Maine Casinos to Reopen While New York Gaming Still Shut Down

  • Officials in Maine have given the go-ahead for casinos to reopen
  • Maine casinos will operate with 200 guests allowed on-site, separated into quadrants of 50
  • New York casinos remain closed so the state can have more time to evaluate safety measures
Letter board showing a blank COVID-10 reopening checklist
Maine casinos have a unique plan in place to start reopening this week, while New York casinos remain closed. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Northeast states decide gaming fate

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to be a problem across the US, states in the northeast are still making decisions on casino gaming venues. Maine casinos will be reopening this week, but in nearby New York, it is unclear when casinos will be back in action as Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that gambling venues will remain closed.

Officials in both states have been reviewing their COVID-19 situations. While New York has made significant progress in suppressing the spread of the virus, Governor Cuomo is not quite ready to reopen the gaming industry. In Maine, state officials reached an agreement on a pandemic safety plan, allowing the venues to get their employees back to work.  

Maine limits capacity, sets up zones

Maine’s two casinos have been shut down for months because of the coronavirus outbreak. State officials recently created a safety plan that restricts the properties to housing just 200 people at a time.

split the main halls of the casinos into four zones

Gatherings in Maine are limited to 50 people or fewer. Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said the biggest challenge was figuring out how the casinos would be able to generate revenue and operate safely while abiding by this restriction. The solution: split the main halls of the casinos into four zones, which each zone able to house 50 people.

Sauschuck said: “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.”

Operating requirements

Maine regulations require that both customers and employees of Maine casinos wear face coverings. Social distancing of six feet must be maintained at slot machines and table games. Because the casinos use remote-controlled slot machines, the operators can easily shut off games to aid in social distancing.

Hollywood Casino Bangor announced on its website plans to reopen this Friday. Oxford Casino, ready to welcome back 100 staff members, is preparing to announce a reopening date soon.

If a quadrant is full, customers will not be allowed past the checkpoint

Oxford Casino General Manager Jack Sours told Maine Public Radio that the casino will manage its quadrants independently. As guests move through the casino, they will reach checkpoints. If a quadrant is full, customers will not be allowed past the checkpoint and into the next quadrant. If it is available, players can move into that sector.

No reopening date for New York casinos

In New York, there is still no date for when casinos can reopen. On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that casinos, as well as movie theaters, will stay closed. The closure will continue as the state considers how such venues can reopen safely.

Originally, the state planned to reopen listed casinos in phase four. The plans were revised, however, as the number of new COVID-19 cases increased in other states. New York has made great progress in slowing the spread, and they want it to continue.

Cuomo made the announcement of the continued closure in a press conference:

The state is taking a measured approach to reopening the casinos in the hopes of avoiding a resurgence of the virus. Naturally, the lockdowns have hit New York’s gaming industry hard. The Rivers Casino and Resort of Schenectady, for example, closed on March 16 and had to furlough the majority of its staff members. The casino also cut salaries of its remaining employees significantly.

Rivers is currently working on a reopening plan that will cover cleanliness, crowd management, social distancing, and isolation.