Alberta is on the verge of welcoming back land-based gambling with casino and bingo halls making preparations about the imminent reopening. And while the preparations are taking place, the provincial government is expecting a surge of gambling enthusiasts, and it is working on health and safety measures in order to protect both casino staff and potential guests.
Due to the unprecedented situation back in December 2020, the provincial government had decided to put social gatherings to a minimum, meaning that businesses such as restaurants, bars, and casinos had to be closed down. The restart of business was scheduled to be initially for the start of March 2021, but it was delayed a few weeks to the end of the month.
Despite being non-operational for a few months Alberta government believes that the gambling hall will enjoy plenty of interest among visitors, that is why the authorities are making sure the right health measures are in order. Edmonton’s Castledowns Bingo Hall manager Brenda Pope believes that even if most Albertans are already vaccinated the gaming property must follow safety protocols such as temperature checks and regulator sanitation of high-touch surfaces.
John Szumlas, head of Bingo Alberta stated that the staff of the venue is taking virtual training in order to keep on the health and safety measure that must be conducted. He admitted that there might be still some concerns and hesitancy in players despite all implemented measures, but the gambling properties must endure the tough period ahead of them and comply with the mandatory measures.
Vik Mahajan, chief executive officer at River Cree Resort and Casino stated that the venue’s staff of around 1,000 individuals are looking forward to returning to their positions. According to him, the casino is ready and it can reopen at a moment’s notice. He estimated that after full closure and operating under restrictions in 2020, VLTs were closed down for around 160 days and table games for more than 200 days.
The 2021-22 fiscal year starts on April 1, 2021, and the provincial government is expecting an influx in gaming revenue with calculations of incoming CA$1.25 billion. According to Mr. Mahajan, such a prognosis is possible since that there is currently a pent-up demand for gambling activities among locals. The authorities are hopeful that the mass vaccination program will help the casino industry, and it expects a quick recovery.
The province’s gambling regulator Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis did not remain neutral on the hot topic of single-event wagering legalization in Canada. The regulator voiced its support of the proposed bill by stating that it would be able to help significantly the industry by keeping players from pouring millions of dollars into offshore websites and generate substantial revenue which will be able to help local businesses and communities.
Online Expansion Worries
Due to the lockdown restrictions and players’ inability to place bets in land-based gambling properties, the Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis approved a recently proposed online platform called PlayAlberta.ca. However, some concerns were raised among locals such as Bonnie Lee, an Associate Professor in Addictions Counselling at the University of Lethbridge, who believes that such online offering might be harmful to players since during the lockdown restrictions players have much more free time on their hands and are more vulnerable.
Source: Johnson, Lisa “Casinos and bingo halls readying to reopen as Alberta government forecasts rebound in gaming revenue”, Edmonton Journal, March 7, 2021