The slot machines, table games, and restaurants at Casino Rama are ready to entertain customers once again.
After being shut down on Jan. 3 by the Ontario government amid the rise of the Omicron variant, Casino Rama is re-opening Monday morning at 50 percent capacity. Doors will open at 10 a.m.
Robert Mitchell, director of communications and public affairs for Gateway Casinos, which operates Casino Rama and several other casinos, says staff are currently being recalled to work.
The hotel, Simcoe Yard House Pub, and St. Germain’s Steakhouse will all be open. Weirs restaurant will also re-open, but not until Feb. 1.
The centre bar remains closed until at least Feb. 21, when alcoholic beverages will again be permitted on the gaming floor. The entertainment centre will remain closed until at least March 14 when the Ontario government aims to lift all capacity restrictions.
“We are very pleased to be re-opening and to be bringing staff back,” Mitchell said. “We feel confident now that the government has a plan, a strategy, and an architecture in place to open in increments of 21 days. We are very optimistic.”
Mitchell says he doesn’t have a headcount on how many staff will return to work and how many will remain laid-off until capacity restrictions fully lift. He says some staff members have accepted jobs in other locations during the lockdowns.
“We’ve tried to maintain communication with our staff through our human resources department,” he said. “I can only assume it’s been very difficult on everybody in the hospitality sector, in retail, and across the economy. It’s been a very stressful time and a time of great uncertainty for everybody.”
Tshweu Moleme, a Unifor union representative at the casino, said staff, who have faced multiple layoffs over the past 22 months, are eager to get back to work.
"Members I talk to are frustrated, but hopeful, too," Moleme said.
Employees "just want to see a return to normal workdays and life for them and their families, without fears of work stopping, workplace outbreaks, losing jobs, and so on. Things are just so unpredictable right now, and you can imagine what that must be like, especially for those used to routine, relying on their work for day to day survival, etc. People want stability," he said.
"Workers also want to see Casino Rama continuing to be No. 1 in Canada, with top-notch staff," Moleme said.
"We all pray that this painful time we’re living in passes, so we are able to return to work — to pay bills, to put bread and butter on our tables at home."
Mitchell says lockdowns have also been tough on customers, who are anxious to get life back to normal.
“The acceptance of the vaccine and the ready enthusiasm from the public to get a third booster shot shows the desire of the public to do everything possible to get back to normal,” he said.
“I think people want to be entertained, they want to enjoy casinos and watch live sporting events in restaurants and bars. We have the Super Bowl coming up and Valentine’s Day. There are just so many reasons to want to go out and enjoy yourself.”
--With files from Dave Dawson