The Isleta Casino and Resort in New Mexico reopened this week after being shut down for nearly three months by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement posted on the sovereign nation’s Facebook page Tuesday, the Pueblo of Isleta Tribal Council voted unanimously to reopen the Albuquerque casino effective Wednesday. The council’s action, it said, came after a lengthy discussion and was based on a number of factors, including economic concerns.
We as the tribal government are faced with difficult decisions when it comes to a global pandemic, life safety, and the economy,” the statement read. “Although we cannot guarantee no one will get the virus at the casino, we feel with the direction from our Tribal Health Officer, the Isleta Casino and Resort’s safety plan, and the need to sustain our tribal programs and economy, transmission will be low, and we feel safe and confident to open the casino.”
All casino workers were tested prior to the reopening. In addition, the council said employees will be offered a vaccine.
Current hours of operation are from 9 am to 12:30 am daily.
“Proper Masks” Mandatory at Isleta
Wednesday’s reopening marks the second for the Isleta casino in less than a year. It first reopened on June 15 after being shuttered for three months at the beginning of the pandemic.
According to the Albuquerque Business Journal, tribal officials made the decision to close again on Nov. 16. Even with all the precautions casino staff took to mitigate the spread of the virus, officials said a sudden rise in the number of cases warranted the second shutdown.
The guidelines posted on the casino’s website said all guests and employees must wear “proper masks” to gain entry. Covers such as gaiters and bandanas are no longer allowed, and neither are masks with vents or valves.
Isleta offers a vending machine outside the entrance for those needing one.
No one under 21 will be allowed anywhere on the property, including the casino’s hotel and restaurant.
Neither the website nor the tribal statement indicates any capacity restrictions for the gaming floor. But daily bingo sessions will be limited to 128 players. The casino also notes that its dining facilities have reduced their seating capacities to adhere to social distancing requirements.
Other Area Casinos Remain Closed
The Isleta is the first Albuquerque casino to reopen. The Palace West Casino, another Pueblo of Isleta facility, remains closed. According to the American Gaming Association’s COVID tracker, that casino has remained closed since last March.
The Palace West isn’t the only area casino that has remained closed since the beginning of the pandemic. The Sandia Resort and Casino, operated by the Pueblo of Sandia, has also been shut down for nearly a year. The same goes with the Pueblo of San Felipe’s Black Mesa Travel Center.
The Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel, operated by the Pueblo of Santa Ana, has been closed since Nov. 14, and the Route 66 Casino Express, which the Laguna Development Corp. owns, has been shut down since Oct. 25.
Albuquerque Downs Racetrack and Casino, the city’s only commercially licensed venue, is also closed for the time being.