Business , Health

Tribal casinos across the state plan reopenings for May 15

Photo caption: The Osage Casino & Hotel in Tulsa will reopen Friday, May 15 with strict health guidelines. Osage News

The Osage Nation is not the only Oklahoma tribe re-opening a casino on May 15.

After extended closures due to the COVID-19 virus, the Sac and Fox Nation, Pawnee Nation, Kaw Nation, Peoria Tribe, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes are all scheduled to reopen at least one casino on the same day that gaming resumes at six Osage Casino properties.

However, in order to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, patrons should not expect business as usual at their casino of choice. Along with reduced occupancy rates, several tribes are taking additional precautions to protect employees and patrons.

For example, the Pawnee Nation is requiring all employees and guests wear masks while at their StoneWolf Casino near U.S. Highway 412. The property is also going smoke-free and temporarily reducing its hours. Its restaurant will only be offering a limited menu.

Along with capping building occupancy at 25 percent, the Sac and Fox Nation is adding more hand sanitizer stations and requiring temperature checks before entering its casinos in Shawnee and Stroud. Although guests will not be required to wear masks, they are strongly encouraged to do so, and hot seat giveaways will be offered to encourage the practice.

“I do appreciate your patience,” Sac and Fox Principal Chief Justin Wood said in a Facebook Live video announcing the reopening. “These decisions aren’t easy. I am very thankful for the work … the gaming commission and casino staff did to make sure this is a safe reopening.”

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes previously announced that their six Lucky Star Casinos in western Oklahoma would reopen on May 15. As a preventative measure, table games will remain closed for now and everyone – guests and staff – will be subject to temperature checks. To facilitate social distancing, when a guest sits down at a machine, the two on either side of it will automatically be disabled until he or she gets up. Once a machine is vacated, a light will go off to let the cleaning staff know that it needs to be sanitized.  

In Miami, the Peoria Tribe’s Buffalo Run Casino will not offer valet service until further notice. Its pool will also remain closed. Limited table games will still be available with reduced seating.  

As of May 14, about a dozen tribes still have not announced reopening dates for any of their gaming properties, including the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Eastern Shawnee Tribe, Fort Sill Apache Tribe, Iowa Tribe, Kiowa Tribe, Miami Tribe, Ottawa Tribe, Seminole Nation, Seneca-Cayuga Nation, Shawnee Tribe, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and the Wyandotte Nation.  

The Delaware Nation, Kickapoo Tribe, Modoc Tribe and Quapaw Tribe have all announced plans to at least partially reopen their casinos prior to Memorial Day.

The Absentee Shawnee, Otoe-Missouria and Tonkawa tribes have all reopened at least one casino already. Osage Casinos’ Ponca City property resumed operations on May 8.