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Apr 6, 2021

Casinos Set to Reopen, but What’s the Future of Gaming?

If you just love a night out gambling and have been missing the casino life, well your luck may be about to change. Cabinet has approved the reopening of this popular form of entertainment starting April 15th. Here’s News Five’s Isani Cayetano with more.   

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

At the height of its operations, Tropicana was turning a generous profit from scores of patrons who descended on the casino every night.  As lucrative as it was in the months following its grand opening, business came to a screeching halt less than two years later with the advent of COVID-19.  The gaming floor, once teeming with activity, was deserted abruptly and slot machines that ran matching numbers into the wee early hours were plugged out indefinitely.

 

Mirsa Milian, Asst. General Manager, Tropicana

Mirsa Milian

“From since then many of us have been at home just waiting until the new government decided to reopen the casino.  A lot of the employees have been calling us, letting us know what’s going on, you know.  They’ve been kicking them out of their house because they are not able to pay their rent.  They call us because they are trying to get a loan because they don’t have anything to eat.”

 

The economic fallout that resulted from the pandemic has severely impacted all major industries, including entertainment.  With April fifteenth being set as the new date for casinos to reopen, there is cautious optimism that things will gradually return to normal.

 

Zenaida Allen

Zenaida Allen, Administrator, Tropicana

“Definitely, being without income for close to almost a year because we were only allowed to operate two months, I think, in last year, it’s been devastating.  Like you said, we have to pick up almost starting from scratch and we do have a game plan going forward, but most importantly [is] getting back our personnel so that we can open up.”

 

Prior to COVID-19 taking hold of Belize, nightlife was at its zenith.  Newtown Barracks, the hub for many restaurant and bars, was very much alive and Tropicana was introduced at the right time to capitalize on social life.  But no one saw the virulent illness coming, nor were they aware of the financial setback it would bring.

 

Mirsa Milian

“Life at Tropicana Casino before COVID, it was hype, it was eventful and people would come.  Gambling is not about coming to win money or to lose money.  A lot people come here because they feel comfortable.  They want to come and relax, enjoy the complimentary drinks we offer [and] enjoy our food.  A lot of the customers that we cater to are not, you know, they don’t come here because they want to win.  Yes, you want to win big money, of course, but you more just want to have that free time for yourself where you can, you know, you can feel relaxed.  Since COVID we have been shut down and, if you can see for yourself, everything’s turned off, everything.  It’s even scary, everything’s off, no customers.”

 

…neither are there any employees.  Over a hundred of them were let go in the intervening time and the immediate priority ahead of the reopening is to salvage what’s left of their workforce.

 

Zenaida Allen

“We do have our list of employees and definitely the supervisors would be one of the first to be called because they are our backbone and getting to see who’s available, like Mirsa says, because some of them have moved on and we can’t blame them, you know, we have to live. It is definitely a big setback, you know, investing in these machines is not small money we’re talking about, you know and everything that we’ve worked so hard [for].  We were a new casino, we only opened in 2018 so to have this very close in 2020 come upon us, it’s been difficult but the first shutdown we recovered very easily from that, but this one has been going on for, it‘s from August, August 2021.”

 

Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.


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