When I first read the headline “Oaklawn to Reopen Casino on Monday, May 18,” I was horrified.
Readers might recall that we were all over Oaklawn Park during their race meet because all but a very few handlers were with face coverings in the close confines of the stabling paddock, with no serious attempts made at social distancing despite strong urging from the Arkansas Department of Health to do so in confined public spaces.
I read further, and no am I appalled. But shouldn’t I feel guilty about that?
I find it incredulous that the country’s politics are so divisive that a state like Arkansas can be so cavalier about not taking common sense health restrictions very seriously when in California, with a hot spot in Los Angeles, this safe-shelter mandate will remain in place until August.
It’s ironic that I should learn about the LA extension on the day Santa Anita published an overnight for Friday and will be allowed to race spectatorless that same day.
And you know SoCal horsemen are anxious to rock n’ roll when 97 horses, including also-eligibles, were entered in nine races. There were times in the not too distance past when that number would translate into two days of eight-race programs.
Meanwhile, back in Hot Springs, where purses are buoyed by casino dollars spent on the grounds of the racetrack, how can such a close-quartered space such as a casino be opened up again?
Then, after reading more, I will posit this: If the entire horse industry handled in-house racing issues with the same thoughtfulness that tracks have given getting back into operation, the game would be in a much healthier place. Here are the provisions for the casino reopening:
· Hours in operation will be shortened.
· The casino will operate at 33% capacity.
· There will be only be one entrance in use.
Required temperature tests (100 degrees or less) to gain admission.
· Customers must show ID upon entering for possible contact-tracing.
· As with temperatures, customers and staff must wear masks at all times.
· Available shuttle service continues but with limited occupancy.
· Only every other slot machine will be open to ensure social distancing.
· Blackjack games limited to every other seat, no more than three players per table.
· Craps are limited to three players per side of each table.
· Live roulette will not be available upon reopening.
· Smoking will not be allowed anywhere inside the building.
· The facility has been deep cleaned in all areas.
· Frequency of cleaning all public areas will be increased during the day.
· The casino will be electrostatically disinfected nightly upon closing.
· Additional hand sanitizing stations will be in place throughout the facility.
· Signage regarding all health measures will be increased.
· Social distancing rules will be enforced.
· Menus will be disposable for one-time use.
· Condiments to be offered in single use packets.
Additionally, the Race & Sports Book will remain closed, there will be no simulcasting, promotional events, or live entertainment upon reopening.
If I had any interest in casino gambling, I might, might, be willing, so to speak, to roll the dice under these circumstances. Or as least go inside and take a look. Would you?