‘Phased reopenings’ announced as casinos implement safety precautions

Image: Shutterstock

As countries around the world look at easing lockdown measures implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic, casinos have started to introduce protocols to guarantee the safety of staff and customers.

Caesars Entertainment has announced it plans to begin phased openings in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Council Bluffs and Lake Tahoe when permitted by the relevant government or tribal bodies.

In line with demands and capacity, Caesars properties will encourage social distancing as well as enhanced health and safety protocols in accordance with guidelines set out by international authorities, as well as federal, state and local health authorities.

As part of the phased reopenings, the company hopes to increase staff capacity as well as amenities, such as restaurants and live entertainment.

“We look forward to welcoming our guests and team members back to our properties as soon as it is appropriate to do so,” said Tony Rodio, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. “We are implementing new protocols focused on the wellbeing of our team members, guests and communities to create environments with high standards of sanitisation and physical distancing practices. We are working closely with public health authorities, gaming regulators and infectious disease specialists to design our plan.”

Upon reopening, Caesars will implement a health and safety plan which includes ‘enhanced cleaning and sanitisation’ of public spaces and guest rooms using ‘CDC-recommended’ disinfectants and guidelines ‘intended to limit the spread’ of the virus.

Health screening programmes will be introduced for all its employees as part of the process and staff will receive an additional ten days of paid ‘COVID sick days’ if they, or someone from their household, have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Pechanga Resort and Casino, Temecula, California has set a ‘target reopening time frame’ for June 1 of this year.

Announced on its official Facebook page, the casino stated the reopening will be ‘centred around the health and safety of our team members, guests, community, and the tribe’.

The statement read: “We are incredibly excited to announce that our target reopening time frame has been set for June 1, 2020!

“Our promise has always been and will always be to exceed expectations. Our reopening will be centered around the health and safety of our team members, guests, community, and the Tribe. Operations and amenities will be limited at first, and our new health and safety protocols will be paramount.

“Please stay tuned for information and updates as they come! We hope everyone has been staying safe and healthy! We cannot wait to see you again soon!”

Safeguards will be implemented on reopening, which include increased number of self-service hand sanitisers, increased number of disinfectant wipe stations and environmental service and housekeeping staff and upgraded cleaning disinfectant.

Furthermore, in line with CDC guidelines, it has updated its HR policies for employees to prevent employees coming in to work sick, and replenish the casino with ‘fresh, outside air several times per hour’. 

The casino also confirmed it will continue to monitor advisories from health officials.

Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos will gradually start to reopen its Casino Resort and Valley River in North Carolina on Monday, May 18 of this year, almost 60 days after closing its doors.

To keep in line with social distancing procedures, access to the casinos will be by invitation only with a small group of customers set to receive an invite by email. Only invited guests can make hotel reservations or access the properties.

As part of its reopening process, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and North Carolina have introduced various ‘extensive health and safety precautions’ for its staff and guests. Areas such as the gaming floor, hotel and some restaurants will be the first to open, with ‘significant limitations on occupancy’ as well as social distancing measures.

Furloughed employees are set to return to work with each team member needing to complete a screening, which includes a questionnaire and temperature check and will be required to wear a face mask during their shift.

Reflecting on the closure, Brooks Robinson, senior vice president and general manager said: “This is uncharted territory for the casino industry, but what is clear is that when we return to work it will not be exactly as it was prior to closing. 

“We look forward to welcoming back our guests and team members, also understanding that social distancing is going to be a part of our business and lives for a while.”

MGM Resorts has released its ‘Seven-Point Safety Plan’ which includes a multi-layered set of protocols and procedures designed in conjunction with medical and scientific experts to prevent the spread of the virus, protect customers and employees whilst rapidly responding to potential new cases.

“Preparing for the moment we can re-open our doors, MGM Resorts focused on developing a plan that puts health and safety at the centre of everything we do. Our ‘Seven-Point Safety Plan’ is the result of months of consultations with public health experts and outlines our comprehensive approach to welcoming guests back safely,” said MGM Resorts acting CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle.

“Our properties will not look the way they used to for a while, and that’s not only okay, it’s critically important. We will continue providing the hospitality experiences we are known for, but we must do so safely. 

“We will continue working with experts and following guidance from the World Health Organisation, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and government officials and regulators as we evolve these protocols based on the latest information.”

The ‘Seven-Point Safety Plan’ is as follows:

  • Screening, Temperature Checks and Employee Training
  • Mandatory Masks and Personal Protective Equipment
  • Physical Distancing
  • Handwashing and Enhanced Sanitisation
  • Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning Controls and Air Quality
  • Incident Response Protocols
  • Digital Innovations

Louisiana casinos will begin the first phase of reopening from May 18 following Governor John Bel Edwards announcement on Monday, which will see the state of Louisiana move into ‘Phase One’ under the White House COVID-19 guidance of May 15.

Businesses that may open on the set dates must do so with 25 per cent occupancy limits, sanitation guidelines and spacing for physical distancing, including casinos and video poker establishments and racetracks not open to spectators.

Casinos will open their doors the following Monday once State Police and the Louisiana Gaming Control Board can finalise any reopening regulations.

Governor Edwards said: “Right now, the data shows improvement, and we also now have a much more robust testing and contract tracing program underway, which will allow us to better identify cases and isolate those who may have been infected. However, we are not out of the woods and if we see a dramatic spike in cases, we may have to increase restrictions. Our lives will not go back to normal for some time,

“I know this has been a trying time for our people, our churches and our businesses, and I am truly grateful for the continued adherence to mitigation measures designed to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and saving lives. Louisianans are a remarkably strong and resilient people, and by working together, we will continue to protect each other and our state.”

“High risk individuals” have been asked to continue to stay at home, except for essential activities, like getting food or medical care.

SkyCity Entertainment will open its doors as of today (May 14) following confirmation from the New Zealand government that the country has moved to COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

A new Health Management Framework, which aligns with the Ministry of Health’s recommendations, will be implemented as staff and customers will be able to return to SkyCity’s Auckland, Hamilton and Queenstown Casino resorts.

CEO of SkyCity Entertainment, Graeme Stephens said: “We have a comprehensive plan in place to ensure our guests and staff feel safe – backed up by contact tracing protocols,

“We are looking forward to welcoming our customers back to SkyCity and we thank them for their understanding during our period of closure. Our priority will continue to be the safety of our customers and our staff.”