Hand sanitizing, physical distancing — what it could take to reopen casinos

Multiple, new safety measures may be a factor before casino can reopen.

Some U.S. casinos have opened with multiple safety measures in place

An OLG spokesperson said they have no clear indication by the provincial government as to when Caesars Windsor or the other 26 casinos in Ontario may reopen. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Ontario recently began its first phase of a three-phase reopening plan — including more businesses — but it's still unclear what this means for casinos.

Caesars Windsor has been closed to the public since mid-March. A spokesperson for the casino declined an interview with CBC News, however, said reopening plans would be in collaboration with Unifor Local 444, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG), Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO), and Caesars Entertainment.  

"The reopening of the casinos in Ontario will occur when it is permitted by the province," said Tony Bitonti, OLG's director of external communications.

There are 27 casinos in Ontario, and Bitonti said it's unclear where they fit into any of the reopening phases. OLG along with AGCO are working together to make sure health and safety protocols are in place for both staff and customers before facilities open their doors again.

Bitonti provided some examples:

  • Physical distancing of at least two metres (achieved in part by admitting fewer customers)
  • The use of face coverings
  • Ensuring the availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizer for customers
  • Implementing physical barriers such as Plexiglass partitions
  • Enhanced cleaning, particularly of high-touch surfaces

American casinos have a new look

MGM International and Caesars Entertainment are in the process of reopening some casinos in the U.S. 

MGM International put out a seven-point safety plan on its website. They are using digital technology for many processes including guest check-ins.

Through a mobile app, guests have the option of getting digital room keys and restaurants have digital menus that can be accessed on smart phones. There is also a virtual seating queue system that sends patrons a text message when their table is ready.

A spokesperson for the company said enhanced routine cleaning is now taking place — with "electrostatic sprayers used in many large areas to allow us to apply disinfectant more efficiently."MGM International will open casinos over the next two weeks.

Mississippi is opening casions on Monday and June 1. As of July 2019, the state's population according to the U.S. Census Bureau was 2,976,149. As of May 21, there were 12,222 cases of COVID-19, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

In Ontario, as of January 2020, the population was 14,711,827, according to Statistics Canada. As of May 21, the province has 24,187 cases of COVID-19, according to the Windsor-Essex County District Health Unit. No casinos have reopened in the province.

Detroit casinos

As for casinos in nearby Detroit, those are still prohibited from opening. Two of the casinos have plans posted online, one being MGM International, the other Penn National Gaming.

Greektown's parent company Penn National Gaming has opened other casinos in the U.S. On its website it mentioned that there will not be any live entertainment or buffets offered, as well limited seating at table games and fewer slot machines in operation.

As for cleaning, the company plans to use a fog machine to disinfect and sanitize each night.

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment are conducting a survey among past customers. (

Casino survey

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment operates casinos in Sarnia and Chatham, as well as many other areas of the province. 

The company put out a public opinion survey in early May asking prior patrons some hypothetical questions, including:

  1. How often you intend to visit a casino once physical distancing guidelines have been removed?
  2. How likely are you to visit a business that requires you to have your temperature taken before going in?