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Tribal and commercial casino reopenings continue


A number of major commercial and tribal casinos operators have announced that they will begin to reopen some of their facilities across the US, following a period of temporary closure due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Certain states are now permitting casinos to reopen, provided that they abide by new measures to help combat the spread of the virus, including operating with limited capacity and promoting social distancing throughout their facilities.

Penn National Gaming (PNG) has reopened its five casinos in Louisiana, after Governor John Bel Edwards lifted a certain restrictions related to coronavirus, allowing casinos to recommence activities.

PNG’s Boomtown Casino Bossier City, Boomtown Casino New Orleans, L’Auberge Casino Baton Rouge, L’Auberge Casino Lake Charles and Margaritaville Casino Bossier City are operating at limited capacity, in line with state regulations.

The operator will today (May 21) also reopen a further five properties in Mississippi; the 1st Jackpot Casino Tunica, Ameristar Casino Hotel Vicksburg, Boomtown Casino Biloxi, Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast and Hollywood Casino Tunica, again at limited capacity, per state and regulatory guidelines.

PNG said it plans to resume gaming operations in other states as and when they permit facilities to reopen, including in West Virginia, which is set to reopen on June 5

“We are continuing to work closely with our regulators and state and local leaders to prepare for the eventual reopening of all of our properties nationwide, and I want to thank the team at Penn who has worked tirelessly over the last several weeks to prepare for this process,” PNG president and chief executive Jay Snowden said.

Meanwhile, Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) will today reopen its Harlow’s Casino Resort & Spa and Riverwalk Casino Hotel in Mississippi.

CDI said both properties would implement and practice its new “CDI 360 Degree Approach to Safety,” which includes initiatives to facilitate social distancing, personal protection and enhanced cleaning.

Protocols include increased frequency of cleaning and sanitizing of all high-touch surfaces, mandatory temperature checks of all guests and team members upon entering the building, and installing plexiglass or polycarbonate dividers in areas of high touch transactions.

CDI had already reopened its 12 off-track betting locations featuring video poker and simulcast wagering in Louisiana, while spectator-free live horse racing resumed at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Kentucky last week.

Bill Carstanjen, chief executive of CDI, said: “Our teams have worked diligently to develop and implement new health and safety protocols that meet and exceed the requirements of each jurisdiction to protect our guests, our team members and our communities.”

Elsewhere, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe, two federally recognized tribes with reservations in Connecticut, will begin to reopen parts their reservations on June 1.

Phase one will see Mashantucket Pequot partially reopen the Foxwoods Resort Casino, while the Mohegan Tribe will reopen portions of Mohegan Sun to the public.

The two tribes worked together to establish new safety protocols and operating procedures for each property’s reopening guidelines, with the aim of protecting both staff and guests.

As such, both properties will incorporate protective equipment and physical distancing, while neither location will open its concert venues, buffets or poker rooms, with restaurants open for take-out only. In addition, the two casinos will only cater to Connecticut and Rhode Island residents.

“We’re proud to partner with the Mohegan Tribe to ensure we develop the most responsible plan for helping the state of Connecticut recover swiftly and safely from the crippling economic impact of this pandemic,” Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation chairman Rodney Butler said.

“Like many casinos successfully reopening around the US, we are implementing industry best practices to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.”

Mohegan Tribe chairman James Gessner added: “The new guidelines, which were shared with state officials weeks ago, are based off recommendations from experts nationally and around the globe and have been implemented at several of our other resort destinations across the country – some of which are now open or will be later this month.

“As we enter our ‘new normal’, we are excited to welcome back our team members who are an extension of our Mohegan family and to once again begin working with many of our local partners and businesses to help stimulate the Connecticut economy.”

This week, MGM Resorts also announced plans to reopen casinos in Mississippi after setting out a new ‘Seven-Point Safety Plan’ to protect people while on site

Boyd Gaming is also to recommence casino activities in Mississippi, with plans to reopen its IP Casino Resort Spa and Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall today, as well as several locations in Louisiana over the next week.

Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment set out plans for a phased opening of its locations in Nevada, New Jersey and Iowa, but only when permitted by government or tribal bodies.