Canadian casino supremo, Rod Baker, has stepped down from the company after breaching travel rules to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Baker, 55, who was chief executive of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, travelled with his wife Ekaterina to the small community of Beaver Creek in the Yukon territory to get the coronavirus jabs.
However, the couple had previously been in Whitehorse, Yukon, and left the territory before quarantining for the required 14 days. Once authorities caught up with the pair, they were charged with breaking local coronavirus rules. They were fined CAD2,300 for the transgression.
Baker Steps Down After 10 Years at the Helm
The quarantine breach itself was bad enough. However, it emerged that the couple had pretended to be new employees of a local motel to get their vaccination at a local mobile center. Here is what John Streicker, Community Services minister for the Yukon, thinks about the situation:
'Baker and his wife put our community at risk. We had not been imagining that someone would go to this sort of length to mislead or deceive.'
As a result of the breach, Baker announced he was standing down as CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. In a short press release, the company announced the interim appointment of Terrance Doyle as Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately:
‘Any such actions whatsoever that run contrary to the company’s core values, that do not comply with GCGC’s strict compliance policies in regards to travel, and ensure that the company and its employees follow all health guidance and directions, will not be tolerated.’
Rod Baker had been CEO for ten years. The company operates 26 casinos and hospitality centres right across Canada, including major facilities like the River Rock Casino Resort and the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver. Great Canadian Gaming Corp. is the subject of a $2bn bid by Apollo Global Management.
‘Oppression Against Indigenous Communities’
There were also calls for Baker to receive a custodial sentence for his breach. Janet Vander Meer, head of the coronavirus response team of the indigenous White River First Nation, called for ‘jail time’ for Mr. Baker, adding:
'Mr. Baker's breach is another example of ongoing acts of oppression against indigenous communities by wealthy individuals that thought they would get away with it. It's just mind-boggling.'
Canada’s Casinos Rebound from COVID Restrictions
Like many gaming companies worldwide, Great Canadian Gaming Corp. has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the start of the first lockdown in 2020, GCGC’s share price plummeted 62% as casinos shut their doors. Casinos in British Columbia like the Hard Rock may not re-open their doors until late 2021.
Despite a drop in infection rates, cases have been on the rise again. And in December last year, Century Casinos announced it was to close all of its gaming facilities in Canada temporarily. The gaming firm runs casinos in Alberta, including Century Casinos in Edmonton and Calgary. Both casinos are still closed.
Canadian COVID-19 Cases Top 750,000
Like many countries, Canada experienced a surge in coronavirus cases in the run-up to Christmas. However, cases are beginning to drop off. The latest figures showed that 757,000 Canadians had contracted the virus since the first reports. Over 19,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in Canada.
In British Columbia alone, there have been over 65,000 reported cases of COVID-19 and 1,100 deaths. However, in the Yukon, where Mr. Baker and his wife received their vaccines, there has been just a single death.