Gamblers line up, voluntarily mask up for casino reopening

The lineup to get into McPhillips Station Casino stretched around the building on reopening day as excited patrons looked forward to a new normal.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/07/2020 (918 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The lineup to get into McPhillips Station Casino stretched around the building on reopening day as excited patrons looked forward to a new normal.

Both the casino on McPhillips Street and Club Regent Casino opened Wednesday for the first time since March 17 with a slew of new protocols and physical-distancing measures.

Similar to the casinos outside Winnipeg that opened July 25, table games have been shut down for now – bingo and poker rooms are no longer available – and machines have been moved to adhere to distancing guidelines. While in-person roulette is no more, those looking to try their luck can place bets electronically.

An electronic sign announced the reopening of McPhillips Station Casino. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

The casinos won’t be open around the clock on weekends. The hours have changed to 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week to give staff time to disinfect before the next day. The Shark Club Gaming Centre also opened Wednesday but with reduced hours – from noon to 10 p.m. daily.

The ticket redemption process remains essentially the same – paper vouchers up to $1,000 can be used at other machines or cashed out – but many slot machine credit meters will collect winnings up to $2,500 to limit employee contact with customers.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries declined an interview request, but a message was posted online last week from executive vice-president of gaming and entertainment, Dan Sanscartier, welcoming back patrons.

“As you know, our world has changed drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and businesses must make safety a priority for our customers,” he said. “That’s why you’ll see that our casinos will look and operate differently these days.”

The operational changes didn’t deter those ready to return, some of whom waited in line well in advance of the 10 a.m. opening. Water bottles, fans and stylus pens to use on machines were handed out to people waiting in the sun, many wearing face masks. The casino isn’t requiring people to wear masks but is selling them at casino gift shops – and those entering had to briefly pull down their masks for identification purposes.

Shane Courchene, who was among those waiting for the McPhillips Station Casino to reopen, came prepared. In line, he was wearing a mask and gloves. Courchene said prior to the pandemic, he visited the casino often. On Wednesday, he joked that he “missed spending (his) money” in the casino while it was closed.

“To be honest, I kind of miss the action, I miss the slots, slapping the machine,” he said.

The line stretched around the building to get into the casino on the first day it was open since mid-March. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

Courchene said he’ll miss the table games but believed the closures were reasonable given the circumstances.

“I know the precautions: poker chips, people always touch them,” he said.

While Courchene said he felt some trepidation and wasn’t completely confident in the safety precautions taken, he said he had a personal responsibility to stay sanitized, maintain social distancing, and not stay for too long.

“(There was a) slight worry, but I came prepared – gloves, mask – I’m going to be careful, and I’m not going to stay too long, maybe an hour or so depending on how I like it, if I’m winning or losing,” he said.

Further up the line, Sandy said she had come out of “curiosity” more than anything. While part of her wondered if safety concerns would arise, she said she wasn’t too worried because she had prepared in advance.

“I have a mask and gloves, I have hand sanitizer,” said Sandy, who didn’t want her last name published.

While she wasn’t a regular visitor, she said she missed visiting the casino while it was closed.

Markers on the ground ensured people waiting to get in were properly spaced apart. (Jesse Boily / Winnipeg Free Press)

“I like gambling, I miss bingo,” she said.

“It’s fun, I miss it, so I thought I would come and then I’m good for another three months.”

Twitter: malakabas_

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.


Updated on Thursday, July 30, 2020 12:10 PM CDT: Corrects the hours the Shark Club is open.

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