The manager of the state’s largest facility, Gary Palmer of Prairie Meadows in Altoona, says they will wait until June 15th to open. “You know it’s much easier to close than it is to open,” Palmer says with a laugh, “to close you just walk out the door and lock it up. Open — it is really different.”
Palmer says they have a large area with their casino, hotel, and restaurant to get ready. “We’ve got to make so many different changes because of the requirements that we have to open up — you know 50 percent occupancy and six-foot distances — there’s just so many things that we have to do,” according to Palmer. “We want to make sure when we open up it’s right. It’s right and it’s inviting when our guests come out.”
Palmer says they will shut down some of the entrances, take everyone’s temperature when they come in, and require everyone to wear masks. He says they will have to clean the slot machines as players move around. And there won’t be any cards or dice used.
“We’re planning on opening without table games. We’re going to open it without poker and without table games to get started with and just slot machines,” Palmer explains. “And gradually work our way back with supply and demand, bring the employees back as well. Because again, when you are only at half capacity, you sure don’t need all the employees that we have right now.”
The casino paid employees during the early part of the shutdown, and then laid off 1,130 workers on May 3rd. Prairie Meadows also has a horse track and Palmer says plans are in the works to get racing started up. He says horses are able to come back to the property on June 1st and they have to be on property at least three weeks for trials and conditioning before they can race. Horse racing would then start again on June 19th.
Palmer says it has been a tough stretch for the casino and its employees — but they expect to come back strong. “We’re optimistic, we’re positive,” Palmer says.
Other casinos that have announced their plans to reopen are:
The Diamond Jo Casinos in Dubuque and Worth County, the Wild Rose casinos in Clinton, Emmetsburg, and Jefferson will all open on June 1st. The Hard Rock Casino in Sioux City will open June 2nd. The Lakeside Casino in Osceola will open June 3rd.