5 Arizona Casinos Reopening Friday but Poker Rooms to Remain Closed

Despite coronavirus cases remaining high in Arizona, five casinos in the Phoenix area are set to reopen Friday. But poker rooms have not been included in those plans just yet.

Harrah's Ak-Chin Poker room

The Poker Lounge at Harrah’s Ak-Chin in Maricopa will remain empty even as customers return to casino gaming tables. (Image: Tom Tingle/The Republic)

As of Tuesday, Arizona had 11,736 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 562 deaths, according to the Worldometers database. That includes 356 new positive tests. More than half of the cases are linked to Maricopa County, where the soon-to-be-reopened casinos reside.

The five Arizona casinos in question, however, have plans in place to help prevent the spread of coronavirus to staff and gamblers.

Reopening with Restrictions

The five casinos — Fort McDowell Casino, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino, Lone Butte, Wild Horse Pass, and Vee Quiva — will reopen on Friday. Harrah’s and Fort McDowell are the only two in that group with poker rooms, but those rooms will not reopen this week.

Talking Stick Resort, home of the largest poker room in Arizona, with 47 tables, will remain closed until at least June 1. No date has been set on when any of the state’s 12 card rooms will reopen.

As for the five casino operators who are looking to get a head-start on nearby Las Vegas, which hasn’t yet approved the reopening of any casinos, they’re rolling out new safety procedures to be implemented on Friday.

According to a press release, Harrah’s will attempt to abide by social distancing guidelines by spacing out its slot machines and limiting seating at its table games. All employees will be required to wear masks, and hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the casino.

Fort McDowell will reopen in phases, with blackjack tables opening Friday and bingo remaining on the shelf until May 22. Guests must submit to a temperature check upon entrance, and those with temps above 100 degrees won’t be allowed to enter the casino.

Gila River, which owns the three remaining properties, will limit seating at table games throughout its casinos. The properties will also space out their slot machines and place plexiglass shields between the machines for social distancing purposes.

Arizona Opening Too Quickly?

It’s not just casinos itching to get back in action. Major League Baseball owners submitted a plan to begin the 2020 season to its players’ union on Monday. In that plan, the owners propose to begin the regular season around the Fourth of July, and resume spring training in Arizona and Florida next month.

Prominent baseball writer Keith Law questioned whether or not reopening casinos this week might jeopardize baseball’s return. Retweeting a local reporter’s story about the casino expectations, he suggested, “Arizona is rushing to re-open as cases continue to rise, which can’t bode well for any MLB plans that involve the ten spring training facilities there.”

MLB owners propose to run an 82-game regular season with games taking place at each team’s ballpark, but without fans in the stands. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, however, implied in an interview with The Athletic that the players union won’t approve the proposal.

The owners want the players to agree to a 50-50 revenue-sharing plan for this season instead of a straight salary. Clark says the players won’t approve that plan because it’s equivalent to putting a salary cap in place.

Written by
Jon Sofen
Semi-pro poker player with 17 years experience on the felt and more than five years working as professional poker media.


WTaylor wrote...

If casinos permit smoking or vaping upon re-open, it’s like a death sentence. Totally pointless, other than to attract those most venerable to put a nail in anyone’s coffin who walks inside. I won’t go anymore if smokers are allowed. Smoking should be banned permanently from inside of all casino’s. Like any other public building, smokers should be restricted to outside, at a minimum of 20 feet or more from any entrance. You can see and smell how far those vapors travel after leaving your lungs. Even in a movie theater, it is documented that a cough can travel up to 27 feet. Imagine smoke or vapors? It’s disgusting to sit down at a machine full of ashes and chairs with burn holes in them. In fact, if the ashes get in the machine, it causes them to stop functioning. It’s 2020, let’s get real.

Poker_Mike wrote...

Well this has to be good news for employees that want to get back to work.

And it is probably one of the only indoor recreational activities open.

As the outside temperatures approach 100 degF – it will be interesting to see how many gamblers hang out at the casino.

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