Maple Ridge’s gamblers could put a little money on the line starting Thursday when Chances Community Gaming Centre re-opens, but management says the stakes won’t include their good health.
The provincial government has allowed casinos to re-open on July 1. Unlike the stumbling start at some restaurants when the food industry re-opened, Chances will hit the ground running.
“We’ll be ready to go right away,” said Shawn Duncan regional general manager for Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, adding the doors open at 10 a.m.
They have had five weeks to prepare, and out of more than 50 positions, all but two have been filled – most by returning staff.
Chuck Keeling, the executive vice-president for Great Canadian, said across the nine properties the company operates in B.C. more than 90 per cent of their laid-off employees are returning – about 1,400 people in total.
Duncan explained Chances will reopen with a capacity of 165 people, for both the gaming area and The Well restaurant. There are 250 slots in the building, but just 165 will be available for play, due to the need for social distancing. Some will be off, and others will have plexiglass installed between players.
He said there is also great air circulation in the building, and “significant security systems” to ensure people comply with health orders. And face coverings will be mandatory for all staff and guests in these initial phases.
Restrictions could be lifted in the near future.
They don’t know how many customers will be there for opening, after a 15-month shutdown, but Keeling is optimistic.
“There is no empirical, quantitative, way to know what to expect – this is a first,” he said.
However, judging from questions and social media posts, they anticipate “a significant number of our guests are eager to return.”
Chances generated $1.6 million for the City of Maple Ridge in its pre-pandemic year, and $8.6 million since opening in 2013, Duncan noted. The provincial gaming grant program provinces another $2 million for 82 local groups.
In fiscal 2019/20, casinos and community gaming centres generated $929 million of the $1.3 billion in net income that BCLC delivered to the Province of B.C. to support investments in healthcare and education, community programs and First Nations.
Duncan said it’s exciting to open the doors again, and get the staff back together.
“The last couple of weeks it has been hectic, trying to pull everything together,” he said. “But there’s a lot of the social aspect that we’ve missed over the past year and a half.”
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