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August 12, 2020

Gov. Kim Reynolds also greenlighted race tracks

Iowa casinos allowed to reopen June 1 at 50% capacity

Iowa casinos allowed to reopen June 1 at 50% capacity
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said that effective Monday, she is permitting casinos and gaming facilities to reopen.
United States | 05/28/2020

The governor made an exception for a racetrack conducting pari-mutuel wagering to reopen, provided it does not permit any spectators to attend its events in person. She said smoking will still be allowed inside casinos. Safety measures will include face coverings and temperature checks for all employees and social distancing requirements and capacity restrictions.

G

ov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday that starting on June 1, casinos and race tracks, among other businesses, will be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity. She said smoking will still be allowed inside casinos. Some sporting events can also start back up. 

Reynolds made an exception for a racetrack conducting pari-mutuel wagering to reopen, provided it does not permit any spectators to attend its events in person, Sioux City Journal reports.

Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque said in a statement it will reopen Monday, but with limitations and ramped up cleaning. “As we return to business in Iowa, our highest priority will be protecting the health and safety of every person who comes through our doors,” said Keith W. Henson, senior vice president of operations for Boyd Gaming, in a release.

He said the casino will require face coverings and temperature checks for all employees and social distancing requirements and capacity restrictions, including casino floors and restaurants. Employees will increase sanitation of “high touch” surfaces including door handles, gaming machines, table games, handrails and elevator buttons.

Iowa's casinos not only rake in billions of dollars in revenue for the state, but they also hire thousands in Council Bluffs. Mayor Matt Walsh said he understands the impact casinos have on both the city's and the state's economy, but he is concerned some customers will put themselves at greater risk for catching the coronavirus. "When your capacity's 2000 people, you've still got 1000 people in there, and so, social distancing won't be as easy," he said, as reported by KETV Newswatch 7. 

According to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, its 2020 fiscal year to date shows casinos generated more than $1 billion in revenue. When looking at local impact, the Iowa Gaming Association reported that in 2018, casinos hired nearly 8,800 employees. Of those employees, per the American Gaming Association's 2017 reports, more than 2,000 worked in one of Council Bluffs' three biggest casinos.

Pottawattamie County planning director Matt Wyant said throughout the pandemic, casinos have stayed in constant contact with public health officials and have talked about ways to space out players. "I'm fully confident in the measures that they will take to be able to make protect their customers," Wyant said.

Wyant also said should any concerns pop up as casinos and larger-capacity businesses reopen, they can ask public health officials for inspections and other environmental health services. "If you need help walking through the newest guidance, or even to just have your employees know that, 'Hey, we've consulted with public health on this,' we have offered up different advice," Wyant said.

Both Walsh and Wyant reminded citizens to continue wearing masks once the buildings open up, and to watch out for the surface they will touch once they step through the doors.

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