Kelowna casino has soft opening this weekend ahead of the full deal in July | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna casino has soft opening this weekend ahead of the full deal in July

Chances Casino in Kelowna is going to have a soft opening this weekend in an effort to draw some customers back after being closed for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in anticipation of a return to gambling on July 1, 2021.
May 28, 2021 - 6:00 PM

After more than a year of being totally closed because of COVID and, after spending almost $2 million in renovations in anticipation of getting back to business, Kelowna's Chances Casino is starting to open up this weekend.

Under B.C.’s new Restart Plan, casinos won’t be open to gambling until July 1 at the earliest but Stan Walt, Chances’ owner opened his patio and indoor dining space today, May 28, something he had planned before yesterday’s announcement of the Restart Plan.

READ MORE: Indoor dining and games for outdoor sports teams among things to restart in B.C. today

“We needed to get our equipment restarted, to get our operations back up and running, to ease our staff back into, at least, some activity,” Walt said. “And, quite frankly, we were just so bored of being here all this time we said, it doesn’t matter, whether we lose money or not, we’ve got to get moving.”

All casinos were closed last spring as the first wave of COVID-19 hit the world.

Walt took that time to do extensive renovation in the expectation of re-opening under strict restrictions in June.

He ripped out the once crowded bingo space, cut the number of slots from 348 to 310, spread them over an additional 10,000 square feet and postponed plans for card games.

READ MORE: This renovated Kelowna casino is ready to go once Dr. Bonnie Henry gives the nod

“We had done all this work inside planning for what would have been a very tumultuous year but expecting to be open,” Walt said. “Now, the year has passed with us completely closed and we’re looking at a bit of a course of action that has still yet to be completely defined as to what our restrictions are going to be. I’m sure there’s going to be occupancy load restrictions, physical distancing restrictions, mask on restrictions that are going to take us through until things ease further.”

The plan to open this weekend was, in part, to reconnect with customers who can enjoy a drink, something to eat and have access to a kiosk selling scratch-and-win tickets, Keno and sports betting. Slots are not allowed until July.

“It’s going to be a good feeling to get back re-energized and start seeing some folks in and around the casino again,” he said. “It’s been a long haul.”

Seating at slot machines will have to be safely distanced when casinos re-open in July as illustrated in the photo submitted by the BC Lottery Corporation. Chances in Kelowna has already separated its machines to make sure patrons keep their distance from each other.
Seating at slot machines will have to be safely distanced when casinos re-open in July as illustrated in the photo submitted by the BC Lottery Corporation. Chances in Kelowna has already separated its machines to make sure patrons keep their distance from each other.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/BCLC

It will also allow him to slowly bring back some workers. He’s kept 15 managers and supervisors on staff throughout the shutdown but needs another 150 workers for the full re-opening.

He’ll be pleased if 60 per cent of his former staff are able to come back but has no idea how many have moved on to other jobs. He’s only heard from a couple who have done that.

The July 1 opening will also give him time to get resupplied and get the equipment up and running.

“Equipment doesn’t like to sit,” Walt said. “Everything we’ve turned on here – every other freezer doesn’t work or isn’t chilling properly. This glass washer worked, this didn’t. This dishwasher is spewing out water. Why? Because this equipment is made to work and, when you dormant it for a year and half, it just seizes up. Thousands of dollars in repair in equipment that has been quiet.”

Walt has yet to meet with a WorkSafeBC representative to discuss specific safety measures that might be required for Chances but his protocols do mostly fit with those outlined by a B.C. Lotteries Corporation news release.

The only additional item listed in the news release is that staff will have to complete "detailed training about enhanced health and safety protocols."


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