Casinos, such as Chances in Prince Rupert, closed in March 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic leaving workers in laid-off status still in September. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Union calls for safe re-opening of casinos across Canada

Unifor says keeping perfectly legal casinos closed is jeopardizing legitimate business

Unifor is calling on provinces to safely re-open casinos and gaming operations across the country, like Chances in Prince Rupert, under the same sound public health protocols that guided re-openings in other sectors of the economy, a Sept. 2 statement said.

“Enough is enough—it’s time to safely re-open casinos so gaming workers can get back to work and support their families,” Jerry Dias, Unifor National President said in the statement.

Unifor represents just less than 9,000 gaming workers at casinos, racetracks, and lotteries across Canada. It is the largest union for gaming workers in the country. While not a member of the Unifor union, Chances in Prince Rupert has remained closed since March, when COVID-19 caused pandemic shut-downs.

Many casinos remain closed under government orders in various areas, including British Columbia and some parts of Ontario. Despite some casinos operating under restrictions, and the reopening of business operations such as restaurants, retail shops and fitness facilities under the guidance of public health officials, thousands of gaming workers across the country still remain on lay-off, Unifor said.

“There’s just no sound science that justifies re-opening Walmarts, gyms, and restaurants while at the same time keeping the casinos closed. There’s no logic behind the decision, and it’s placing a perfectly legal sector in jeopardy,” Dias said.

Many of the laid-off employees have lost, or are soon to lose benefit coverage that will create crises putting workers in the difficult position of choosing between life-saving medication and life-essentials like paying rent or buying groceries the union said.

“While other types of businesses have been allowed to re-open, casinos and gaming workers are being left behind,” Dias added.

“We have reviewed the comprehensive plans our employers have submitted to government to make sure guests and workers are kept healthy and safe. With these enhanced measures in place, our members want to get back to work and help our economy get back on its feet,” he said.

Gaming is a highly regulated sector and operators are already required to follow strict government-mandated parameters, however there is competition from illegal and unregulated online gaming. The concern the union said, is that the extended closure of bricks-and-mortar casinos could lead more customers to participate in illegal online gambling.

Unifor said in it’s statement that large gaming providers and secondary hospitality operations should be allowed to to re-open—particularly those that feature slot gaming, which allows for highly-controlled physical distancing.

The Northern View has reached out to Chances, Prince Rupert, however there was no response by press time.


 
K-J Millar | Journalist 
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