ASHWAUBENON – The Oneida Casino reopened on Tuesday after being closed for two months, but there was a starkly different look to the popular gaming facility.
There were no crowded blackjack tables at the main casino site near the airport. Gamblers didn’t congregate in large numbers at roulette wheels, craps games or poker contests.
Instead, customers donned protective masks, maintained a safe social distance and limited their gambling to slot machines.
The drastic changes were ushered in by the coronavirus pandemic, which caused the casino to close on March 21. And the new safety measures will be in place for a significant period of time.
“We’re just doing slots right now and taking it slow,” Louise Cornelius, gaming general manager at the casino, said Tuesday afternoon as she monitored activity at the revamped Las Vegas-style facility.
“It’s a whole new environment,” Cornelius said.
Casino and tribal officials were pleased with Tuesday’s response to the reopening, as customers lined up at 7 a.m. outside the facility. The doors opened at 8 a.m.
“We’re doing well,” Cornelius said late in the afternoon. “We’re having a nice, steady crowd. It has been been growing constantly since 8 a.m. So far, we haven’t had any complaints.”
In addition to the main casino, slot machine gambling was open for business at the Irene Moore Activity Center and the West Mason Street facility.
Gamblers and employees were required to wear masks. Customers also had their temperatures checked before entering and were instructed to keep a 6-foot distance from each other.
Smoking is not allowed and machines were sanitized after each use. The gaming operations will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m., allowing for four hours of detailed cleaning daily.
“We want to make sure all of the guests are safe,” Cornelius said.
Despite the restrictions, customers were generally upbeat when they returned to the casino after the extended shutdown. “People are really happy and really pleased,” she said. “This is a form of entertainment.”
Gamblers can expect to see the resumption of blackjack, poker, bingo and craps — among other table games — within three to four weeks, Cornelius said.
She said plexiglass shields have been ordered and will be installed at the tables. “We have to make sure the protective measures are in place before we do that.”
Cornelius said casino officials used “an extensive part“ of the past two months creating a reopening plan. The process included input and approvals from health and government departments.
On Sunday, 300 casino employees were summoned back to work for the first phase of the reopening. Cornelius said the casino operations employ 1,150 to 1,200 when it is fully operational.
She stressed the importance of resuming operations at the casino, even on a limited basis, to support vital tribal programs.
“We rely heavily on gaming revenues,” Cornelius said. “We’re very excited about opening it up.”
Andy Thompson can be reached at 920-996-7270 or by email at email@example.com.
Read or Share this story: https://www.postcrescent.com/story/news/2020/05/27/gambling-returns-after-being-closed-two-months-oneida-casino-reopens/5262985002/