The start of September has seen the introduction of vaccine certificates in some Canadian provinces, and there’s more to follow.
Quebec began mandating proof of vaccination as a condition of entry to certain non-essential businesses including casinos, bingo halls, and other gaming centres on Sept. 1. That was followed by Manitoba expanding its own system on Sept. 3, having previously been the first province to introduce a form of the certificate in June.
Next week, British Columbia’s own system will begin on Sept. 13, and Ontario confirmed last week that it will become the fourth province to launch a vaccination certificate later this month, starting Sept. 22.
According to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), via CDC Gaming Reports, there are 24 casinos in Ontario which will be affected, including Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara in Niagara Falls, both of which are popular destinations for U.S. tourists. In B.C., the mandate would affect 19 casinos and 18 bingo halls or community gaming centres.
Among those are dozens of properties operated by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment. Chuck Keeling, Great Canadian Gaming’s executive vice president for stakeholder relations and responsible gaming, told casino.org that the operator is currently working out how best to implement proof of vaccination across its properties in affected provinces.
The parameters of the proof of vaccination system will vary between the provinces. In B.C., until late October, gamblers will only need to have received one dose of an approved vaccine to be eligible for entry, while the other three provinces will require customers to have had two doses.
A preventative measure
The intention of these measures, according to governments and health staff, is to avoid the widespread closures that marked earlier waves of COVID-19. B.C. casinos only recently opened for the first time since the start of pandemic in March 2020, while Quebec endured a strict lockdown at the start of 2021.
Governments also hope the mandates will serve as motivation for the unvaccinated to get their jabs, and there has been early evidence in Quebec and B.C. to suggest this is the case, as cited by the Globe and Mail and CBC.
With nearly half of Canada’s provinces now limiting entry to gaming centres based on vaccination status, it remains to be seen whether the trend will continue to spread across the country.
Andrew Furey, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, announced on Twitter on Monday, Sept. 7 that Canada’s smallest province will be introducing a vaccine passport in the coming weeks.
However, Global News reports that both Alberta and Saskatchewan are opposed to the idea, and there are no plans for a vaccine passport in many of the Maritime provinces or the northern territories. However, leading medical staff in Alberta are urging introduction of the system to boost what is Canada’s lowest provincial vaccination rate, reports CBC.
Operators may be given some choice
In some jurisdictions where a government mandate is not introduced, casino operators may be given the choice of requiring proof of vaccination.
Saskatchewan’s government has said it will support any business or organization that chooses to mandate proof of vaccination and is developing a digital QR code to be used by local businesses, notes the Times-Colonist. In addition, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health has said that individual businesses or organizations could decide to employ vaccine cards.
Meanwhile, in the U.S., where jurisdictions such as New York and California also now require proof of vaccination for some events, Caesars Entertainment’s Harrah’s New Orleans became the first casino in North America to require either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter the property.
Employees encouraged but not mandated
As of right now, while casino visitors in these provinces will need to be vaccinated to enter premises, there is no such mandate for casino workers in Canada.
Caesars Windsor spokesperson Susanne Tomkins says, via CBC, that while it has not mandated vaccines for employees, it is encouraging them to get their shots by providing education and working with the government, health staff, and OLG and Caesars.
Stricter measures have been taken south of the border though. As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, MGM Resorts now requires all new hires at its properties in the U.S. to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated as of Aug. 30. All salaried employees who do not work primarily from home will be required to show proof by Oct. 15.