Northern Ontario Casino scene undergoing major changes.

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By George Keburia

June 25th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Casinos across Northern Ontario are hoping to be able to re-open soon amid COVID-19 uncertainty

The coronavirus pandemic has affected the entire world as the number of infections globally has now exceeded a whopping nine million bar.

With over 400 thousand deaths related to the novel coronavirus infection, the vast majority of nations are trying to keep their citizens safe by implementing and maintaining social distancing rules. In these unprecedented times, everyone is held accountable for not putting the national safety at risk. The recent case of Dominic Cummings in the United Kingdom was a great example of how the societies have shifted and become more cautious amid the pandemic.

Besides individual responsibility, the same kind of cautiousness extends to business. Both people and governments try to have a specifically tailored and well-researched approach when it comes to re-opening businesses and their future operations. The Canadian government was one of the first globally to introduce a nation-wide lockdown, resulting in thousands of businesses simply coming to a complete standstill. Many of them had to halt operations while others also were put in a position of having to cancel ambitious projects and future plans.

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Border to the United States closed – with no clear re-opening date in place.

All of Canada’s industries and businesses came under extreme pressure as the government decided to close its border with the United States. The Americans are the biggest Canadian economic partner with over 85% of exports going to the United States. Under such circumstances, not only exporting businesses but also local companies were impacted negatively. Countless Canadian businesses used to benefit from Americans visiting them over the weekend.

The gambling business in a tricky position

With the mid-march decision of the Canadian government and the prime minister Trudeau, all entertainment businesses were closed indefinitely. These changes naturally affected gambling venues across the nation. They had to cease operations immediately without a chance to evaluate the situation and come up with a solution in a timely manner. Many of the businesses managed to go online within the few days of the new regulations but others had to work and invest heavily in order to survive the turmoil.

In general, the online gambling sector has been on a steep rise throughout the past decade. The representatives of Playamo Canada say, that the incomes from the business across the nation have also been growing.   For firms that were always focused on online gambling, the new regulations were a positive change. They now have a chance to attract customers that can no longer visit brick-and-mortar venues in Canada.

But what happens with those who were dependent on visitors for the majority of their incomes? Canada, particularly Northern Ontario, is home to a high number of luxurious casinos and resorts that have been completely shut for almost the past three months. Their bookings and were canceled while loyal customers have no option but to visit online gambling platforms run by other operators.

Gateway Casinos forced to halt its construction in North Bay

Among many of Canada’s famous gambling operators, Gateway Casinos and Entertainment is truly a shining star. The customers’ favorite company provides high-quality luxury venues to its loyal customers across the entire country. It has popular venues located in Sudbury and Sault St. Marie.

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North Bay Casino construction site.

However the pandemic meant operations of Gateway-owned casinos had to be closed.  Those crucial venues for the company remain closed to the public. The representatives of Gateway say, that the timing of the pandemic could not have been worse. Their new major project in North Bay, a casino resort that already has a green light for construction, had to be stopped. There is simply not enough certainty in the industry to continue the construction of a major venue. The costs of the construction are absolutely tremendous and the company can not afford it unless the already-existing venues are back up and running.

Therefore, ‘Gateway casinos and entertainment’ is now focusing on opening up its Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie venues to the public. The cash inflow from those venues is unlikely to result in the construction of the new North Bay venue. However, operational casinos would ensure the safety of jobs, as well as more security for the business. The latter is of utmost importance since, without any certain and specific timeframe on the process of opening casinos, Gateway’s future plans remain halted.

How can casinos open going forward?

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The thrill of the win

The chief of Gateway’s Sudbury venue, Richard Paquin commented on the company’s future plans: “We haven’t spoken to anybody about that because it’s too early in the process,” However, the Ontario’s government has recently announced its plans to gradually re-open entertainment businesses that could potentially include casinos. Gateway also had a brief communication with the government regarding the issues but no specific answers were given from the authorities.

However, what we know today for sure is that sooner or later, the casino business will start coming back. The question is in what form will it operate? What sacrifices will operators have to make? The expectation is that the opening of venues will be discussed individually.

Every space comes with its own specifications and needs to be rearranged considering those factors. One thing is apparent: the most affected part of the casino business will be the venues’ capacity. Fewer people will be allowed per room with fewer people sitting around tables. This could mean significantly lower incomes for businesses, but with social distancing remaining the only known and effective tool against the spread of the virus, the venues will have to adjust.

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