Canada’s largest trade union in the private sector, Unifor, wants to see a safe re-opening of casinos and gaming halls in all provinces across the country, following the same guidelines and safety and health protocols implemented by other sectors of the economy. As you know Playcasinos covered a similar story in August where we discovered that the reopening of casinos nationwide had been slow and hindered at best.
Since late July/early August, restrictions have been lifted slightly on different business operations, including restaurants, retail outlets, and even gyms. All under the watchful eyes of specialists and public health officials. Alas, casinos have remained closed for the most part and the rules for re-opening them are very stringent.
Jerry Dias, Unifor National President, is not impressed with how the authorities are handling the situation and want to see less double-standards when it comes to moving the world back into the way it was before COVID-19 threw a monkey wrench into the machinery.
“Enough is enough – it’s time to safely re-open casinos so gaming workers can get back to work and support their families,” Dias said. “There’s just no sound science that justifies re-opening Walmarts, gyms, and restaurants while at the same time keeping casinos closed. There’s no logic behind the decision, and it’s placing a perfectly legal sector in jeopardy.”
Gaming is already more regulated than alcohol and tobacco products in many countries, with strict parameters for obtaining a license and remaining complaint – at huge costs. Unifor members are already working continuously with many of the large gaming providers, albeit under rigorous health and safety protocols.
They are in agreement that other parts of the gaming sector such as hospitality operations should be allowed to re-open, especially those with slot games since it is quite easy to implement social distancing and other safety measures to run the business.
There are currently thousands of workers in the gaming industry who have been furloughed or laid off and many have already, or soon will lose their benefits coverage. This could potentially put gaming workers in a serious predicament. Do you choose to buy life-saving medicine, or do you buy groceries and pay bills and rent?
“While other types of businesses have been allowed to re-open, casinos and gaming workers are being left behind,” Dias said. “We have reviewed the comprehensive plans our employers have submitted to the government to make sure guests and workers are kept healthy and safe. With these enhanced measures in place, our members want to get back to work and help our economy get back on its feet.”
As if it is not bad enough that workers are not allowed back to the casinos, the sector is already feeling the heat from competing for online gaming, regulated and unregulated. There is a growing concern that if casinos are not allowed to re-open in the near future, its online counterparts will consume whatever market shares will be left once COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
Unifor is a Canadian powerhouse, representing more than 300,000 workers in every major area of the economy and with that many voices echoing the same message, there is a chance that they will be heard. Close to 10,000 of its members are currently workers at casinos, racetracks, and lotteries across the nation.
Great Canadian Gaming Corp to re-open 11 casinos
So far, the government and local authorities have been slow to respond to Unifor’s wishes but Great Canadian Gaming Corp says it will re-open its 11 casinos in Ontario and New Brunswick that have been closed since March 16 on September 28.
Guest will be limited to 25 per cent capacity and just a little more than half of the slot machines will be available while table games like roulette, poker, and blackjack will be completely off the menu, as will most other amenities.
Chief executive of Great Canadian Gaming Corp, Rod Baker, said in a statement that revenues are expected to be significantly reduced because of restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and that only 11 of its 25 casinos are set to re-open.
“The reductions will be especially significant for our Ontario properties where, due to the 50-guest maximum restriction, we expect no material financial benefit to the company from our 11 Ontario locations,” Baker said in the statement.