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WATCH NOW: Casinos drop face mask requirement for vaccinated guests
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WATCH NOW: Casinos drop face mask requirement for vaccinated guests

Hard Rock Casino President Matt Schuffert gves guided tour

Slot machines await gamblers at the Hard Rock Casino in Gary.

Northwest Indiana casino patrons no longer are required to wear a face mask inside gaming facilities following the sharp reduction in COVID-19 cases across the Region.

The Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ameristar Casino in East Chicago, and Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City all recently changed their COVID-19 prevention protocols by lifting the face mask requirement for vaccinated guests.

The three casinos technically still mandate face masks for non-vaccinated individuals in accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendations.

But none of the properties are verifying their guests' vaccination status at the door in the same way they check that visitors are at least 21 years old before allowing them to enter the casino.

At the new Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in Gary, face masks are optional for all casino guests and employees, according to Hard Rock President Matt Schuffert.

But despite dropping the mask requirement, Hard Rock — which opened May 14 as a replacement for Gary's Majestic Star — and the other Northwest Indiana casinos are continuing to provide free hand sanitizer and frequently cleaning their facilities to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.

Hard Rock Casino President Matt Schuffert gives Times Reporter Dan Carden a guided tour of the new Hard Rock Northern Indiana a week before opening.

Data from the Indiana Department of Health show Lake and LaPorte counties, home to Northwest Indiana's four casinos, nearly have reached the lowest-possible "blue" COVID-19 advisory status.

Lake County reported just 57 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents last week and LaPorte County 82 cases per 100,000 residents — continuing a downward trend state health officials attribute to the increasing number of vaccinated residents in each county.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb in April ended most statewide COVID-19 prevention measures, including the mask mandate, in favor of locally tailored policies aimed at reducing the number COVID-19 infections.

Nevertheless, Hoosier casinos independently decided to continue through May the enhanced COVID-19 prevention measures initially promulgated by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

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