Some Arizona casinos reopening as stay-at-home order expires

May 15, 2020 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — Several Arizona casinos were partially reopening Friday with new sanitizing protocols and social distancing measures about two months after they closed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino in Maricopa and Fort McDowell Casino near Fountain Hills were reopening partially Friday morning as Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order expires. Three casinos the Gila River Indian Community runs in the southern part of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area were set to resume partial operations at midday.

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The Ak-Chin Tribal Council earlier approved the reopening of its casino, with slot machine banks arranged to allow for social distancing and limited seating at blackjack tables. Poker, keno and bingo games were not resuming yet.

“We look forward to welcoming back our casino guests,” Robert Livingston, the casino’s general manager, said in a statement.

Footage taken from above by an ABC15 news helicopter Friday morning showed several hundred people lining up outside the Ak-Chin casino. The customers, mostly middle aged and elderly, including a few on motorized scooters, appeared to be respecting social distance with large spaces between each other. Few were wearing masks.

Along with social distancing and sanitizing measures, the casino that belongs to the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation will conduct temperature checks using handheld scanners and thermal cameras. Anyone with a reading over 100 degrees will be denied entry.

On its website, Gila River Hotels & Casinos is encouraging visitors to “RECLAIM YOUR FUN” at the Lone Butte and Wild Horse Pass casinos near Chandler and the Vee Quiva in Laveen.

The Gila River site said casinos would have new non-smoking sections on slot machine floors that observe social distancing and hard plastic shields had been installed in key areas including the cashier cage and some dining venues. Hand sanitizing stations were being prepared at entrances and social distancing will be encouraged throughout.

Visitors will be asked whether they have any symptoms like a fever or dry cough and will be encouraged to wear masks. Fewer people will be allowed in the gaming areas at the same time.

Bucky’s & Yavapai Casinos in Prescott Valley announced this week they will reopen June 1.

Mazatzal Hotel & Casino in Payson has extended its shutdown, but did not specify a reopening date. The website for the Desert Diamond Casinos in Glendale, Tucson and Sahuarita does not say when they will reopen.

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Talking Stick Resort and Casino and Casino Arizona near Scottsdale previously announced they would remain closed through May. They said the owner and operator was fully compensating staff during the closure.

Cliff Castle Casino in Camp Verde and Twin Arrows Casino Resort in Flagstaff say they will remain closed for now.

Arizona’s Department of Gaming has said each casino’s decision to close is being decided by the individual sovereign tribal nations.

Casinos remain closed in Las Vegas and the rest of Nevada, where the economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism in general. Nevada gambling officials last week approved rules to limit customers, keep gamblers spaced apart from each other and disinfect dice and cards when the state’s casinos do reopen.

But Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has said gambling venues will not be among businesses restarting activities during the first phase of Nevada’s reopening.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.