Dawson City’s iconic gambling venue was shuttered in this last wave of COVID restrictions. It wasn’t open before Omicron hit, but had planned to open this week.
“This Friday would have been our first day,” said Diamond Tooth Gerties’ casino manager, Viki Paulins.
Plans for the start of their 2022 season had to be set aside after the new restrictions under the Civil Emergency Measures Act closed casinos and nightclubs.
Diamond Tooth Gerties is the only venue in the Yukon with a casino. Nor are there any nightclubs.
Usually, Gerties opens the last week of January to host community fundraisers on weekends.
“We call them community event casinos. We open up for local, not for profit groups who apply to host an event here. And we give them use of our venue while we’re operating at no cost to them.”
There is a good list of groups that usually use the venue for raising money and events, like hockey leagues, the humane society, music and film venues heading into the busy summer season.
A year ago, these events happened with a few modifications. Gerties is a big space that allows for physical distancing. And they also have a stage which makes the building work as a theatre, community space, and casino all in one.
Aside from the casino ban, the problems facing Gerties now are a little different than usual.
Every summer, tourism operators face labour shortages, exacerbated by housing shortages. But Paulins says its usually easy to find people who need work in January.
This year she thinks “that a lot of people who normally would have been working, waited ‘til late and went out to visit friends and family, and they’ve stayed away longer.
“So, I think maybe a couple weeks, maybe some people will get back to town and be available to work. We just need a little bit of time to see if we can find some people to hire and get them trained and ready for when we can open.”
Paulins says she’s “quite optimistic that in a month’s time, things will look a little better for us.”
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