NEW 3:15 p.m. May 22:
UPDATE 10 a.m. May 21:
Tony Choate, spokesman for the Chickasaw Nation, said a reopening date for Winstar had not been determined.
"We have tested thousands of WinStar employees and plan to test all employees before they return to the workplace," he said in response to an inquiry about how many WinStar employees had been tested and the status of results. "The percentage of positive tests to date is very small. All employees will be required to satisfy appropriate medical criteria before returning to the workplace."
ORIGINAL 6:03 p.m. May 20:
Winstar World Casino and Resort, Border Casino and other businesses owned by the Chickasaw Nation are to be reopened soon, Chickasaw Gov. Bill Anoatubby announced in a press release Wednesday evening, May 20.
"The Chickasaw Nation plans to begin implementing a phased reopening of casinos, other businesses and offices soon," according to the release. No specific date was given for Winstar's reopening or that of Border Casino. Both are located near Thackerville, Oklahoma, just north of Gainesville.
Previous announcements from the Chickasaw Nation indicated the casinos would remain closed through May 29.
All Chickasaw Nation casinos will open gaming floors at 25% of capacity, according to the release, which stated preparations for reopening are underway and include alterations to facilities and employee testing as well as training employees to follow new safety protocols and procedures. Businesses and offices will reopen once preparations are complete.
“As we begin implementing our reopening plan, the health and safety of our employees, patrons and community members remain our highest priorities,” Anoatubby said in the release. “Our leadership team has worked diligently to develop a plan that conforms with best practices advised by health professionals to help prevent any resurgence of the virus.”
“We recently began employee testing in preparation for reopening businesses and offices," he went on to say in the release. "In addition to extensive employee testing and screening, we will implement responsible distancing policies, enhanced cleaning protocols and other measures to protect the health and safety of our employees and clients."
He added the nation's leadership will keep monitoring health data and projections as operations reopen.
In addition to limiting casino gaming floors to 25% of capacity, staff will put up signs marking appropriate space between people not in the same household. Health officials advise people to remain six feet from other members of the public.
Security personnel will check the temperature of all patrons entering each facility, according to the release. Those with a confirmed temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will be asked to return home and seek appropriate medical care. Guests and employees will also be required to wear protective face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times.
Gaming facilities will be closed from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for cleaning and disinfecting.
Chickasaw Nation hotels, the WinStar RV Park and the WinStar Golf Course will be open to guests with enhanced cleaning protocols and responsible distancing measures.
Restaurants and bars will reduce seating capacity to maintain six feet of distance between each seated group of guests.
Table games, off-track betting, poker, bingo, entertainment options, convention center and pools will remain closed during phase one of the reopening, according to the release.
The casinos and many of WinStar’s associated businesses closed down at midnight March 16 as a precaution. The casinos, retail stores and casino restaurants were closed in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Employees who were not continuing to work were to be paid during the closure.
The Chickasaw Nation operates both Border Casino and WinStar World Casino and Resort near Thackerville, Oklahoma, just north of Gainesville. With about 600,000 square feet of gaming area, WinStar ranks among the largest casinos in the world, according to several roundups listing large casinos by square footage. It seats 3,500 in its Global Event Center.
More than 3,700 people are employed at the casino and in its hospitality and restaurant arms, according to a 2018 fact sheet posted on the casino’s website. More than 2,300 of those employees hail from Texas.