Resorts World Catskills can reopen Sept. 9 after lengthy COVID-19 shutdown
ALBANY – Privately owned casinos in New York will be able to reopen their doors Sept. 9 after a lengthy COVID-19 shutdown that kept them closed since mid-March.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state's casino reopening plan Thursday, four days after promising a decision would be coming this week.
The casinos will be required to cap their maximum capacity at 25%, while those who enter the facilities will be required to wear masks, according to Cuomo.
The reopening decision will apply to the state's four private casinos: Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County, del Lago in Seneca County, Rivers Casino in Schenectady and Tioga Downs in Tioga County. It also applies to racetrack casinos throughout the state.
Immediately after Cuomo's announcement, state lawmakers representing Sullivan County cheered the limited return to business for the two-year-old resort in the Town of Thompson, a major employer and source of tax revenue for the town and county.
"We are darned excited to get people back to work," said Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Forestburgh Democrat.
Gunther said she was part of a delegation that toured Resorts World Catskills with state officials about two weeks ago to observe the infection control steps the casino had taken, including its plans for cleaning and decontamination, temperature checks at the door for visitors and a separate entrance with screening protocols for employees.
State Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale, who also was part of that tour, said Thursday she was "extremely impressed by the lengths to which the Resorts World has gone to create a safe environment for guests and team members during this pandemic," including hospital-grade air filters and plexiglass dividers in all gambling and eating areas. She called Resorts World Catskills "vital to the economy of Sullivan County."
"I am confident that the casino has taken, and will continue to take, every precaution for the health and safety of guests and employees," Metzger said.
Bob DeSalvio, president of Genting Americas East, the casino's owners, said in a statement that Resorts World was anxious to reopen and had "implemented a plan to seamlessly integrate the unmatched experiences in excitement, entertainment and luxury that guests have come to expect, with the more stringent health protocols that are needed to operate safely."
Resorts World Catskills furloughed more than 1,200 of its 1,400 employees during the coronavirus shutdown, while 146 have continued working, Meghan Taylor, vice president of government affairs and public relations, said on Thursday. The casino began contacting workers about returning but hasn't determined how many will work when the business is at 25 percent capacity and not offering all of its amenities, she said.
No table games will be allowed at New York's casinos until the state Gaming Commission approves their plans for placing physical barriers between participants, state Budget Director Robert Mujica said.
The facilities will also be required to ensure their air filtration systems meet certain requirements set by the state.
"Casinos can open Sept. 9 on the condition that they have the enhanced air filtration system in place before they open," Cuomo said on a conference call with reporters.
Native American-run casinos, which are not constrained to the state's COVID-19 shutdowns, have already been open in New York.
That includes the Seneca Nation's casinos in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, as well as the Oneida Indian Nation's Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, Oneida County.
Chris McKenna contributed to this story.
Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.
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