Ricardo Menéndez, President of the Costa Rican Association of Casinos, explained that there is a lot of enthusiasm in the reopening, since they have been closed for more than six months, and since then “we have been trying to convince the Ministry of Health that we are very prepared to operate, managing safely”.
“We have developed very complete protocols to create a safe environment, which begins with employees and extends to customers,” said Menéndez, who is director of Cirsa Internacional, responsible for the Fiesta and Lucky’s casino brands in Costa Rica.
The operational measures that the casinos have taken are the result of the revision of regulations applied in other countries, where the brands are active, and also surveys and dynamics in social networks, with their local clients.
During the Pandemic, the main operators organized bingo halls, generated prizes that can be used after the reopening, and surveyed their frequent public every month: at least 85% assured that they would return.
In parallel, the companies invested in training and sensitization of their collaborators for the correct follow-up of protocols: the casino sector employed about 4,900 people before the Pandemic.
Menéndez affirmed that the sector is organized and there is total consensus on the need to comply “strictly” with the Health provisions. The head of the association that groups local operators affirmed that all the casinos made the previous calculations to define the number of people, between staff and clients, with whom they would reach 50% of the allowed capacity. Also, customers will be offered gloves at the entrance, as an additional element of protection.
“All this we have consulted with the clients, because some measures from the aesthetic point of view do not look as good as we would like, but they are satisfied. We will begin the first phase with the restrictions that have been set: without selling liquor, with a capacity of 50%, and the restriction of hours. We hope very shortly, given the results and if the controls are what they are –and this is proven– that we can gradually lift some more restrictions,” said Menéndez.
The closure of casinos had a strong impact on the sector. More than 2,000 direct employees were left without work; about 1,800 remain on the temporary suspension of contracts and 100 with reduced working hours.
It should be remembered that the Minister of Economy, Industry, and Commerce, Victoria Hernández, and the Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura, expressed that they would reactivate the activity of casinos, particularly those installed in hotels, starting October.
In this way, the authorities reported that the casinos that are in the hotels will be able to reopen their doors for the weekends, although they especially emphasized that the gaming rooms must follow strict sanitary protocols for their operation.
According to the Minister of Tourism, Gustavo Segura, this measure will benefit more than 2,000 families, whose economic activity depends directly or indirectly on it.
Within this framework, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) will provide advice and inspect that the established protocols are being complied with, and the authorities announced that this decision is aimed at reactivating and maintaining employment during the economic crisis.
Casino operators will have to control the temperature of all customers when entering, they must limit their capacity to 50% of what is authorized by the Ministry of Health, and they will not be able to activate promotions, tournaments, or public shows.
“This announcement follows the route of reactivation and job creation on which we remain focused. Its reopening will be gradual, and to make it possible, the owners of casinos located in hotels have been willing to comply with strict protocols that, as has been the case with all the protocols supervised by the ICT, have been developed jointly by the public and private sectors,” Segura said.
Until the quota of 50% of the allowed capacity is lifted, the casinos will not be authorized to sell alcoholic beverages. The machines must be distanced to respect the protocol between people, offer dividing acrylic screens, and the equipment will be disinfected before, during, and after closing, daily; like the chips, treated with ultraviolet lamps when opening and closing the tables.