Four days after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the Covid-19 pandemic a national disaster, there was little sign of the pressure getting to GrandWest casino’s poker-faced punters and staff.
At midday on Thursday March 19, Northern News saw guests sitting next to each other at gaming machines in the spacious gambling hall. Rows of neighbouring machines stood unused. There was no sign of machines being cleaned between use.
Entering the building there was the usual checkpoint and scanning of bags, only this time hand sanitiser was on offer.
The day after our visit, GrandWest said in a statement that it was taking steps to heed President Ramaphosa’s measures – including prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people – to limit the spread of the virus.
They said they had removed seats from every second slot machine to ensure social distancing but that was not in evidence during our visit.
GrandWest said it had ramped up cleaning of door handles, escalator handrails, slot machines, elevator buttons and card machines, although we saw no evidence of that during our visit. And there was no sign of cleaners or cleaning in the gaming hall.
Sun International said staff on the gaming floor had been given disinfectant to clean slot machines, but we also didn’t see that during our earlier visit.
Two staff we spoke to said normal cleaning was done in the morning by a contractor. They offered to clean a machine if we wanted to use it.
GrandWest said their gaming tables were limited to a maximum of four players with extra seats being removed. There were a few people in the area but they stood and sat close to each other. We saw no sign during our visit of seats having been removed, but some guests were standing and hopping between tables to place their bets.
At the gaming tables one guest was wearing a mask and gloves. He hopped from one table to another, placing bets. Each gaming table had hand sanitiser for staff use, but there was no sign of it being offered to guests.
According to GrandWest, their staff don’t wear gloves as it gives a false sense of security. “People touch their faces without realising that the gloves have also become contaminated from touching infected surfaces,” said the statement.
National Gambling Board senior manager Bryan Arumugam said the public should avoid turning to unlicensed gambling dens – both physical and online – if the growing outbreak forced the closure of licensed establishments. Gamblers would have no legal recourse or “punter protection” as provincial licensing authorities and the NGB would be unable to intervene in winnings-related disputes, he said.
GrandWest did not say how much revenue would be lost as a result of the cancellation of events.
GrandWest closed Hanover Street, Jackson Hall, Quarterdeck Restaurant, Golden Anchor and Bravo Bar until further notice. The onsite care facility, Melela’s Kids Corner, is closed and seating capacity at GrandWest’s other dining areas was reduced to below 100.
In line with new liquor regulations gazetted on Wednesday March 18 GrandWest no longer sell or offer alcohol at any of their casinos, bars or restaurants. They also cancelled upcoming casino draws, promotions and tournaments.
On Monday President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown from midnight tomorrow, Thursday March 26 to midnight on Thursday April 16.