PHOENIX — Some Valley casinos will open their doors for the first time in almost two months starting Friday.
The reopenings will come right as Gov. Doug Ducey's stay-at-home order expires.
Fort McDowell, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and Gila River Hotels and Casinos have all announced plans to reopen in one capacity or another.
Talking Stick Resort and Desert Diamond both said they will delay their reopening to a later date.
“There is nothing close to this ever happening,” said Alan Feldman, a professor at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and former casino employee of 30 years.
Back in March, casino floors were closed overnight in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Feldman said casinos now must be careful with how they reopen.
“If you don’t do this right, you close again and you risk never reopening,” Feldman said.
The biggest concern is consumer confidence, according to Feldman. The professor said it will take time in order to restore the trust of people to go back to the casinos.
He said at first, all casinos reopening will take social distancing measures.
"Initially it’s going to be about spacing," Feldman said. "I suspect it’s going to change how the games are laid out on the floors and change the games themselves."
Feldman said there will be more visible sanitation measures in place.
In statements, all casinos reopening said one way or another they are following social distancing guidelines:
At Harrah's Ak-Chin the following procedures are being followed:
- The casino floor will be open with slot machine banks arranged to allow for proper social distancing and with limited seating at Blackjack tables. The Poker Room, Keno and BINGO will not be open at this time.
- Hand-sanitizing stations throughout the casino floor, masks for all employees and increased cleaning service in all common areas and throughout the back of the house.
- Dunkin Donuts®, Copper Cactus, Chop Block & Brew, and Agaves will be open for food/beverage service, with social distancing protocols in place. The Buffet, Oak & Fork and Laurel Lounge will not be open at this time.
- Based on the number of guest reservations, the resort and tower guestrooms will also open on May 15 for stays beginning that evening.
Gila River Hotels and Casinos said in an email that they will implement the following changes: "The gaming enterprise has significantly modified its operations and gaming floors to ensure the continued health and safety of its guests and employees - including restrictions on the number of seats per tables games and bingo sessions, redesigned slot floor, and plexiglass partitions. Additionally, in partnership with Steward Health Care, Gila River Hotels & Casinos has required all employees to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to work and will retest employees every two weeks."
Fort McDowell said it has implemented a plan to follow guidelines set out by the CDC, WHO and the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Feldman said a return to "normal" may never happen, but if done responsibly, things can get closer to where they used to be.
“This is really about returning to whatever is next. Because normal is done,” Feldman said.
Feldman had one more word of concern focused on those who may have been impacted financially by the pandemic. He warned against anyone trying to win back lost cash by risking money at the casino.
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