One Thursday, one Friday

After being closed for nearly four months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine’s two casinos will reopen this week. Oxford Casino will welcome back guests at 9:00am on Thursday, while Hollywood Casino Bangor will open its doors at noon on Friday.

Naturally, as we have seen throughout the country, both casinos will have strict health and safety protocols in place.

On Wednesday, Oxford Casino general manager Jack Sours told WMTW, “We are very close to a final checklist, so we are going through the process inside right now to execute that checklist for the measures for safety against COVID-19.”

Clever idea to reduce crowds

Most of the safety protocols are fairly standard, but one stands out. Maine’s Department of Public Safety is still limiting gatherings to 50 people or fewer, which makes opening a casino rather difficult. The solution is novel: the casinos will be limited to housing just 200 customers, split into four quadrants of 50 people max. There will be checkpoints setup between each zone; guests will only be permitted to move to another quadrant if the destination has fewer than 50 people.

Oxford warns that with such a strict limit on the number of people permitted in the casino, wait times to get in may be long. All safety protocols inside will also be mandatory in the outdoor lines.

Such protocols include protective face masks for everybody, customers and employees both. The only time they may be removed is when eating and drinking or smoking in designated areas.

At Oxford (not sure about Hollywood), a contact tracing check-in will be setup, where guests must show an ID, signup for the casino loyalty program, and provide a phone number. These will all assist with contract tracing should it be discovered that someone tested positive for COVID-19.

Only slot machines will be available initially at both casinos, all of which will be setup at least six feet apart. Just one player is allowed per machine, unless an extra person is needed to help someone with disabilities.

Oxford’s hotel will not be open, but Hollywood’s will. Limited dining will also be available; no bars or buffets.

“Once we get opened and show we can do this in a safe and responsible manner, we hope to be able to lift those restrictions up and bring more people back,” Sours said.

Money flowing back to town

Oxford town manager Butch Asselin is understandably excited for the local casino to reopen, saying it contributes $35,000 to $39,000 per week to the town. With the casino closure, Asselin projects they will end up with a bit less than $1.5 million from the casino, down from the previously expected $2 million.

Fortunately, the town had a surplus balance, so Asselin thinks it will at least break even, despite the reduced income stream.

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