Arkansas Casinos Can Reopen May 18, Crowd Capped

Posted on: May 11, 2020, 04:06h. 

Last updated on: May 11, 2020, 08:31h.

Arkansas will permit its gaming venues to reopen on May 18 under current plans. Multiple safety precautions will be in place, as well as a cap that limits players to just a third of capacity.

Arkansas Casino Reopenings
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is moving forward with the planned reopening of casinos, basing decisions on health data. (Image: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, Saracen Casino Annex in Pine Bluff, and Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis will be required to implement “stringent social distancing requirements,” upon reopening, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday, according to television station KATV. Casino executives appear eager to resume operations with precautions in place.

“All indications we have received so far have been that our protocols … [meet] their expectations,” Saracen Project Manager Carlton Saffa told television station KTHV. “If we get close to being at … one-third of the rated capacity of the building, folks will have to wait to come in.”

Guidelines to Stress Social Distancing, Cleanliness

Operating hours will be limited at Saracen to allow for increased cleaning. Cleaning will additionally take place throughout the day on the gaming floor.

You can expect when you get up from a machine, there will be someone shortly behind you to clean it. That’s not just the machine [but] … also the surfaces you sat on,” Saffa said.

Reopening guidelines are likely to be released this week by state officials. Possible safety precautions at gaming venues include workers getting their temperatures checked, face masks requirements, keeping an appropriate distance, and plexiglass barriers, KTHV said.

The state’s gaming properties were ordered closed by Hutchinson on March 17. Since then, state officials have monitored health data.

As of Sunday, there were 4,012 confirmed coronavirus cases in Arkansas. Some 91 people died in connection with the illness.

Arkansas Impacted by Coronavirus Outbreak

“Every industry sector in Arkansas has been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19,” Gov. Hutchinson said in a recent statement. “The pandemic continues to have a statewide impact on grocery stores, small businesses, pharmacies, hospitals, and restaurants, to name a few. It’s important that we continue to adequately support and protect our industries and people until the threat is no longer imminent.”

Under a current directive, travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Orleans, Louisiana, and all international locations must quarantine, as spelled out under state regulations.

We are attempting to move past the restrictions that have been necessary during this pandemic, but we must do so in a manner that is based on solid data,” Hutchinson said in another statement. “I am confident this measured reopening is the best approach that will allow us to enjoy these entertainment venues again.”

Last month, Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Nate Smith confirmed to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette he has concerns about casinos reopening, “just because they are particularly high-risk. They are indoors.

“A lot of people in a small amount of space. Often times, people with significant risk factors…. And you’ve got a lot of people touching stuff, so if you wanted to design a setting to optimize the spread of COVID-19, it would look a lot like a casino,” Smith added.