Table games at Alberta casinos can re-open with COVID-19 safety measures

Click to play video 'Alberta allows table games at casinos after being closed due to COVID-19' Alberta allows table games at casinos after being closed due to COVID-19
WATCH: Alberta's Dr. Deena Hinshaw explains the reasoning behind reopening table games in Alberta casinos after they were closed to prevent COVID-19 spread – Sep 3, 2020

After being closed since Alberta shut down casinos in March to stop the spread of COVID-19, table games are open again with mitigating health and safety measures in place.

On Thursday, Alberta Health confirmed to Global News that table games at casinos can operate again. Casinos were shut down March 17 after 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.

Read more: Province orders Alberta casinos to close amid COVID-19 pandemic

Casinos were allowed to open June 12 under Phase 2 of Alberta’s relaunch strategy. However, table games remained closed.

Click to play video 'Dr. Hinshaw discusses Stage 2 of the Alberta relaunch' Dr. Hinshaw discusses Stage 2 of the Alberta relaunch
Dr. Hinshaw discusses Stage 2 of the Alberta relaunch – Jun 9, 2020

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health was asked about the decision to reopen table games on Thursday.

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“There are many pieces of information and analysis that went into that decision,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

“The last few months, there’s been an opportunity to assess whether or not there’s been transmission in casino environments here, and also to look at other jurisdictions where casinos have opened with table games as a part of their process.

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“We haven’t seen transmission issues locally and with casinos that have opened table games, we have not seen significant transmission events there. So, looking at the evidence of spread as well as looking at the impacts and other factors that go into that decision, that’s the comprehensive look that went into deciding that piece,” Hinshaw said.

Read more: Alberta casinos take varying approaches to reducing COVID-19 risk

Alberta Health updated its guidance for casinos Thursday morning to include the safe operation of table games.

Casinos must:

  • Provide hand sanitizer and remind patrons to sanitize prior to the start of play
  • Stop guests from gathering, cheering, shouting or back wager behind players at the table games
  • Ensure players stay two metres apart at all betting seats on table games:
    • Each betting space may be used if a clear barrier large enough to prevent droplet transmission separating the spaces is installed
    • If a clear barrier is not installed at a gaming table that protects both players and dealers, the maximum number of players per table is two
  • Ensure all dealers sanitize or wash their hands before their shift starts, before returning to tables after breaks, and in between in any deck or card shoe change.
  • Have dealers verbally give breaks instead of “tapping in” and maintain appropriate separation while exchanging positions
  • Stop patrons from standing close behind seated players
  • Replace cards regularly
  • Stop a “cashed out” player from standing next to another table
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Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis said the new guidelines mean Alberta casino operators and host First Nation casino operators can decide if they want to resume table games in their venues starting today, Thursday, Sept. 3.

“Some may be prepared to resume immediately, while others may require more time to get their operations ready,” AGLC spokesperson Heather Holemen told Global News in an email.

“AGLC will work with each facility to ensure available table seats are spaced every two metres (six feet), unless separated by a physical barrier.”

The River Cree Resort and Casino said it will be reopening table games on Friday, Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. Poker will not be open.

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

Holemen also said AGLC is working with charities to help them adjust and address any questions they have.

For instance, charities are being scheduled for casino events as table games reopen but charities not wanting to work a scheduled casino event can request to be slotted in a future quarter. AGLC will confirm charity attendance in advance of their scheduled event dates.

“Temporary changes have been approved to reduce the total number of volunteers required for an event; some positions will be combined,” AGLC explained on its website.