Arizona’s Increase in Coronavirus Cases Results in Gila River Casinos Closing Again

As of early Thursday morning, three casinos in the state of Arizona have shut back down, temporarily, due to the increase in coronavirus cases. Gila River Hotels & Casino shut down the Wild Horse Pass and Lone Butte properties along with the Vee Quiva Casino. The announcement of the casino closures comes about a week after a security guard from the Lone Butte Casino died due to complications from the virus.

Number of Cases Remains Unknown

After the death of the security guard, the Gila River operator has remained tightlipped as to how many coronavirus cases have occurred within its properties. Officials of the casino have been approached by numerous news outlets and have been told that they will not provide that information due to protecting the privacy of their employees.

The closure marks the second time that the venues have been shut down due to the virus. The tribal casinos first shut down back in mid-March and reopened opened on May 15. This was the day that Governor Doug Ducey lifted a stay at home order issued in the state.

As casinos began reopening in the state, operators promised they would follow safety measures to ensure player and employee protection. This included encouraging guests to wear masks. When the casinos were closed for two weeks, officials promised to look at current safety standards and then evaluate as safety plan by speaking with the Gila River Indian Community Council as well as taking feedback from the community and employees.

A Wrong Decision?

Casinos across the United States are reopening now or have done so already. While there are several safety measures in place, very few are requiring that players wear masks along with employees. In Arizona, this tactic of employee-only PPE has many questioning if it was the right decision. Robert Washington, the 68 year old security guard who died due to complications from the coronavirus, reportedly told his family that he was concerned about the safety measures in place at the casino.

He told his daughter the day after reopening that the line was around the corner of the casino to get in and it was awful. Around 80% of the people were not wearing masks. The Gila River Hotels & Casinos did not require guests to wear masks, unlike other casinos in the same area. Reportedly, the officials of the Gila River said last week that they mandated all players wear masks.

Governor Stephen Lewis stated that the temporary shutdown of the casinos will help to protect employees and customers as well as those who live in the community. According to Lewis, the company has tried to do what is best for everyone, processing new information and guidelines as they are provided with little in the way of definitive guidance.

Now, the casinos will be implementing new safety measures during the closing to be better prepared for reopening. Such changes includes new disinfection procedures along with social distancing measures, testing protocols, health checks and mask guidelines.


Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.