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Arizona tribal casinos set to roll the dice and reopen as the stay at home order expires

“The closure of our casinos shattered our community budget and we will not come out of this fiscal hole for a while.”

PHOENIX — Some Arizona casinos are set to reopen on Friday, May 15, but gambling, like everything else will look different at first.

Arizona Tribal casinos generate more than $4 billion a year and provide close to 40,000 jobs in the state.

Stephen Lewis is Governor of the Gila River Indian Community. The tribe is one of the largest in the state with more than 23,000 members. 

Gov. Lewis says essential businesses and casinos provide 75% of funding. He says many of the tribal members rely on the essential dollars brought in by casinos. 

“The closure of our casinos shattered our community budget and we will not come out of this fiscal hole for a while," said Lewis.

Gila River Hotels and Casinos will reopen Friday at noon with a new health protocol system in place to protect both players and employees. 

“March 18th was our official day of closure and we’ve had two months to prepare safety plans," said Dominic Orozco, the Chief Marketing Officer Gila River Hotels and Casinos. 

Changes include further social distancing and opening up the casino floor in order to protect everyone involved in the gaming process. There will also be plexiglass between slot machines and table games will go from six to three players.

Gila River paid the 2,000-member staff team during the shut down and will require each to wear a mask and take COVID-19 tests every two weeks. The casino has also hired an additional 100 people to constantly spot clean before and after players use machines.

“We wanted to be above and beyond in our safety practices. It’s not only our players but employees they expect a very safe and comfortable environment,” said Orozco.

Gov. Lewis hopes Gila River can provide a model for other casinos and businesses reopening around Arizona.

“Hopefully we can be a model or gold standard not just for other Tribal casinos in Arizona but throughout Arizona as to how to do this right.”

He says if there is a flare up of COVID-19 cases, he will always put public health first. 

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