Racinos, casinos open Friday to uncertain future

At 6 a.m. Friday, Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway will open its doors. Other Ohio casinos and racinos are permitted to do the same, including Miami Valley Gaming in Monroe.

The customer experience promises to be very different. But Dan Kennedy, Dayton Raceway’s general manager, is confident patrons want to return.

“We have talked to our customers,” Kennedy said Thursday. “They’re excited to come back.”

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But re-opening after a global pandemic is something of an experiment for everyone.

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“That’s the unknown, the wild cards,” Kennedy said. “We’re hoping that people feel safe in here, and they want to come back, but we have to play it by ear. We have phased accordingly based on projections. We’ll increase or decrease based on what happens.”

Permitted capacity will be halved initially. Dayton Raceway’s fire code allow 3,400 patrons, but the facility will limit capacity to 1,500 at one time, including employees.

Floor decals will mark out “social distances.” Slot machines will be spaced out — every other machine has been removed. Guests will be encouraged to wear masks. There will be no live music, and the skybox will be closed.

There will be live no harness racing in Dayton, but simulcasts will be on, and gamers can bet on other tracks on video upstairs, Kennedy said. (The Belmont Stakes run Saturday.)

Valet parking and coat checks won’t be happening, either, at least for now.

Dayton Raceway usually has around 250 employees. For the first phase of reopening, the facility is bringing back around 170, Kennedy said. If there’s enough demand to open skybox dining, the raceway will bring back more employees.

The pandemic hit racinos hard. The Dayton Raceway reported a net win of $4.3 million in March, less than half of the $10.4 million reported in February, according to Ohio Lottery Commission figures. (Net wins for racinos in Ohio are net gaming revenues remaining after payout of prizes and promotional credits.)

Net wins for April and May: 0.

Alan Silver, who tracks casino revenue and acts as a consultant for the gaming industry, said April figures were down 99.6 percent in Nevada.

A 71-year-old, Silver said he personally refuses to patronize casinos yet.

“The way this thing looks, it’s going to take a long time for recovery,” said Silver, a part-time faculty member at Ohio University who lives in Nevada today.

“I’d say the industry is in danger right now,” he added.

It’s important to remember that Ohio’s casinos also earn revenue from restaurants, as well as concerts and other events, said Jessica Franks, spokeswoman for the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

Since late March, restaurants in Ohio were closed to on-site dining. Even though the skybox will be closed, Dayton Raceway will have Take 2 fast food dining open Friday

A statewide group of local and state health officials worked with these facilities to draft recommendations on how to safely re-open, said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Dayton and Montgomery County Public Health.

“They came up with recommendations to re-open, and the Ohio Department of Health reviewed those recommendations,” Suffoletto said. “The final procedures were put in place.”

Health professionals encourage customers to wash hands frequently and refrain from touching their faces — and to wear masks.

Miami Valley Gaming will open its doors at 8 a.m. Friday, the racino said in a press release.

The racino is relying on “bolstered hygiene protocols to meet or exceed best-practice guidelines of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” and the state, Miami Valley Gaming said.

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“As part of this effort, the facility will undergo rigorous, ongoing cleaning and will close nightly for a deep-cleaning of all public areas,” that racino said.

Employees will undergo training and submit to health checks, including temperature screens, when they report to work and are required to wear masks while working.

Miami Valley Gaming’s March net win amount stood at $6.6 million, well under the $16.1 million reported for February.

The Lebanon facility said masks will be made available to customers on request.

“The casinos have to, No. 1, allow customers to wear face masks,” Suffoletto emphasized.

“We’ve worked closely with Gov. (Mike) DeWine’s reopening team and the Ohio Lottery Commission to ensure we are taking all appropriate safety precautions,” said Domenic Mancini, Miami Valley Gaming president and general manager. “We are looking forward to welcoming back our customers.”

Miami Valley Gaming will be open 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily. Hours for “at-risk” guests will be from 8 to 9 a.m. starting Saturday.

COVID-19 spreads through airborne droplets, when people cough, sneeze or yell.

“Those droplets are expelled into the air, and they can fall on surfaces as well — and remain on surfaces for a period of time,” Suffoletto said.

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