Optimism for live poker in Canada as casino reopening plan goes smoothly

Posted on: July 13, 2020 05:36 PDT

If the lineup outside Casino Regina is any indication, there’s a huge appetite for gambling and poker in Saskatchewan, Canada.

A mere three hours after opening its doors for the very first time since the COVID-10 pandemic forced Casino Regina to close up shop, the property hit maximum capacity.

The casino doors opened on July 9th at 9am, with patrons lining up before 8:30am. Within 15 minutes, 100 people had already entered the building.

By noon, the casino had reached maximum capacity of 250 people. It’s a far cry from a capacity of thousands at other casinos dotting the North American map, but Casino Regina is relatively small compared to larger properties in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and in some of the larger cities in Canada.

The story was similar across the province. Casino Moose Jaw reached its lowered capacity limit of 50 people at 12:30pm.

“The people were actually lined up all the way to the bridge, over to where the employee parking lot is,” said SaskGaming spokesperson Shanna Schulhauser. “It was quite long. We were sort of expecting it. We didn’t really know how long the lineup might be, but it was great to see so many people out. Clearly there was an appetite from our guests to get back in here and get gaming again.”

The casinos reopened as part of Saskatchewan’s phased reopening plan.

“We can start enjoying some things that we used to enjoy, but at the same time expect to see the occasional case or cluster,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer. “We need to be cautiously optimistic but not complacent, and I think there’s a big difference in that … We are in a good place to reopen.”

But with 22 percent of COVID-19 cases in the province falling under the asymptomatic category, the province is urging people to be cautious.

“That is exactly why we say that even when you’re out and about and not symptomatic … we have to maintain that two-metre separation, we have to pay attention to hand hygiene and wear a mask if we can’t maintain that two-metre separation,” noted Shahab.

The limited capacity and social distancing requirements mean that poker is not yet open at the Saskatchewan casinos. But with Canada faring much better in the battle against the coronavirus, there’s renewed hope that a pre-pandemic poker scene could be around the corner.