A lineup of more than 30 people formed outside the front entrance at Casino Rama - despite the rain on Thursday morning - as the casino opened its doors at 10 a.m. after being closed for 16 months.
Bonnie Thew, of Bracebridge, was among those in line.
“We always came before it was closed and I wanted to come back now to help support the employees who have been out of work for a long time,” Thew said.
Before the closure, Thew would attend the casino a couple of times a month.
“I’m also excited to get back into the routine of supporting the local businesses that rely on the casino,” she said.
When the casino opened its doors at 10 a.m. Thew headed straight for the slot machines.
“I did online games when the casino was closed, just the free ones. It wasn’t as fun as being in the casino because you don’t have the noise, you don’t have the people; it’s an experience to be here in person,” she explained.
Beryl Wilson from Sebright was another regular casino customer who was anxious to get inside the building on Thursday morning.
“I came here to gamble today. I missed coming here, it gives me something to do,” she said.
Before the closure, Wilson would spend a couple of days a week at the casino.
“I played cards with my sister sometimes to try and fill that void, but that’s about it,” she explained.
Wilson says she is looking forward to the opening of the casino’s hotel in August and the entertainment centre in the fall.
Carl Young, from Bracebridge, went to the casino on Thursday morning to see how it was going to work during the pandemic.
“I wanted to see what it looks like inside. I’m excited to check it all out again,” he said.
Young visited the casino once a week before the closure.
“I’m excited to play games again. I missed the games, the shows, and all the experiences here.”
During the closure, Young tried various things to fill the void left by the casino's closure amid the pandemic.
“I played games online to keep busy, but I like it better in person because you get to do it in your own time. You can go eat, come back, kind of make a day of it,” he said.
Sharon Kelly, who made the trip to Rama from Mount Albert Thursday morning, anticipates the casino will provide her with an ‘escape’ from the pandemic.
“I’m excited to see the casino re-opening today. I will be headed for the slot machines first,” she said.
“I missed not coming here. For me, it’s an escape, it’s something to do that is fun.”
Before the pandemic, Kelly could be found at the casino every three weeks. During the closure she wasn’t able to replace the excitement of visiting the slot machines.
“There was no way to replace the casino; it was locked down, so we locked down,” she said.
“I’ve been counting down the days for when we could get back here. It’s my source of entertainment.”