Around the world, governments on all levels are anxious to get their economies back in solid working condition, but the global pandemic doesn’t seem to be willing to let go. The casino industry has been hit especially hard, and many have had to open and close a few times before finding solid ground. However, that solid ground has proven not to be as solid as previously thought, with COVID-19 launching repeated sneak attacks. Just when gamblers thought it was safe to go back to casinos in Quebec, COVID-19 is giving them reasons to stay away. Because of a resurgence of the coronavirus, Loto-Québec has shut down parts of its operations once again.
The company announced last week that, as of last Friday, it was halting operations in Montérégie, Centre-du-Québec and Capitale-Nationale. This includes the closure of the Casino de Charlevoix, which had reopened this past July after it seemed COVID-19 may have been brought under control. All video lottery terminals are going offline, as well, and Loto-Québec also decided to cut off Kinzo halls, even in areas that are not under a direct coronavirus threat.
Quebec was forced to place Gatineau and certain areas of the Outaouais region on “red alert” because of COVID-19. This means the closure of any casino, bar or gym, as well as a ban on indoor and outdoor gatherings, around Montreal and Quebec City. However, Loto-Québec’s Casino de Mont-Tremblant in Mont-Tremblant, and its VLTs in other parts of Quebec, will stay open. It isn’t clear how long the red alert will remain active.
Land-based casinos are being decimated due to COVID-19; however, online operations are able to help those offer the alternative where allowed. Loto-Québec is one of the fortunate ones, and its online gambling segment increased 29% as a result of the ongoing global pandemic. It remains behind others who have seen stronger growth, such as PlayNow in British Columbia, but it is at least heading in the right direction.
Similar trends have been seen in the U.S. where online gaming has been authorized. As states’ physical casinos are not able to provide the tax revenue the governments have counted on year after year, those states that had enough smarts to legalize online gaming are at least able to receive some gambling income. The others, which have let personal opinion interfere with the ability to objectively come up with solutions, can only sit back and suffer in silence.
Until COVID-19 is stopped, Loto-Québec will have to do without Casino de Montréal, Casino du Lac-Leamy, Salon de jeux de Québec, Salon de jeux de Trois-Rivières, Hilton Lac-Leamy Hotel, and VLTs in Greater Montréal, Chaudière-Appalaches, Capitale-Nationale, Mauricie, City of Gatineau and regional county municipality of Collines-de-l’Outaouais, all of which are closed following the latest red alert announcement. This also means a number of employees are going to feel financial strain, with well over 1,000 employees potentially looking at being furloughed.