Casinos are rolling the dice and getting back into the groove of business.
On Monday, May 18, all three of Arkansas’ casinos have the green light to reopen on a limited basis. State officials announced on May 7 that casinos would be permitted to resume operations, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson saying at the time that casinos would be required to abide by “stringent social distancing requirements” and capacity limits.
“Dr. Smith has worked very hard – we have all worked hard with the industry. They have presented proposals as to how they can socially distance in that environment and how they can manage the population there,” Hutchinson said. “They will be opening on May 18 at one-third capacity…with stringent social distancing requirements in place.”
Under the terms of the directive developed by the Arkansas Department of Health, the three casinos must remain at 33 percent capacity, maintain six-foot distances between individuals and arrange seating to maintain that distance, screen staff and customers for possible illness or COVID-19 exposure, enforce a requirement for face coverings, and provide easy access for hand hygiene. In addition, casinos will be required to “track attendees for possible use in contact tracing should an outbreak occur.” See the full list of requirements here.
Oaklawn announced that it would open for business on Monday, May 18, at 9 a.m. The casino has adjusted its hours, and will operate from 9am to 3am on Sunday through Thursday from and 9 am to 5 am on Friday through Saturday.
The Hot Springs casino has implemented additional safety precautions, including having a deep cleaning of all areas, having the facility electrostatically disinfected every night, adding hand sanitizer stations, and providing staff training on safety and sanitation protocols.
Saracen Casino Annex in Pine Bluff opened on Monday, as well, and will be operational on Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to midnight and on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
To enter the casino, guests must have a government-issued photo ID and must submit to a temperature test. Individuals who test above 100.4 degrees will not be admitted.
In West Memphis, Southland Casino Racing is abiding by its parent company Delaware North’s “Play it Safe | Commitment to Care” program. News reports indicate that Southland opened its doors for business at 8 a.m. on Monday.
Casinos have been stalled since mid-March, when Hutchinson issued a directive on March 16, ordering the facilities to limit their operations. Oaklawn was able to salvage its famed racing season by holding all races virtually.