Arizona Gila River Gaming Shutters Casinos Shortly After Reopening Them

Tribal operators in Arizona have been shutting down their casino business en masse amid spiking cases of COVID-19. The Gila River Gaming is the latest tribal operator to do so on Thursday. The company’s casinos will remain shut for two weeks.

Gila River Gaming Casinos Follow Tribal Example and Suspend Operations

Arizona was excited to restart operations in casinos and other non-essential businesses early last month, but a spike in cases has prompted some businesses to shut-down as a precaution to further spreading the coronavirus in the state.

On Thursday, Gila River Gaming announced that it’s once again shutting down three of its properties, including Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte and Vee Quiva. The properties will now remain closed for a two-week period.

Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis explained the decision in a press release, arguing that Gila River was following what other sister tribes and businesses all over Arizona had done to guarantee the safety of the population.

Employees will be protected, though, Lewis cautioned, arguing that everyone will be paid in the interim period. The decision seemed doubly important after a security guard at Lone Butte contracted COVID-19 and passed on June 11, his family said.

In light of this accident, the Gila River Indian Community Council and the casinos have decided not to take unnecessary risks and try to stem the spread of the virus in the state. The community council said that it would use the time to analyze new social distancing measures, disinfecting procedures, testing protocols, masking, and more.

Robert Washington’s Passing

The passing of Robert Washington, a 68-year-old security guard at the Lone Butte Casino, was both tragic and highlighted a potential oversight on how casinos manage COVID-19 risk. According to his daughter, Lina Washington, the health safety measures introduced at the casino should have focused on obliging patrons to be more responsible.

Speaking to media, Lina shared her father’s impression of people coming back to the casino, with the majority of them not wearing masks. “Lina, it was awful, it was horrible. The line was around the corner. Eighty percent of the people weren’t wearing masks,” Washington said to his daughter.

The measures resembled those now used by Las Vegas casinos where staff members must wear protective gear, but patrons weren’t originally obliged to do so. This has changed this week.

Arizona’s experiment is a reminder that overlooking safety protocols costs lives and affects businesses negatively. Other states should take notes from Arizona.

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