Belize's casinos will open their doors tomorrow April 15th.

But what are the protocols for a post-covid return to gambling? That's what Cherisse Halsall found out when she visited the city's two premier casinos. Here's that story.

It's been a little over a year since Belize City's Casinos were forced to close their doors, a Covid containment measure that's left a hole in the social life of gamblers and caused untold financial hardship to the scores of employees who had to be sent home.

But that all changes tomorrow when the Casino's re-open. From there the government plays a game of Covid roulette, a real-time test to determine whether there can be a Casino comeback without a COVID spike.

Cenk Tanir, GM, Princess Hotel and Casino
"Well I have a lot of customers calling me, calling me, they are insisting that I open and I say it's not in my hands it's the regulations and the law, they have to wait and all that, they are excited, they are excited but we will see."

"I'm an employee too you know and we are very excited for it because we haven't worked for a year and thanks to the government for the opportunity to re-open. All my employees were here yesterday and they are really happy. So far and everybody knows the rules and we are already finished with all the tasks that the ministry of Health requested from us and we are good to know. We're just waiting for the S.I. for the timing of the curfew and maybe they will give additional rules that capacity of smoking and alcohol service, we don't know these details yet but we are waiting on the S.I. to know and whatever the rules, we will follow it."

And with most of the customers vaccinated the transition back to semi-normalcy should be just within reach, still there are strict guidelines in place, ones that speak to physical distancing, sanitizing and the all-important temperature checks.

It's the same across the street at Tropicana Casino where another general manager is also making his preparations.

Victoriano Uh, Assistant Manager,Tropicana Casino
"Basically what we are doing right now is going by the guidelines that the government has given us, following all the guidelines and the sanitization process, so cleaning up, setting up, calling all our returning staff and also making sure that we follow all the guidelines that the government have given us for us to open the casino."

"We practice social distancing we keep, for example in each table a maximum of three players maximum and every time a dealer moves from the table the dealer sanitizes, we keep sanitizers at hand. If customers ask for sanitizers we give them. When the customer leave the table, we sanitize the table completely and for the slot machines we practice the social distancing, turn off every other machine."

Reporter
"Tomorrow is the day that casinos are allowed to open, but I'm still seeing sand bags in front of your door, so what happens tomorrow when your customers show up and doors are still lock?"

Victoriano Uh, Assistant Manager,Tropicana Casino
"Well like we said we're still in the phase where we are making everything ready for tomorrow. So I think by end of the day everything will be perfect so that tomorrow is the grand reopening."

And while excitement fills the casino floor there's also a healthy dose of concern.

Gone are the days when a player on a roll could be cheered on by a supportive crowd. And back at Princess Cenk Tanir told us about the protocols at his blackjack and roulette tables.

Cenk Tanir, GM, Princess Hotel and Casino
"Well they already have the distance from the customers because they have a table between the customers and them, and whenever they approach the tables, they clean their hands, and when they leave we have sanitizers every table and for them too and none of the persons here without masks."

"When they come to the casino we take the temperature of the customers and employee too. If we see the high level in temperature we have to send them home until they come down and then if necessary we will ask them to test again before they can come back to the floor."

And while that's not what those employees want to hear after a year in limbo but the hope is that with the right protocols in place, all that can be avoided.

Victoriano Uh, Assistant Manager, Tropicana Casino
"It's been a rough road for everyone, for us a company and for our employees, we've been out of business for over a year and some staff have gotten ahead, found another job, and for us as a Casino it's basically like we are starting back from zero. We are calling back our staff, we are making sure that everything is proper so that we can bring the Casino back into life and get back our lives like before."

Additional casino protocols will include an increase in the frequency of air filter replacements, training of Managers and personnel to look for signs of illness and to bring such information to management when necessary, and finally the hiring of Justice's of the peace to ensure adherence to all public health protocols.

Why Cabinet Ruled On Casino's

One man in full support of those protocols is PM Briceno.

And, this afternoon he told his Government Press Office that the major push behind Cabinet's decision to re-open casinos was the large number of Belizeans that the establishments employ.

He says that those numbers are in the hundreds.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"We are slowly, gradually, cautiously reopening the country and we're going step by step, we need to get people back to work. We have COVID under control and let's pray that we keep it that way, but people have to go back to work and so the casinos employee hundreds of people. And so, we felt as a cabinet that it is time to be able to allow them to open under strict safety guidelines and standards: social distancing, mask wearing and everything that goes along with that."

Channel 7