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Canada's largest union calls for safe reopening of casinos

2 September 2020

(PRESS RELEASE) -- Unifor is calling on provinces to safely re-open casinos and gaming operations across the country today under the same sound public health protocols that guided re-openings in other sectors of the economy.

"Enough is enough—it's time to safely re-open casinos so gaming workers can get back to work and support their families," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "There's just no sound science that justifies re-opening Walmarts, gyms, and restaurants while at the same time keeping the casinos closed. There's no logic behind the decision, and it's placing a perfectly legal sector in jeopardy."

Over the past several weeks, provinces across Canada have begun to lift restrictions on business operations including restaurants, retail shops, and fitness facilities, based on the expert guidance of public health officials. At the same time, however, casino remain closed under government order in a number of jurisdictions, including British Columbia and parts of southern and south-western Ontario.

Gaming is a highly regulated sector and operators are already required to follow strict government-mandated parameters. As Unifor members continue to work with large gaming providers under strict health and safety protocols the remaining gaming and secondary hospitality operations should be allowed to re-open—particularly those that feature slot gaming, which allows for highly-controlled physical distancing.

With many gaming facilities closed or operating at restricted capacity, thousands of gaming workers across the country remain on lay-off. Many of these workers have already lost, or are soon to lose, benefits coverage, creating a looming drug coverage crisis that could put gaming workers in the difficult position of having to choose between life-saving medication and other essentials like paying for rent or groceries.

"While other types of businesses have been allowed to re-open, casinos and gaming workers are being left behind," added Dias. "We have reviewed the comprehensive plans our employers have submitted to government to make sure guests and workers are kept healthy and safe. With these enhanced measures in place, our members want to get back to work and help our economy get back on its feet."

Canada's legal gaming sector already faces competition from illegal and unregulated online gaming. While many provinces have their own legal online gaming platforms, there are concerns that the extended closure of bricks-and-mortar casinos could lead more customers to participate in illegal online gambling.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. Unifor represents nearly 9,000 gaming workers at casinos, racetracks, and lotteries across Canada and is the largest union for gaming workers in the country. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

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