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Loto-Québec’s gamble on re-opening its casinos with numerous COVID-19 restrictions in place has largely been a bust, at least judging by early reviews from customers who visited Gatineau’s Casino du Lac-Leamy on Thursday.
After being closed for more than four months, the popular casino welcomed customers back with slightly reduced hours (only 19 per day), mandatory masks, physical-distancing requirements, pre-booked online admission recommended and a much smaller capacity, plus other constraints to reduce health risks to staff and customers.
“We’re very disappointed,” Gatineau resident Chantal Normand said as she and her husband, Alain Gilbault, left after about two hours, only about half the time they typically spent on their roughly weekly visits before the casino closed in March.
Among their complaints was the fact that, when an online appointment was booked — the only guaranteed way to get in — customers had to indicate which of the four sections they wanted to be in; one area has slot machines, one has table games and two have combinations. Customers are not permitted, however, to move between rooms.
The one Normand and her husband were in Thursday had none of her favourite slot machines.
“We booked three more visits,” she said, “one per week until Aug. 7, and one of the other ones is for the same side, so I’m going to cancel it.”
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Although masks were mandatory, Gilbault noted that many customers surreptitiously slipped theirs off their noses and mouths while playing, and, even after he notified staff, the practice continued. “Many people inside were complaining.”
“Nobody wants to wear a mask,” Normand added, “but for safety we have to wear it. We didn’t expect it to be as good as before, and it was the first day, but it was disappointing.
“But we’ll come back.”© Bruce Deachman Céline Lepage and Guy Toutant, who had been twice-weekly regulars at the Casino du Lac-Leamy before it closed in March, were among the customers who returned for its re-opening on Thursday.
Céline Lepage and Guy Toutant, who had been twice-weekly regulars before the casino’s March closure, were also among those who returned Thursday, with Lepage describing it as just “OK,” and similarly noting her disappointment with the limited selection of slots. Still, she said, she left with $110 more than when she arrived. Toutant was less fortunate, losing about $400.
Gatineau resident Nicole Arbique, who went online to book visits for each of Lac-Leamy’s first four days open and three more next weekend, likewise described her experience as “very, very disappointing.”
A longtime regular slots fan, she can easily play for 24 hours straight without sleeping, Arbique said, and she very much missed the casino over the last four months, instead spending much of her free time painting on her iPad. Like Normand and Lepage, Arbique also arrived Thursday to find none of her favourite games in the section where she was booked: no Mayan Chief, no Diamonds, no China Shores.
“Maybe they have them on the other side, but I can’t go over there,” she said. “So today I didn’t spend even one cent. There’s not one machine that I like.”
She planned to return to visit the other sections. “But, if I don’t like it, too bad, because they’re not going to get my money,” she said.
Lucie Corbeil, meanwhile, only goes to casinos two of three times a year, but had brought her parents with her from Montreal to celebrate their 60th anniversary at Lac-Leamy. She described Thursday’s state of affairs as “disorganized.”
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“It’s very, very different,” Corbeil said, noting the absence of the sort of bright, noisy atmosphere that would be part of the allure of casinos. “It just wasn’t the same at all.”© Julie Oliver With COVID-19 protocols in place, Casino du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau reopened Thursday after being closed for four months because of the pandemic.
The casino is now open from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m., with capacity of each of its four sections limited to 250 people to allow for physical distancing. Customers are asked to pre-book their visits online, while new visitors arriving after midnight will be refused admittance.
Keno and poker are not available, while other table games such as blackjack do not permit players to touch their cards or chips. Slots players are given stylus pens to eliminate unnecessary contact with machines. Protective screens have also been installed where distancing is impossible.
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“The staff is good, and the inside is clean, no problem,” Gilbault added. “Just not enough security (for masks), not enough machines, and not enough washrooms open.”