CALGARY -- It’s a move casinos in Alberta were waiting for. On September 3, table games were allowed to resume play with a number of safety measures in place to protect staff and players.

In a world filled with dealers, table games are one of the biggest deals for a variety of stakeholders - the casinos, the government and numerous community stakeholders who rely upon casinos for substantial portions of their fundraising.

Tammy Whitney is the resort executive at Grey Eagle and says table games historically represent about half of the casino’s revenue, with slots making up the other half.

“Its hugely going to impact the revenue the casino can generate and the benefit it provides to the rest of the province through the Alberta Lottery Fund,” said Whitney. “As well as to other First Nations communities in Alberta so the impact of having these table games open towards revenue and charities is phenomenal.”

Safety protocols

Grey Eagle has implemented a number of safety protocols surrounding its gaming tables, including installing plexiglass between dealers and patrons.  Also,  instead of six people surrounding a table, only three or four will be allowed.

“Alberta has a very good system of sharing gaming revenues with First Nations that host casinos with those First Nations that don’t,” said Premier Jason Kenney. “So all First Nations in Alberta benefit from this.”

Chief Billy Morin is from the Enoch Cree Nation that operates one of the largest casinos in the province. Chief Morin says all casino operators have lost tens of millions of dollars in revenue with gaming tables closed since March.

Huge impact

The impact of the shutdown has been felt at every level of activity across the province.

“Even for the non-Indigenous casinos," said Chief Morin. "Their piece that goes back to sports for youth, that go back to not-for-profits in the city, they’re also benefiting from these tables opening up, so it’s a ray of hope at this time for not-for-profit charities under the AGLC model - and that’s really the importance of opening up tables sooner rather than later.”

The head of the Hangar Flight Museum in Calgary says the facility receives around 10 per cent of its annual budget through gaming revenue.  Brian Desjardins says the museum relies on that money and earns it by providing volunteers and hosting a casino every second year.

“We’re a smaller attraction here in Calgary so any amount of money is important to us,” said Desjardins. “Losing 10 percent of our revenue would have a major impact on how we can run this museum. It’s something that we budget for annually and expect and anticipate these funds because it helps us considerably.”