Lady luck isn’t the only thing guests will need to enter Mystic Lake Casino when it reopens Tuesday.
They will have their temperature taken and need to wear a face mask. And the numbers allowed inside Mystic Lake, one of the three largest casinos in the state, will be kept to about half the normal capacity.
As sovereign nations, the Indian tribes that operate Minnesota casinos get to set their own timelines and rules for reopening, unlike restaurants and bars that must follow the state’s orders limiting them to patio dining when they reopen June 1.
But many tribes nevertheless are using state and federal health recommendations to guide their own decisions. And Mystic Lake, which is among the first of a number of nonessential businesses opening up again, is putting some of the strictest safeguards in place.
Besides mandated temperature-taking and mask-wearing, the casino will enforce social distancing, install plexiglass shields and ramp up sanitization of surfaces to protect employees and guests from the transmission of COVID-19.
Anyone exhibiting signs of illness will have to leave. Casino employees will have their own health closely monitored.
“We believe that it is up to us to build the confidence and trust of our guests and our teams,” said Angela Heikes, president and chief executive of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) Gaming Enterprise.
“We are in a new place and a new time. We’ll be dealing with COVID for a very long time.”
Capacity on the gaming floor will be monitored to enable social distancing. Only every other slot machine will be used and the number of spots at table games and bars will be cut in half. No more than three people will be allowed at a blackjack table at a time.
The buffet and sit-down restaurants will remain closed, with dining options limited to prepackaged items.
The hotel will reopen in phases as demand dictates, but many amenities like the spa and pool won’t be open.
SMSC Chairman Keith Anderson said the tribe, which already has reopened its golf course and ice rinks, is confident that Mystic Lake also can do so safely.
Other casinos will soon follow. Treasure Island near Red Wing will reopen June 1, operating from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. the next day. Guests and staffers will have to wear face masks, and smoking won’t be permitted at table games.
Guests who display symptoms may be examined by health professionals, including a temperature check.
Treasure Island will resume its normal 24-hour schedule on June 5, with the hotel reopening at about one-third capacity and the casino restaurant, TradeWinds, offering individually packaged food and featured items but not the traditional buffet.
Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley soon will reopen, though no date has been announced. The two casinos also will require guests to wear masks.
Minnesota’s Indian-run casinos closed in March, soon after Gov. Tim Walz ordered that bars temporarily close and restaurants shut down their dine-in service in an effort to control the spread of the highly contagious virus.
Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort, about three hours west of the Twin Cities in Granite Falls, reopened May 18.
“We’re more rural and had only three COVID cases that popped up a month ago and have had nothing since, so we felt comfortable reopening,” said Eric Preuss, a casino spokesman.
With the need for social distancing, only about half the casino’s 1,100 slot machines will be used, with plexiglass shields installed between them as a precaution. Gaming tables remain closed, but some video roulette and blackjack machines are open, Preuss said.
The restaurant is open at reduced capacity and the hotel is operating at 70% because increased cleaning protocols require more time by the housekeepers.
Guests have their temperatures taken via a scan. On the first day Prairie’s Edge reopened, wearing a mask was recommended for guests; now it’s required.
“When we first opened, only 10 percent to 15 percent were wearing them,” Preuss said. “We thought that was too low of a number. We looked at what other places required. Menards [store] is requiring masks and it doesn’t seem to be affecting their business.”
Critics and advocates of masks registered their opinions on the Prairie’s Edge Facebook page.
“Some say it shouldn’t be forced on people. Others say it’s needed to keep people safe,” Preuss said. “If they don’t want to wear a mask, they can go home.”
The requirement doesn’t seem to be deterring many, however, with guests traveling from as far away as Iowa and the Wisconsin Dells area. There was no line of people waiting to get in, but many of the regulars are returning, Preuss said.
The threat of COVID-19 likely will keep some guests away, he said.
“But honestly, I’ve seen folks with oxygen tanks on our floor,” Preuss said. “I suppose they figure they would rather live their lives and get out of the house.”
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788