Crews were busy spraying antimicrobial protection and disinfectant throughout the Monarch Casino and employees were posting signs with a list of COVID-19 symptoms and social-distancing requirements before opening the doors three months after shutting them to the public.
About 250 employees of the Black Hawk casino went through updated training and were tested for the coronavirus to be ready when the doors open at 8 a.m. Wednesday. All the staff was COVID-19 free, a spokeswoman said.
Now it’s a matter of seeing how comfortable folks are to spend time with strangers after weeks of being urged to stay at home and keep their distance from others to curb the spread of the illness that has sickened and killed people around the world.
“Through the 12-week closure we’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of our best guests on a number of occasions. They all tell us they’re very excited to come up and see us again,” said Erica Ferris, Monarch’s marketing director.
The casino has taken steps to offer customers an “incredibly clean and safe place,” Ferris said. “When people are ready, we’re ready for them.”
Several people were ready to venture into Cripple Creek casinos, which opened Monday. All the casinos, including in Central City, had to get exemptions from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to reopen. They must follow certain guidelines and restrictions.
“We had in excess of a thousand people the first five hours we were open,” Matt Andrighetti, general manager of Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek, said Monday.
Wildwood monitored the number of customers to make sure there weren’t too many at one time, Andrighetti said. The exemptions from state coronavirus-related restrictions require that casinos limit occupancy to 50% of the capacity allowed by the fire code, or 175 people in a confined, indoor space, whichever is lower.
Wildwood has different sections where people can be.
“We let in a couple hundred people to start. We wanted to make sure the staff was equipped,” Andrighetti said. “We didn’t have many people waiting in line too long.”
Monarch has three floors and a dining area.
“So at the end of the day, the most people we’ll end up having in the building at any one time is about 600, spread over a very wide area,” Ferris said.
Monarch will use a color code on its website, Facebook and Instagram accounts to let the public know how busy the casino is. The code will go from green for low occupancy from yellow to orange to red, which means it’s busy.
Things will look a little different to regular casino-goers. Gamblers won’t be shoulder to shoulder at the slot machines. At Monarch, every other machine will be turned off so players can keep their distance. Wildwood has removed every other chair and could include plexiglass dividers.
Table games are off-limits for now. The state health department said it will reconsider the decision in about three weeks.
The casinos are going big on cleanliness, both Ferris and Andrighetti said. The slot machines at Wildwood have lights that players can activate when they’re ready to leave so employees know the machine needs to be cleaned. Cleaning crews will make routine rounds.
And everyone entering will have their temperatures checked, will be asked whether they have any coronavirus-associated symptoms and will need to wear a face mask. Wildwood will strongly encourage customers to wear masks inside. It will be a requirement in Gilpin County casinos.
The Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk said on its website that it will have floor decals and signs to enforce social distancing and will provide stations with sanitizer throughout the building. Buffets, a favorite of casino-goers, are off the dining tale for now. Monarch will use the space for a traditional sit-down dining area.
When table games are allowed, Monarch will bring back more of its team, Ferris said. The casino is in the process of hiring more people because new restaurants and a portion of a new hotel will open soon, she said.
However, Ameristar is laying off 117 employees. The company said in a letter last week to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that the layoffs are the result of the closures due to COVID-19 in the states where it operates, new restrictive conditions “and the negative impact this would have on business volumes.”
Ameristar didn’t respond to a request for comment on its preparations for reopening.
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