Arkansas Becomes Latest State to Allow Casinos to Reopen

States all around the country are releasing plans to reopen their casino industry, and the state of Arkansas was the latest to announce a date. Arkansas casinos can begin to reopen on May 18, but there are several health and safety guidelines that must be followed.

The biggest restriction that will be placed on any casinos that plan to reopen is that they can only open up to 33 percent of their normal capacity. Other safety precautions must be in place as well, and a long list of these restrictions was sent to all casinos.

Governor Asa Hutchinson announced on Thursday that the three commercial casinos would be required to implement “stringent social distancing requirements.” The three locations that are looking to reopen are Saracen Casino Annex in Pine Bluff, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis, and Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs.

Leaders of the casino industry in the state have been eager to reopen their doors, but they have been waiting for official word from the state government. Operating at just a third of the normal capacity is much better for the casinos then not operating at all.

Casinos are expected to limit their operating hours to give their staff time to clean the casino. The locations will also be forced to remove some slot machines or tables to keep proper social distancing.

Further Guidance

The Arkansas Department of Health released a directive on Monday that gives further guidance on what will be required from each casino.

Besides limiting the number of occupants in the casino at any one time, each casino must also track anyone that enters the casino. This information will then be used to aid in contact tracing if an outbreak was to occur.

Anyone who is ill or has been exposed to COVID-19 will not be allowed to enter the casino. That includes both staff and customers, and everyone will be screened before being allowed inside.

Casinos and their guests must work to maintain at least six feet of physical distance between another person at all times. Casinos will be required to make sure that proper social distancing is taking place inside of the casino.

Each business must develop a plan for monitoring lines for entrance and exit of the facility, as well as standing in line for making purchases. There must be six feet between each person in all of these instances.

Hand sanitizer must be distributed throughout the property, and it must be easily accessible to both customers and employees. Everyone inside of the casino must be wearing a face mask or other form of face-covering at all times.

Food Plan

Casinos must also develop a plan to address how food will be served inside the premises. This plan will have to align with the Arkansas Department of Health’s directive to restaurants that are wanting to reopen dine-in operations.

Finally, each casino must make it clear how they will report any employee who tests positive for COVID-19, and what steps they will take to ensure that no one else was exposed.

This might seem like a long list of health and safety directives, but it is very similar to what is taking place in other states. All of the casinos have been closed since March 17, but Arkansas will be one of the first states to reopen the industry.

There are several concerns from high-ranking officials in the state of Arkansas, but casinos will be allowed to reopen. Health officials will be keeping a close watch over the industry, and will continue to track data to ensure that another large outbreak does not occur.


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