Sask. casinos looks forward to reopening as Step 2 of province's plan draws nearer

·2 min read
Zane Hansen, president and CEO of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, said COVID-19 restrictions have been especially hard on non-profit organizations like his. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu - image credit)
Zane Hansen, president and CEO of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, said COVID-19 restrictions have been especially hard on non-profit organizations like his. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu - image credit)

Casinos in Saskatchewan were ordered to shut down in mid-December 2020 with hopes of reopening Jan. 15, 2021. That didn't happen.

Casinos and bingo halls have remained closed for five months. The earliest casinos are currently expected to reopen is late June as a part of Step 2 of the province's reopening plans.

The closures — and the associated job losses — have had a huge impact on people who worked at these casinos.

Zane Hansen, president and CEO of Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority, said restrictions have been especially hard on non-profit organizations like his.

"We are non-profit and we really designed our participation and gaming to maximize benefits through employment opportunities," Hansen said. ""All of the earnings of our company go back to our First Nation communities across the province. They've all been impacted and had to make do with less resources and wrestle with the impact of the pandemic in their communities."

Hansen said that while SIGA has been largely shut down, it has made adjustments with an eye toward getting back on its feet when casinos can reopen.

He also mentioned that not being able to have VLT machines in casinos while they were allowed in restaurants was a tough measure. He said these types of decisions resulted in SIGA downsizing operations just to keep things running while doors remain closed.

While the financial impact of the pandemic on SIGA is an ongoing source of concern, Hansen said the impact on the employees' individual lives is what makes it so difficult.

"It's the personal impact that really weighs on you the most," he said. "This has had a severe impact."

Hansen and his team have already begun to put plans in place as they await the official reopening date. They are looking toward an initial capacity limit of 150 people, which is about 15 per cent of normal, as well as tightening current safety programs.

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