Casino announces gradual reopening

Friday 8th May 2020

Almost sixty days after closing their doors to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Harrah's Cherokee Casinos will begin a gradual reopening of Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah's Cherokee Valley River on Monday, May 18.

Areas where social distancing can be practiced will be the first to welcome guests during this phased reopening, though with significant limitations on occupancy. These include the gaming floor, hotel and some restaurants. However, spa, valet, poker, buffet and concert offerings will remain closed at this time.

To make social distancing possible, casino and hotel access will be by invitation only at first, with small groups of customers receiving email invitations as early as May 13. The number of invitations may increase over time as it becomes appropriate to do so. Members of the EBCI will also be able to access both casinos during this period of time.

Furloughed employees will begin returning to work as their respective work areas ramp up operation. Before beginning work, each employee will complete a screening, which will include a questionnaire and temperature check, with face masks required while on duty.

"This is uncharted territory for the casino industry, but what is clear is that when we return to work it will not be exactly as it was prior to closing," said Senior Vice President and General Manager Brooks Robinson. "We look forward to welcoming back our guests and team members, also understanding that social distancing is going to be a part of our business and lives for a while."

The decision to begin reopening coincides with the Principal Chief Richard Sneed's May 5 announcement that checkpoints that had been limiting access to the Qualla Boundary since March 21 would be lifted beginning at 10 p.m. May 8. The curfew will also be lifted at this time.

Sneed said that it's time to begin a gradual reopening, because Cherokee has successfully flattened the curve and prevented the initial appearance of COVID-19 from overwhelming its hospitals. Of the nine confirmed positives in the community thus far, none have required hospital care.

"I know there will be people who will be a little bit frantic, maybe have some anxiety about this, but there is no 100 percent way to protect our community to where nobody gets exposed to the virus," Sneed said in a May 6 video announcing the change. "But in order for the checkpoints to be effective to the fullest amount, we would have to not have traffic leaving the boundary and then coming back. What are seeing now is we have as many people leaving the boundary as we have coming in."

Relieving officers of their duty to monitor the three checkpoints in question around the clock will also free up the police department to better attend to other matters, said Sneed.

"We also need them to be focusing on the drug epidemic and the overdoses we're having and the fatalities from that," said Sneed. "We really need them to get back to what their mission is."

However, a checkpoint will be set up at the entrance to the retail plaza where Food Lion is located to ensure that only locals visit the grocery store. Nonessential businesses, including hotels and campgrounds, will remain closed for the time being.

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