Arizona became one of the first states to loosen restrictions that were put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The move was applauded by most residents in the state at the time, but it appears that the move could be backfiring.
On Thursday, it was announced that three casinos would once again close their doors after positive cases of COVID-19 have spiked. This is the second time that these casinos have closed over a span of three months.
Gila River Gaming Enterprises made the ultimate decision on Thursday, and they own and operate three casinos in the state. Lone Butte, Wild Horse Pass, and Vee Quiva were all closed on Thursday morning, and that included the hotels on-site as well.
Last week it was reported that a security guard that worked at Lone Butte had died from complications of the coronavirus. It was not confirmed if Robert Washington contracted the disease while at work, but Gila River Gaming Enterprises issued a statement directed at his family.
Gila River Casinos reopened for good on May 15, but they opened with several health and safety protocols in place. Capacity at the casinos was limited to just 50 percent, and social distancing was strictly enforced at each location.
All three of the properties were also forced to keep their poker rooms closed, and plexiglass dividers were put in place to separate players at table games. The casinos were doing their best to help stop the spread of the disease, but Arizona has seen a steady rise in positive cases over the last few weeks.
The Arizona State Health Department reported a total of 46,689 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, but that number continues to grow. Close to 12 percent of the total number of cases have occurred this week, with a record number of 3,200 cases reported on Friday.
Tribal leaders reopened their casinos when the state began loosening restrictions, but it appears that it might have come too early. The tribes will now consult with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention before opening their doors for guests a second time.
Gila River Gaming Enterprises were among the first in the country to reopen their casinos, and they will now be the first group to close down for a second time. Not all of the hotels were allowed to reopen on May 15, and customers will now be refunded their money for reservations made through July 19.
The American Gaming Association has been keeping track of both tribal and retail casinos throughout the country. With these three properties shutting down again, the AGA has announced that 255 of the 989 casinos in the country are still closed.
Reopening Date Still Up in the Air
The initial announcement stated that all three casinos would be closed for two weeks, but that date is not set in stone. Gila River announced on Friday that casinos would remain closed until it is safe for them to reopen.
Tribal leaders will be working closely with health experts to determine when the casinos can reopen their doors. Gila River does not want to make the same mistake twice and be forced to close again.
Tribal officials have announced that they would be paying all employees during the two-week shutdown, but they did not announce what would happen if the closure is extended. The Gila River Tribal Council will meet and decide what to do with their employees if the casinos remain closed for an extended period.
The casinos had previously partnered with gaming manufacturer IGT to indicate when a slot machine was due to be cleaned. Even though the three casinos will be closing again, the properties did their part to ensure that customers and employees were safe.