By Grant D. Crawford
Oklahomans are starting to place their bets again, as casinos across the state are slowly reopening to patrons.
Although gaming operations have been given the green light to reopen, many tribes have decided to take it slowly and have yet to reopen. According to Cherokee Nation Businesses, it has plans for an announcement later in the week on its casino reopenings. CNB has already released a "Responsible Hospitality" plan for how it will resume its gaming.
Employees at Cherokee Casinos will be screened when they arrive at their workplace, where they will answer a health questionnaire and have their temperatures checked. They will be required to wear masks when working indoors, and those working outside will be required to wear masks while in close proximity to one another or guests. Guests will also be required to wear masks and undergo screening. Anyone with a temperature in excess of 100.4 degrees will be not be allowed in.
The number of electric games and seats at Cherokee Casinos will be limited to allow for social distancing. Table games will be reduced to a maximum of three seats per table. The cards themselves will be swapped out at least three times a day, and personal items - like cell phones, walls and keys - will be not be allowed on the table. Poker games will not be available until CNB determines it is safe to resume them.
"How we move forward from this pandemic will be a part of our legacy," said Chuck Garrett, CNB CEO. "We intend to emerge confident in the knowledge that we did all we could to implement industry-leading protocols that promote the health and safety of team members and guests. While the guest experience will be different than before, we will continue to deliver the same first-class hospitality and entertainment our guests have come to know and love."
Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos began Phase 1 of reopening nine casinos Monday, June 1, including the locations in Beggs, Holdenville, Eufaula, Bristow, Checotah, Okemah, Okmulgee, Muskogee and River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa. The Nation's travel plaza casinos in Muskogee and Okmulgee will remain closed until a future date.
"Guests will experience the same top-tier entertainment and hospitality experience, but in a modified form," said River Spirit Casino Resort CEO Pat Crofts. "We have taken into account all of the safety and sanitation protocols recommended by the Center for Disease Control and federal health guidelines in order to reopen our doors and welcome back our employees and guests."
The Vision Buffet, Paradise Cove, and Resort Convention Center at River Spirit will remain closed, along with the courtesy valet. Guests will receive a temperature screening before being admitted to the casinos, and all employees will be required to wear masks while working. Guests will be provided disposable masks and gloves, too.
Chickasaw Nation gaming facilities reopened May 27, allowing for 25 percent capacity. Guests who enter have their temperatures taken, and are also required to wear face coverings at all times. Currently, the casinos close from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for cleaning and disinfecting. Table games, off-track bettering, poker, bingo, and the WinStar Convention Center remain closed during Phase 1.
"We have conducted initial testing and screening on all employees, vendors and partners," said Chickasaw Nation Commerce Secretary Bill Lance. "Also, employees will undergo a screening protocol daily before reporting to work, and we will continue employee testing every two weeks using commonly accepted scientific methods for population sampling."
During a Facebook Saturday Forum, the Tahlequah Daily Press asked its readers to share their thoughts on the casinos reopening, and whether they had any plans to visit one. Many respondents said they weren't planning to visit one, at least for the time being.
"I've been a regular gambler for all my years, and I plan on not going back," said Jolene Melvin. "Haven't missed it one bit."
Sharon Cheekeewah said she won't be returning if she is not allowed to eat, drink or smoke in the casino.
"That's all a part of the fun for me," she said. "Until then, I will just keep playing my online casino games. At least I don't lose any real money that way."
Joyce Copeland said she's been to a couple of casinos up north, where each had different precautions in place.
"I wore a mask," said Copeland. "Everyone in one casino had to keep their masks on. The other allowed drinking pop and smoking on the floor. I think they should have to go outside for that to help keep people safe. I felt safer in the casino that made you keep the mask on."
What you said
In an online poll, the Daily Press asked readers if they had any plans to visit casinos once they reopened. Out of 56 respondents, 21 answered, "No; never have and never will." Eighteen readers said, "No, not for a few months." Eight people said responded, "Yes, as soon as possible." Six respondents answered, "No, never again, though I used to." Two readers were undecided, and one person had already visited a casino.