Gila River Hotels & Casinos Reopening, While Other Businesses Are Forced to Close

Gila River Gaming Enterprises Inc. announced its facilities will reopen today with enhanced safety and sanitation protocols.

Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte and Vee Quiva’s chose to reopen after feedback from their team members, the Gila River Indian Community Council, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“These enhanced health and safety measures go beyond CDC and AZDHS guidelines,” Gila River Gaming CEO Kenneth Manuel said in the release.

“The safety of our valued team members and guests are our priority … We will continue to adapt and enhance our safety measures to provide the highest level of care and service for our team members and guests.”

Upon reopening its facilities, new policies and strategies and implemented by Gila River Gaming include the following:

  • Non-smoking at all properties with designated smoking areas
  • Closing casinos from 2am-10am daily for deep-cleaning
  • Providing paid leave of absence for at-risk team members
  • Testing employees for COVID-19 every two weeks
  • Mandatory temperature checks for team members and guests upon arrival
  • Mandatory face coverings for all team members and guests
  • Continual training for staff members
  • Advising guest to practice physical distancing
  • Redesigned casino floors and gaming tables to ensure physical distancing and reduced occupancy
  • Plexiglass separation fixtures on slot machines
  • 100 total Sanitation Stations on gaming floor and back-of-house
  • Installation of a cleaning alert system on all slots that allows visitors to alert a cleaning ambassador if machine requires cleaning
  • Hiring additional cleaning ambassador team members
  • Adapting of best practices and sanitation measures as needed

This will be the second time Gila River Gaming has reopened its locations amid the coronavirus pandemic. The casinos reopened on May 15 before closing once again on June 18 after a former Lone Butte employee contracted coronavirus and later died after returning to work when the casino reopened

“We believe that the safety protocols that we are employing will create a safe environment for our guests and team members,” Manuel said.

However, the news of the casinos reopening has many asking how the state can mandate gyms, movie theaters and bars closed again, yet allow heavily populated casinos that attract thousands of guests at a time to reopen under this newly enacted state mandate.

As previously reported by All About Arizona News, Mountainside Fitness is tackling this concern head-on and has filed a complaint in Superior Court for violations of substantive and procedural due process and equal protection.

The complaint asks the court to stop the enforcement of Ducey’s latest Executive Order 2020-43, “Pausing of Arizona’s Reopening, Slowing the Spread of COVID-19” because it is arbitrary, random and irrational.

Governor Ducey’s executive orders are law; however, his orders are subject to judicial review and can be challenged in court.

Mountainside Fitness is claiming that his orders must be clear, concise, and be rational. Their argument is the governor took away their right to do business without a rational basis and did not provide the business an opportunity to operate safely. In addition, they are claiming that no warning or prior notice was given to the businesses ordered to shut down, only 5 hours to make arrangements for a month-long closure or punishments would be handed down to businesses who do not comply.

Mountainside Fitness has asked the court to stop the enforcement of the Order until a trial can be had on the validity of the order.

As of result of the defiance, multiple Mountainside Fitness locations were cited after refusing to shut down. The citations, are a class one misdemeanor and carry a fine up to $2,500 if convicted.

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