Entertainment

Casino Rama rolling the dice, preparing to reopen July 29

Casino Rama is expected to reopen – finally – on July 29.

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment announced it is reopening most of its properties on July 16, but it will take a little longer for Rama to open its doors to gamblers.

While details are scant, Robert Mitchell, Gateway’s director of communications and public affairs, confirmed the re-opening date.

He said more details should be available Monday or Tuesday.

According to the casino’s Facebook page, you will not have to make an appointment to visit the gaming facility in Rama when it reopens.

It notes both table games and slot machines will be available and one of its eight restaurants, Simcoe Yard House, will be open when patrons are allowed to return .

There is no timelime yet for a return of concerts and it’s unclear when the hotel and spa at the property will reopen.

Casino Rama has been closed for 16 months. All casinos were ordered shuttered by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission on March 16, 2020 due to the pandemic.

Last summer, as the number of cases subsided, the province allowed bingo halls and casinos to reopen, but the 50-person limit at the time was not deemed sufficient to reopen a large space like Casino Rama.

Last fall, as the roller-coaster of case counts again subsided, Gateway reopened its casinos in October of 2020, but Rama remained closed.

Then, in November of 2020, Rama First Nation Chief Ted Williams said parties had agreed to prepare for a safe reopening.

However, that decision was reversed a few days later as various parts of the province stepped up restrictions due to a new wave of coronavirus cases. Casino Rama remained closed.

But now, more than 50 percent of Ontario adults have been fully vaccinated and the number of confirmed cases is below 200 each day. As a result, when the province moves to Stage 3 of its reopening plan on July 16, casinos can reopen to 50 per cent of its capacity as long as social distancing measures can be maintained.

While it’s unclear, at present, what specific restrictions might be in place when Casino Rama reopens, patrons will see some changes at the popular casino east of Orillia.

During the shutdown, the gaming floor was “refreshed.” Gateway, in concert with officials from Unifor – the union that represents almost 1,100 unionized employees at Casino Rama – reconfigured the floor and ‘refreshed’ the slot machine stock.

“The new floor design will also be better aligned with the volumes we were experiencing prior to closure,” noted an internal memo from Gateway to staff in February.

Corey Dalton, the president of Unifor Local 1090, told at the time the “refresh” will see the removal of about 400 slot machines and 20 table games.

However, he said “there will not be an alteration to staffing levels” at the casino.

“There were 1,050 Unifor members before the pandemic,” Dalton told . “The reconfiguration of the floor (and the removal of the slots and tables) is not expected to have any impact on staffing levels.”

He said “these machines and tables were considered to be excess” before the pandemic; most were rarely used.

Mitchell told in February the changes will be appreciated by patrons.

“While the gaming floor is in part being reconfigured to better align with the new landscape created by increased competition within the gaming industry across the province, we also believe the refresh will improve the customer experience,” Mitchell said.

“The new layout will provide customers better access to their favourite games and allow guests to more easily navigate the gaming floor. The present refresh was in the planning stages even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, as business volumes did not warrant the number of machines we had in operation at the Rama location,” Mitchell explained.

“The new design of the gaming floor aligns with the layout and gaming variety we successfully employ at other Gateway Casinos in the province that has proven very popular with our patrons,” said Mitchell.

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