Canada: Saskatchewan Gambling Resumes as Quebec Plans to Ban Criminals From Casinos

  • Customers have returned to gambling venues in Saskatchewan after six months of closures
  • The province’s casinos have suffered, with Casino Regina losing around $100m in revenue
  • Meanwhile, an audit has led the Quebec government to back a casino ban for criminals
  • The investigation into organized crime has resulted in 39 procedural recommendations 
Map of Canada made with people
In Canada, the province of Saskatchewan has allowed customers to return to gambling venues after six months of COVID-19 closures, while Quebec is planning to ban criminals from casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Reopenings and a criminal ban

In good news for Canadian casinos, Saskatchewan has entered the second phase of its COVID-19 reopening plan. An easing of public health restrictions across the province has allowed gamblers to return to casinos and bingo halls over the weekend, although a capacity limit of 150 people per venue remains in place.

Casino Regina staff said the casino reached capacity 45 minutes after opening its doors

Casinos in Saskatchewan have remained closed since mid-December 2020, when another wave of coronavirus forced governments across Canada to shutdown businesses. As reported by Global News, Saskatchewan casinos saw high traffic numbers upon reopening Sunday. Casino Regina staff said the casino reached capacity 45 minutes after opening its doors.

Scott Moe, Saskatchewan Premier, has also announced that the province will remove all restrictions on July 11. He took to Twitter on Sunday to confirm the news:

Elsewhere, the Quebec government has announced plans to implement a casino ban on gamblers who have a criminal history. The announcement came on Friday after an external auditing firm review into organized crime gangs and their use of Montreal casinos.

A high cost for Saskatchewan casinos

Gambling venues in Saskatchewan can now breathe a sigh of relief following the province’s entry into phase two of reopening plans on Sunday. However, the six months of closures up to this point have come at a high cost to operators.

According to Saskatchewan Gaming Commission spokesperson Shanna Schulhauser, the Casino Regina lost an estimated $100m in revenue as a result of the closures. Speaking with Global News following the reopening this weekend, she explained that the casino temporarily laid off 570 employees in December. The venue recalled 243 of these on Sunday, while the remaining 327 will supposedly return when the province enters phase three.

Similarly, Gordy Oullette, the general manager of City Center Bingo in Saskatoon, said the venue laid off around 40 people at the end of 2020. He described “severe financial losses” suffered by the bingo hall and criticized the strict capacity restrictions still in place.

Like casinos in the US, Canadian gambling venues did reopen for a short period towards the latter half of 2020 as virus cases decreased. Due in part to its reliance on American medical imports however, Canada has not provided vaccinations as quickly as its neighbour to the south.

Quebec takes a stand against criminals

Last November, the Quebec government announced that it had ordered an independent audit to investigate the link between casinos and organized crime in the province. As a result of that report, released on Friday, Quebec casinos are planning to introduce a number of new procedures.

casinos will suspend players with a “high-risk profile”

The Quebec government has said that it “endorses” the 39 recommendations included within the audit’s final report. As part of this, casinos will suspend players with a “high-risk profile,” also cancelling their membership in casino loyalty programs.

Loto-Quebec, which oversees Montreal Casinos and other state-run gambling properties in the province, will receive more power to conduct stricter checks on the identity of players and source of funds. The government has also agreed to improve information-sharing mechanisms between Loto-Quebec and police.

Outside of casino gambling, Canadian lawmakers could discuss the legalization of single-event sports betting again on Monday. Senators ran out of time to discuss C-218 last Thursday, but the bill is back on the Order Paper for the beginning of this week. If approved by the Senate without amendments, the legislation will go to the Governor General for royal assent.