A trip to the casino won't be like it used to be when Northwest Indiana's five gaming properties finally reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, likely on or after June 14.
The Indiana Gaming Commission on Friday issued guidelines for casino operators requiring them to devise plans for implementing employee and patron health screenings, strict capacity limits, rigid disinfection requirements, and restrictions on smoking, among other measures, before their casino will be allowed to reopen.
According to Sara Tait, the commission's executive director, the health and safety mandates "serve to provide confidence to the public that gaming will commence in a measured and responsible manner under conditions now necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic."
Under the plan, every employee and guest must be quizzed about recent travel, contacts and health symptoms, along with undergoing a temperature check and sanitizing their hands, before they'll be permitted to enter a casino.
Once inside, casinos will be limited to half their usual capacity, all employees must wear a face mask and patrons have to stay at least 6 feet away from others at all times.
To enforce the spacing, roughly every other slot machine and sportsbook kiosk will be turned off, each machine still in use will be cleaned between patrons, and table games will be limited to three players for blackjack, four for roulette and six for craps.
All individuals participating in table games — employees and patrons — must wear face masks. Cards must be replaced after each shift and any touching of the cards by anyone other than the dealer limited.
In addition, chips must be disinfected every two hours and dice after each shooter. No one will be allowed to stand around and watch table games, and no smoking is permitted by patrons at a table, according to the guidelines.
Smoking elsewhere in the casino also is required to be limited to a designated area and congregating in that area is prohibited.
The guidelines also prohibit food and drink on the casino floor; concerts, nightclubs, live events and shows; promotions likely to generate a crowd; valet service; coat check; buffets; and poker and pai gow rooms.
According to the Gaming Commission, its guidelines are the minimum COVID-19 prevention standards a casino must agree to follow before it'll be considered for reopening.
The commission said casinos can develop and implement stricter mandates, including requiring every patron wear a mask and establishing procedures for removing patrons who refuse.
If a casino is notified of a confirmed COVID-19 case at its property, whether patron or employee, it must share information about the person with local health authorities for contact tracing purposes, as well as notifying the Gaming Commission.
The casino also must prepare specific disinfectant plans and procedures to follow if a person confirmed to have the coronavirus visits its property.
There still is no firm date for the reopening of any of the 13 commercial casinos in Indiana or the tribal casino in South Bend.
The Gaming Commission last week indicated casino reopenings probably won't begin until Phase 4 of Gov. Eric Holcomb's "Back on Track" plan — tentatively scheduled for June 14.
Gallery: How Northwest Indiana casinos have changed over the past 24 years
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