the Nova Scotia casinos was a blow to GCGC. They were shut down for seven months at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. Both reopened on Oct. 5, but the Halifax location closed again on Nov. 26 through Jan. 11.
When both closed in late April, it meant that the company’s Casino New Brunswick was the only commercial casino still open in Canada.
The company’s Ontario casinos have been closed for a second time since at least Christmas Eve. Casino Woodbine has been closed since Oct. 9, less than two weeks after reopening.
In British Columbia, the casinos have remained closed for 15 months, having not reopened since the initial closure order was issued on March 16, 2020.
We are excited to reopen both of our Casino Nova Scotia properties, call our team members back to work, and welcome back our guests,” Interim CEO Terrance Doyle said in a statement. “We feel this important development is a precursor to the reopenings we are also eagerly anticipating in British Columbia and Ontario, based on the success of the country’s vaccination program thus far.”
The company operates 26 gaming and entertainment venues across Canada.
Unlike their US counterparts, which have set revenue records in recent months, Canadian casinos were forced to close as the provinces all reported outbreaks earlier this year. The country, which imports its medicine from US suppliers, did not have enough vaccines to treat large swaths of the population.
However, as the vaccine became more prevalent, America’s neighbor to the north has shot up the charts. This week, Our World in Data reported that the country became the top country in terms of population that’s received at least one dose of the vaccine. As of Tuesday, 65.4 percent of all Canadians have received at least one shot.
Part of that is because of the country’s efforts to get as many people partially vaccinated as soon as possible. It’s a calculated trade-off, meaning people may wait months instead of the recommended three or four weeks for their second shot.
Still, the strategy has allowed casinos in other provinces to reopen. Last week, Century Casinos announced it reopened its venues in Alberta, and SaskGaming announced its two casinos in Saskatchewan will reopen on Sunday.