After A Successful Pilot Program, Bogotá Is Ready To Reopen Its Casinos And Bingo Halls

Image by Andres Corredor
Article by : Helen Sep 30, 2020

Amid concerns of the second wave of Covid-19 illnesses sweeping through South America, residents of Bogotá Colombia will take a step closer to returning to a normal life. Mayor Claudia López authorized a plan to reopen the city’s 515 casinos and 17 bingo halls. However, other places where residents gather in large numbers will remain closed for the foreseeable future. This includes venues such as discos and bars, as well as concert halls and theaters.

Any activity that has already issued [a] biosafety protocol can operate by applying it. There will not be a limit on days of operation, but there will be restrictions on time of admission and capacity as approved by the Ministry of Health for each economic activity.

Claudia López, Mayor of Bogotá

The reopening of all the city’s casinos comes on the heels of a successful pilot program. On September 1, Columbia’s gaming regulatory body selected forty casinos for reopening. Bogotá wanted to test elements of its safety protocol in areas where virus spread had stabilized or fallen. All evidence points to safe operation even as the pandemic continues to claim victims.

Protocols for keeping gaming venues safe were approved by the Ministry of Health back in August. To ensure social distancing, slot machine and gambling machine players will be separated by physical barriers. Additionally, all machines will be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Players will not be allowed to eat or consume alcoholic beverages. There will also be capacity limits and restricted opening times. Additionally, there will be time limits for players at the machines.

These protocols stem from a meeting between Fecoljuegos and Colombia’s Economic Development Secretary. Fecoljuegos claims Columbia’s gaming industry was hit hard by Covid-19. Due to forced shutdowns, the Columbian government lost over $60,000 USD in tax revenue, a loss Bogotá will surely feel in the coming months as the city copes with the pandemic.

Columbia did not institute a nationwide plan for reopening. As a result, each municipality must come up with such a scheme on its own. To date, Bogotá is one of three Columbian cities to beginning reopening. The other two are Cartago and the second largest city Medellin.

For the past six months, Bogotá’s 7,000 gaming employees have been left without work, adding to the city’s economic struggles. The shutdown meant the country’s healthcare system was put under financial strain. Despite the safety measures, Bogotá has recorded 258K of Covid-19 cases, with more than 6,000 deaths. Given these numbers, it is clear that Bogotá’s burdened hospitals need an influx of funds.

The main component of Columbia’s healthcare system is the General Social Security Health System (GSSHS). This has two sections, those that pay into it, and a government subsidized for anyone who cannot pay. Gaming employees fall under the contributory section because they receive a salary. Once they return to work, the GSSHS will begin receiving employee health insurance payments.

Fecoljuegos, the organization that regulates Colombia’s gaming industry, notes the GSSHA missed out on more than $40,000 or the equivalent of 150 million Colombian pesos. Given the current pandemic, this will likely mean hardship to the GSSHS and its task of caring for Bogotá’s Covid-19 cases. In an interview, Evert Montero Cárdenas, Fecoljuegos’s President noted he has been working closely with the Ministry of Health “with responsibility and dedication to [develop] the biosecurity protocols, demonstrating that ours is a responsible industry which puts the health and safety of its staff and clients first”. Cárdenas is optimistic that the gaming industry will make “a swift recovery.”

The reopening of casinos and bingo halls means Bogotá’s residents will, for the first time in six months, be able to enjoy some recreational activities. Meanwhile, Columbia’s Ministry of Health is cautious and ready to adjust gaming reopening at a moment’s notice.


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