Arkansas Casinos to Reopen May 18 Under Multiple Safety Guidelines

Arkansas State LogoAt a press conference held last Thursday, May 7, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that the state’s three casinos will be able to reopen on May 18 at one-third of their total capacity, with stringent social distancing requirements.

The Arkansas Department of Health was said to have released the exact guidelines for the casinos reopening last Friday, but will likely be released this week ahead of the casinos reopening.

Casino executives seemed excited by the news, which came earlier than many expected in the state. Arkansas’ three casinos which will be able to reopen next Monday are Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, and Saracen Casino Annex in Pine Bluff.

Reduced Capacity, Cleaning And Safety Guidelines

Visitors to Arkansas’ three casinos post-shutdown can expect cleaning to happen all throughout the day on the gaming floor. This is to ensure that the properties are kept as safe and sanitized as possible, which will allow guests and staff to have greater peace of mind when they’re on-site.

Carlton Saffa, Project Manager for Saracen Casino Annex, provided some insight into the depth of how sanitation will be handled at the property. Saffa says that when gamblers get up from sitting at or using a particular machine, that a staff member will be there shortly to clean up the area behind them, including the seat and machine surfaces.

Saracen will also have reduced operating hours upon reopening, to allow for more thorough cleaning to take place.

All casinos will have to operate at one-third of the rated capacity of their respective buildings. Saffa says that if Saracen reached that capacity, that “folks will have to wait to come in.”

As far as safety guidelines go, the casinos will likely enforce face coverings for staff members, temperature checks for workers, social distancing guidelines, and plexiglass barriers on the gaming floor.

Some Arkansas Residents Feel It’s Too Soon to Reopen Casinos

While casino executives are eager to get business rolling again, some Arkansas residents, and even some government officials, feel the reopening date is coming too soon and may come at a cost.

West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon for one, would prefer to wait to reopen the city until June 1.

Arkansas Department of Health Secretary Nate Smith expressed his concerns over casinos opening last month, saying that particularly high-risk since they’re indoors with a significant amount of people in small space, and touching different surfaces.

“I think it’s going to spread around and we’re going to have more outbreaks and it’s just going to be more of a worst-case scenario. We’re just asking for it,” said Jeffrey Wilburn, a resident of West Memphis, Arkansas.

As of Sunday, Arkansas has 4,012 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with around 91 related deaths.

How Arkansas Has Been Affected by COVID-19

According to Gov. Hutchinson, the COVID-19 outbreak has affected “every industry sector” in Arkansas, from grocery stores and small businesses to hospitals and restaurants. Hutchinson stressed the importance of supporting and protecting each industry until the threat of the virus is gone.

State to Reopen Large Venues on May 18, Too

As well as reopening casinos, Gov. Hutchinson announced that large venue areas, such as arenas, stadiums, moving theaters, and bowling alleys, will also be allowed to reopen on May 18, however facilities must not allow more than 50 people to be inside at once.

Stay Tuned

Arkansas seems to be one of the first states to have a definitive reopening date for its casinos. Do you think it’s the right time to reopen? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and be sure to check back for more coronavirus casino coverage.