The two casinos in Maine could be back in business as early as this week. Officials in the state have worked out a safety plan that they hope will mitigate the possibility of another coronavirus epidemic, paving the way for Hollywood Casino and Oxford Casino to start welcoming gamblers. However, given how states like California, Nevada and Florida have seen a reappearance of COVID-19 after restrictions were lifted, Maine will have to be hypervigilant with its casino plans.
Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck was involved in putting together the policies and procedures that will allow the state’s casinos to return to life. The plan, which included participation by a number of officials, will see casino capacity limited to only 200 people. That limit will be broken down even further, requiring the creation of “zones” inside the facilities that only allow a maximum of 50 people in each at any given moment.
That dispersal should reduce the risk of the coronavirus coming back, but only time will tell. Sauschuck explains, “That was big change and a big move that really allowed the casinos to be viable. With a location that big it would be difficult if it was just 50 people.”
As has been established in other areas of the U.S., as well as other countries, anyone entering a casino – patron or employee – is required to wear a facemask and maintain six feet of separation at all table games and slot machines. If anyone isn’t willing to abide by the guidelines, they should be prepared to just stay at home, given the fact that visiting a casino is not a “right,” but a “privilege.”
Since Maine’s casinos have a high degree of automation running the systems, it makes it easier for the venues to control who can play what, and where. Sauschuck adds, “Technology wise, we can actually shut off games, so we can work with them to provide social distance because we do have a central monitoring system.”
If things go well, Hollywood, which is a Penn National Gaming property, will be ready to unlock the doors this Friday. The Churchill Downs-owned Oxford believes it can open sooner and is currently working on getting more than 100 employees back in uniform. Jack Sours, the GM of Oxford, expects to be able to convince regulators to increase the capacity once the casino shows that it can provide necessary oversight.
Sours adds about the four-zone policy, “We’ll have four 50-person quadrants for a total of 200 guests that could be in the building at one time. And we’ll manage those quadrants independently, so as the guest goes through the casino they’ll have to come to a checkpoint, and then we’ll say, ‘Yes you can go into that one, there’s availability,’ or ‘No this one’s full, you’ll have to go to the next quadrant to find a game.’”
The relaunch can’t come soon enough for the cities where the casinos are located. They rely heavily on the revenue the gambling houses produce, and are losing as much as 15% of their annual budget because of the shutdown.