As local businesses continue to slowly reopen their doors to customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so are several Oklahoma casinos.
After closing its doors on March 17, and followed by two months filled with sanitization of the casino and hotel, Downstream Casino Resort is ready to welcome customers back at 2 p.m. Thursday in the first of its three-phase opening process.
“None of us really knew what was in store for us when we closed at midnight on March 17,” said Barry Linduff, a Downstream Casino spokesperson. “The thing about this is, no one has written a manual on how to deal with this pandemic."
But during the past two months, a plan has been created "that will result in the absolute paramount safety for not only our guests but our team members coming back," he said.
“Jani Cummings, our general manager, has put together a 58-page protocol plan that starts from the ground up," Linduff said, "essentially explaining how we are going to do business and welcome our guests back in the safest way possible.”
Casino patrons will be allowed to enter the casino and resort from two points, which will be monitored by thermal imaging to read the temperature level of visitors and employees before they take a step inside. If a temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees, guests will be asked to return to their vehicles and employees will be directed to an on-site medical vehicle in which testing by a nurse will ensue.
“The thing about this is, we have done our due diligence on this to help keep everyone involved safe,” Linduff said. “We are hoping that our guests do a little self-policing and use common sense when returning.”
Masks and gloves are not required to be worn by guests, but they are strongly encouraged. Guests are allowed to bring their own masks and gloves, while Downstream will have some made available to those in need.
All employees who interact with customers will be wearing, and regularly changing, masks and gloves, while dealers will have an alcohol-free, anti-bacterial sanitation spray to clean chips and cards regularly. Sanitizer stations have been set up as well. Plexiglass dividers have been added at several locations, including transaction points. Customers will only be asked to remove masks to verify identification for cash transaction purposes and alcohol purchases.
“We not only want to keep the guests safe, but we want them to feel safe as well,” Linduff said.
To help with social distancing protocols, roughly one-eighth of the slot machines have been removed in order to space them out properly, while table games will be restricted to the number of participants allowed to gather around the tables. The poker room will remain closed during the first phase.
The hotel will have every other floor open to guests, with each room cleaned thoroughly every 24 hours, including all linens being bagged, removed and sanitized before the next guest enters. The shuttle service will be open, with the valet service scheduled to be closed until further notice.
The Wa-Na-Be'e-De'a snack bar, Legends Sports Bar and Ma-Kó-Sha coffee shop will be open for guests, with each table being tented, cleaned and sanitized following each use. Using a SaniTimer, each table, after being sanitized, will not be in use for five minutes to give the cleaning solutions the CDC-recommended time to kill off bacteria. The remaining restaurants are planned to open with the second phase, which is scheduled tentatively for June.
Memorial Day weekend hours will be 2 p.m. to midnight on Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to midnight on Sunday and Monday. Following Memorial Day weekend, phase one operation hours will be 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
“It has been a long, long two months,” Linduff said. “The people you work with, along with the guests, become your family. Not only do you miss them, but in the climate of the world, you worry about their well-being. The positive from this is we were able to break everything down, start from scratch and really look at the customer service that we provide. It gave us a chance to look at what we do, how we do it and what we can do to be better and safer at it. We are redefining what customer service means. We are ready to show them how much their safety matters to us.”
Buffalo Run Casino & Resort
Craig Harper, chief of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, reopened Buffalo Run in Miami, Oklahoma, at 10 a.m. Friday.
New temporary hours are 10 a.m to 2 a.m. today through June 5, according to a release from Buffalo Run.
"We are excited to open the Buffalo Run Casino & Resort doors to our guests and team members once again," Harper said in a statement. "I am proud of the new strict cleaning and disinfection protocols and clear safety measures put in place by our gaming leadership and staff.
"The Peoria Business Committee made the decision to support our exceptional team and pay our staff full wages and benefits while being closed for roughly eight weeks. The approach has helped us be ready to reopen and provide a fun, safe and professional gaming experience."
The release outlined some of the major "safety-first" safeguard procedures put into place:
• Capacity is limited on the gaming floor with social distancing mandated at all times — restaurant tables, slot machines and other physical layouts will be arranged to ensure appropriate distancing.
• Every other slot machine will be out of service for social distancing purposes. Only three guests will be allowed on a table game at any given time, four guests at the roulette table and six guests at the crap table.
• Employees will wear face masks while on the gaming floor, and guests are "strongly encouraged" to do the same, with social distancing followed at all times. Masks will be offered and provided to guests.
• Only grab-and-go food will be offered.
• Employees and guests will have their temperatures checked upon entering the facility.
• While closed, late-night casino cleaning and disinfecting measures will be performed.
• Valet service postponed.
The casino's full plan can be viewed at www.buffalorun.com.
The Stables Casino in Miami will open under new daily hours — from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. — on Memorial Day, May 25.
All employees and vendors will wear face masks, and casino staff will provide masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer for guests free of charge.
"The safety and health of our guests, employees and vendors is our primary concern," the casino said in a statement.
Casino officials recommend all guests wear masks and practice social distancing while inside the building.