After COVID cash-out, local casinos coax back gamblers

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“We’re waiting to see how the table games go,” she said.

To coax back players of all kinds, the casino has added plexiglass barriers between all of its 983 gaming machines and ensured its card dealers are tested for COVID-19.

Its buffet has returned, though it’s hands-off for customers who receive their food from servers.

Patrons are required to wear protective masks when they’re not at slot machines or eating.

Plexiglass dividers will separate players at gaming tables at the Grey Eagle Casino. The casino has reopened table games with enhanced cleaning and physical distancing. Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia

With revenues split about 50-50 between slots and table games, the loss of revenue — especially from the latter — has been considerable, said Whitney.

“Table game revenue benefits the province and charities, so there’s a huge impact in the loss of those revenues,” she said.

In 2018-19, casinos accounted for 71 per cent of charitable gaming revenue, or $245.5 million, according to Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis.

If gaming activity had been similar this year, that would translate to a loss to charities of $61 million just over the three months of total shutdown alone.

And an economy weakened by both low energy prices and the pandemic’s disruption has dealt the industry a bad hand, particularly in discouraging high rollers from returning, said Whitney.

A worker sanitizes plexiglass dividers at gaming tables at the Grey Eagle Casino in Calgary on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. The casino has reopened table games with enhanced cleaning and physical distancing. Photo by Jim Wells/Postmedia

At the Century Casino Calgary, card players have also been slow to return to an establishment that’s operating only 40 per cent of its machines amid less plexiglass, said one staffer.

“We’re really making sure we have space,” said the staffer, who didn’t want his name used.

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