NEW BUFFALO — Four Winds Casinos looked a bit different on Monday, June 15, when every location opened to the public for the first time in three months.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to drop in Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana, Four Winds Casinos have implemented a series of safety measures and guidelines. Casino officials opened up the New Buffalo location to media on June 12 for a tour and quick look at the new safety measures.
The changes to the casino will be felt immediately from the entrance and beyond. Guests are required to wear face masks and be screened using touchless temperature check technology. If anyone entering the casino emits a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they’ll be taken aside and asked several questions.
Frank Freedman, chief operating officer for Four Winds Casinos, said the measures are necessary to ensure the safety of employees and guests.
“We want everyone to be safe and to have a great time, but we also want them to come back,” Freedman said.
The number of active slot machines are being reduced. In some cases, chairs and machines have been moved, while a few popular games have plexiglass dividers in place for social distancing guidelines.
Only 40 percent of the tables in the pits will be in use. Social distancing markers line the floors throughout the facility, from the entrance to the ATMs and counters. There will also be reduced seating at table games.
There are only a handful of scenarios in which customers will be able to remove their masks. Freedman said masks are allowed to be taken off when sitting at a table and eating, as well as when making a transaction at the cashier’s desk. For security purposes, the entire face needs to be seen to confirm a person’s identification.
Guests will be given pens to carry with them for their stay. The pens are theirs to keep, so no one else is using the writing utensil.
Employees will regularly use electronic sprayers to sanitize chairs and machines, in a quick fashion. Additional workers will be seen wiping down and cleaning high-use surface areas throughout the day.
All Four Winds team members will also be washing and sanitizing their hands more frequently.
Some ATMs stationed next to one another in a line will be turned off for social distancing purposes.
Food and lodging
The restaurants inside casinos reopened June 15 along with other operations, though with reduced menu options.
Guests can use electronic menus to view available items and disposable menus will be in place upon request.
The buffets will be closed, and Freedman said they are unsure what they will look like in the future.
Tables were already wiped down after attendees left the dining area. However, both tables and seats will now be sanitized. Plexiglass barriers were also added in between tables and booths.
The outdoor pool and bar will reopen as well. Full-time attendants will be available at self-serve stations.
As for the hotel side of the casino, lines will be enforced by social distancing markers.
Mary Smith, vice president of hotel operations at Four Winds New Buffalo, said a dedicated lobby ambassador will welcome guests to a separate entrance.
Smith said new cleaning measures are in place to make guests aware when a room has been properly cleaned.
“We’ve removed all bed scarves and comforters temporarily,” Smith said. “Guests will see clean room stickers on their doors to let them know that the room has been sanitized and sealed.”
The Pokagon Gaming Authority closed the casinos on March 17 as the coronavirus spread across the state and nation. Talks to reopen began in late May as Indiana opened portions of its state, while Michigan began several phases of its reopening process.
Four Winds has casinos in Dowagiac, Hartford, New Buffalo and South Bend.