Ontario Casinos OK to Reopen as Early as Friday as COVID-19 Wanes

Posted on: July 12, 2021, 10:09h. 

Last updated on: July 13, 2021, 11:50h.

Great Canadian Gaming Corp. announced on Monday it will take the necessary action to reopen 11 of their casinos in Canada’s most populous province this Friday.

Ontario casinos
Casino Woodbine in Toronto is one of 11 Ontario-based casinos owned by Great Canadian Gaming Corp. that will reopen Friday after officials in the province moved up the start date to Step Three of the reopening process. (Image: OneToronto.com)

This Friday, July 16, is the new date that Ontario will enter into Step Three of its COVID Reopening Plan. Previously, officials had said that the province wouldn’t start that phase until at least 21 days after entering Step Two, which the province began on July 1.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said last Friday, July 9, that the province surpassed the benchmarks necessary to enter the next phase.

For casinos, that means they will be able to open at 50 percent capacity by the end of this week.

The expedited reopening date comes after representatives from the Canadian Gaming Association, national tourism and hospitality officials, and Ontario municipal leaders called for the province to reopen casinos and other tourist attractions.

Casinos in Ontario were among the last gaming facilities left closed in the country. Some, such as Caesars Windsor and two casinos in Niagara, closed at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 and have remained that way since.

For most of 2021, while US casinos enjoyed a strong reopening – even at reduced capacities because of COVID-19 social distancing guidelines – their Canadian counterparts for the most part remained closed, as the provinces did not have the same access to vaccines early in the year. That led to a prolonged wave of cases that taxed hospitals and other health resources.

Great Canadian CEO: Staff Displayed “Resilience”

The Great Canadian venues that will reopen this Friday are: 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.

Great Canadian Interim CEO Terrance Doyle said in a statement that the company is prepared to have thousands of workers return to their jobs.

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,” Doyle said. “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.”

In Monday’s release, Great Canadian added that the Pickering Casino Resort will open its gaming floor in the near future. Before the pandemic, it was slated to open in April 2020. While company officials said the casino will open in the short term, the rest of the resort’s amenities open next year.

Great Canadian owns 14 properties in Ontario. Two of those are harness tracks. Georgian Downs is already open and holding races, even though the bettors and spectators aren’t allowed to watch races at the Innisfill track. Flamboro Downs will resume live racing in September. 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 along with Fallsview Casino Resort is owned by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. and operated by Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, tweeted Sunday that the two properties “are reviewing the requirements” and will announce a reopening date in the near future.

Those two casinos employ more than 4,000 people, Burns said in a press conference last week.

Caesars Windsor, which operates across from Detroit, plans to make their reopening announcement as early as Tuesday.

Those three southern casinos, which sit directly across the US border, attract more than 12 million visitors annually, Burns said last week. About 25 percent come from outside Ontario.