Casino reopening has seen increase in visitation

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
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America’s commercial and tribal casinos began to resume operations in May and initial reports suggest they have been popular places to visit.

Casino Review reports that while gaming venues in Nevada reopened on June 4, South Dakota’s Deadwood was one of the last places in the country to close its commercial gaming establishments and became the first to re-open on May 7, with 11 of the town’s 21 casinos opening their doors again.

Liv Hospitality, a family-run business that owns and operates Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort and Cadillac Jack’s Gaming Resort and four hotels in Deadwood reported higher than usual visitation for its opening weekend.

“We were about 15 or 20 per cent higher than a typical weekend business, which is significant,” company chief executive Caleb Arceneaux said.

“Cabin fever’s real, and I think people wanted to get out and experience gaming again.”

He observed that weekend occupancy was around 85-90 per cent, with a number of visitors driving in from the surrounding states.

Rather than lowering their occupancy limits, the town’s casinos are implementing social distancing, mayor David Ruth said.

Slot machines are all on, but when a customer picks one, staff post signs making neighbouring machines temporarily unavailable.

“The last thing an operator wants to do is accidentally take out someone’s favourite machine,” Ruth noted, adding that he has seen visitors driving from nearby states as well as further afield such as New York, Florida, Texas and New Mexico.

Following the Mount Rushmore state’s example, Louisiana and Arkansas were next to give their operators the green light to re-open in May, with the number quickly rising to 17 states by May 21.

By the start of June, 519 properties were open across the country with 25 states with at least one casino open, according to the American Gaming Association.

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board allowed casinos and video poker parlours in the state to reopen on May 18.

The announcement came as good news for several major US operators.

Reno-based Eldorado Resorts opened its Isle of Capri Lake Charles, Belle of Baton Rouge and Eldorado Shreveport properties, while Pennsylvania-based Penn National resumed operations at Margaritaville Resort Casino and Boomtown Casino in Bossier City.

Under rules set out by the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, operators in the state must limit gaming position to 50 per cent of prior levels, while admission is capped at 25 per cent of the properties’ normal occupancy levels.

On June 5, Ohio governor Mike DeWine gave the state’s casino and racing industry the go ahead to reopen later in the month, more than three months after gaming venues were temporarily closed.

Chief operating officer of JACK Entertainment Chad Barnhill welcomed the news that the company could reopen its Thistledown Racino and casino in downtown Cleveland as early as June 19.

“To ensure a safe space for those who come to work and play we will be instituting new practices in compliance with public health orders and recommendations as well as additional safety protocols determined essential by our company,” he said in a statement.

“We will be releasing more details on our reopening plans in the coming weeks.”

Las Vegas is set to reopen casinos following its coronavirus lockdown.

Fox10 Phoenix reported last month that guests to the gambling city shouldn’t expect a return to business as usual though.

Nevada’s Governor Steve Sisolak set June 4 as a tentative date to reopen casinos statewide following two weeks of continued decreases in both new cases and hospitalisations.

Should the decline continue through to the weekend, Mr Sisolak will hold a press conference on Tuesday to reveal further rollback as part of the next phase to reopen the state.

Nevada Resort Association president and chief executive officer Virginia Valentine applauded the governor’s decision, calling it “fantastic news” for Nevada’s gaming industry.

“Our members have spent more than two months preparing for this day,” she said in an emailed statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“They’ve put in place enhanced health and safety plans and protocols…Our members are excited to show off the enhancements they’ve made that preserve the experience while ensuring the wellbeing of our employees and visitors.”

Casinos are required to submit plans for reopening, which will require approval at least seven days ahead of actually opening their doors.

Other businesses, such as night clubs, day clubs, buffets and large venues will remain closed – including the infamous Cirque du Soleil.

“You’re going to see a lot of social distancing,” Caesars Palace general manager Sean McBurney said.

“If there’s crowding, it’s every employee’s responsibility to ensure there’s social distancing.”

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