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B.C. casinos want to open before province moves to Phase 4 of COVID-19 plan

Determining how to safely reopen B.C. casinos
Determining how to safely reopen B.C. casinos

The B.C. Lottery Corporation and casino operators are working to get casinos opened earlier than expected.

Casinos were originally part of Phase 4 of the province’s reopening plans but are now expected to operate before there is a wide distribution of a vaccine, community immunity or broad successful treatments.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province closed casinos early in the pandemic due to concerns of large numbers of people gathering in indoor, enclosed environments.

Read more: All B.C. casinos to close to limit spread of coronavirus

“I know they’ve been working with WorkSafeBC to determine if there’s a way that they can open, taking those into account, and they are developing protocols,” Henry said Friday.

Province updates impact of COVID on First Nations communities, plan to open B.C. casinos
Province updates impact of COVID on First Nations communities, plan to open B.C. casinos

“I have not yet seen them, but I know that that is one of the areas they are looking that meet the guidance we have to ensure that they can operate safely.”

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Henry has also flagged poor ventilation in casinos and an older demographic as reasons for concern.

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Conventions, live-audience professional sports, concerts and international tourism are all part of Phase 4. The province announced this week British Columbia is now in Phase 3 of the reopening plan.

Province updates impact of COVID on First Nations communities, plan to open B.C. casinos
Province updates impact of COVID on First Nations communities, plan to open B.C. casinos

Casinos have opened in other jurisdictions including Las Vegas and Alberta.

The casinos would need to shut down some games over fears of spreading COVID-19 while ensuring proper hand washing stations and allowing for physical distancing.

“For casinos it’s not just the patrons. It’s also to ensure the staff at the casino are safe as well. I understand that’s underway. I have not yet seen the details,” Henry said.

It is unclear when casinos may be able to open.

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Cities, charities and community groups suffer from shut down of B.C. casinos
Cities, charities and community groups suffer from shut down of B.C. casinos

Health Minister Adrian Dix says he has not been notified of any changes in the plans around casinos.

“I think one of the challenges with casinos is it’s a high touch business and we have seen that in the images we have seen from Vegas recently,”

“B.C. did not close down a lot of the industries that other did but what we did do is ensure it was safety first.”