Province orders Alberta casinos to close amid COVID-19 pandemic

Alberta has 74 confirmed coronavirus cases
As of Monday, March 16, 2020, Alberta has 74 confirmed coronavirus cases. And, for the first time, there are cases in every Alberta Health zone. Julia Wong has more from the news conference, where chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw was unable to be in person.

UPDATE: Alberta casinos will cease operations due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis in the province.

On Tuesday, the government of Alberta declared a public health emergency that included a directive to close casinos, racing entertainment centres, and bingo hall operations throughout the province immediately.

READ MORE: Premier Jason Kenney declares COVID-19 public health emergency in Alberta

Earlier in the day, casinos in Alberta said they would remain open despite a restriction on mass gatherings and the shuttering of schools and daycares due to COVID-19.

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Other provinces — including Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec — have closed their casinos.

Officials in Calgary, where a local state of emergency has been called, have questioned why the province hasn’t done the same.

READ MORE: Coronavirus pandemic: WestJet suspending international travel

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Alberta’s chief medical officer said at her daily update on Monday that there were no plans to close gaming establishments.

The provincial government takes in about $1.4 billion annually from casinos and lotteries.

The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission, which oversees casinos, says in an emailed statement that it’s taking COVID-19 seriously.

“The agency is in contact with all licensed venues and encourages all owners/operators to follow the guidance of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health by implementing additional cleaning and health protocols,” spokeswoman Heather Holman said in the statement.

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She said all gaming and liquor-licensed venues are privately owned and operated.


–With files from Demi Knight