Ontario Government Closes Casinos Due To Rising COVID Numbers

Province is the second, after Quebec, to order full closures
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Ontario casinos and gaming centers will be closed for at least 21 days due to a rising number of COVID-19 infections across the province, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced Monday.

Casinos across the province were forced to temporarily suspend all operations by 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 5, in order to meet the government mandate. The order follows Quebec’s closure of casinos for the same reason two weeks ago. Ontario’s casinos will be closed until at least Jan. 26, but there’s a possibility of an extension if the virus continues its rapid spread.

Ontario Public Health no longer has an accurate case count, as the number of infections has surpassed the province’s testing capabilities. However, a record 18,455 infections were reported last Saturday prior to the testing breakdown. Ontario has a population of roughly 15 million and is Canada‘s most populous province.

Ontario’s casinos have endured rolling closures and restrictions since March 2020 due to the pandemic and finally had restrictions lifted for the first time in over a year in late October, when infections dropped significantly in the region. As infections spiked recently, the Ontario government cut public capacity at casinos to 50% on Dec. 18 before now ordering the complete closures again.

According to the Canadian Gaming Association, there are 114 casinos in Canada, along with 200 permanent bingo halls and community gaming centers, that employ roughly 183,000 people. Some of the more prominent casinos in Ontario include Casino Rama, Fallsview Casino Resort, Caesars Windsor, and Woodbine Casino.

“The health and safety of our employees and guests remain a priority and we look forward to welcoming you back at a time when it is safe for our community,” Kevin Laforet, president of Caesars Windsor, said in a statement.

It’s unclear how the closures will affect Gateway’s Cascades Casino project in North Bay. The casino is scheduled to open early in 2022.

Most provinces restricting capacity

Quebec ordered its casinos closed Dec. 20 due to rising COVID numbers, and video lottery terminals, bingo, and bar games are also temporarily shut down in the province. That announcement came just days after an outbreak had been declared at Casino du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec.

While Ontario and Quebec are currently the only two provinces to order casinos closed again, 50% capacity restrictions are in effect in most of Canada’s other provinces, including British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

Photo: Shutterstock

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