What to expect as casinos and bingo halls reopen in Saskatchewan

SaskGaming's Shanna Schulhauser. Stewart Manhas / Global News

It’s game on in Saskatchewan — with casinos and bingo halls reopening to the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday.

The gaming establishments closed in March as part of the provincial effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Read more: Hospital visitor restrictions, casinos closing part of coronavirus prevention

“We’re so excited,” SaskGaming‘s Shanna Schulhauser told Global News at Casino Regina Thursday morning, as the facility was preparing to welcome guests back. “It’ll be great to have the gaming floors bustling with energy again.”

Casinos Regina and Moose Jaw are taking a number of measures to reduce the likelihood of transmitting the coronavirus on the gaming floors.

A sign at Casino Regina with information on how to stay safe while gaming. Stewart Manhas / Global News

Both establishments are operating on reduced schedules and at reduced capacity. There’s one entrance to each and guests are required to complete a short questionnaire beforehand. Inside, the gaming is limited, with every third slot machine open and no live table games. Food and beverage is offered as grab-and-go.

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The floors are marked with decals to ensure social distancing. Guests are encouraged to wear masks and welcome to wear gloves, Schulhauser said.

SaskGaming has recalled less than half of its nearly 550 laid-off employees.

“Hopefully, by some point in the new year we’ll have everybody back in the casinos and working again,” Schulhauser said.

According to SaskGaming’s annual report released Wednesday, the pandemic has had about a multi-million dollar impact on revenue, which came in at about $40 million dollars for 2019-20. The crown took a significant hit of more than $5 million in the last two weeks of its fiscal year in March, the report says.

Read more: Cashless gambling? How coronavirus may change Canada’s casinos

Also allowed to reopen Thursday: Bingo halls.

Gordy Oullette, of City Centre Bingo in Saskatoon, says the business isn’t sure what to expect in terms of demand.

Prior to the pandemic, there would be between 250 and 350 people coming in to play bingo on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night, Oullette said.

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Like the casinos, Oullette said City Centre Bingo will be operating at reduced capacity, specifically to ensure social distancing in seating. It will be first-come, first-serve, he said.

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City Centre Bingo encourages patrons to come 10-15 minutes earlier than they would normally. Staff will be at the door greet them, ask a few questions, take temperatures and provide hand sanitizer, Oullette said.

Masks will be, again, encouraged, but not required.

“The process we have in place today may be tweaked,” Oullette said.  “Bingo players are pretty friendly and they’re pretty cooperative, so we’re going to work with them.

“We hope it just flows smooth,” he said. “It’s a brand new time. What’s the normal right now? We just don’t know.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

– With files from Global’s Jaqueline Wilson and Kayleen Sawatzky

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