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Casinos voluntarily adhering to Lamont's Phase 2.1 guidelines

Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun are voluntarily complying with Gov. Ned Lamont’s reopening rollback, their restaurants agreeing to end in-person service at 9:30 p.m. and close by 10 as the casinos continue to operate well below capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A weeks-long increase in statewide cases of the coronavirus disease has prompted Lamont to abandon less restrictive Phase 3 guidelines in favor of Phase 2.1 rules. The rollback was effective Friday.

“One of the frustrations we have is that there’s little data to support the idea that (COVID-19) spread occurs at restaurants and businesses. It’s more in homes and at social gatherings where people are unmasked,” Jason Guyot, Foxwoods interim chief executive officer and senior vice president for resort operations, said Monday. “Some of these mandates aren’t necessarily based on science.’”

Guyot said having earlier closing times for restaurants actually can lead to larger crowds during the restaurants’ shortened hours of operation.

The governor’s rollback also limits restaurants to 50% of their capacity, down from 75% under Phase 3, which had been in effect since Oct. 8. Guyot said Foxwoods restaurants have never operated at more than 50% of capacity since the casino reopened June 1 and will continue to hew to that standard. The resort itself continues to operate at 25% of capacity, he said.

“... Our open restaurants and bars will be in line with the recently announced Connecticut guidelines,” Jeff Hamilton, Mohegan Sun’s president and general manager, said in a statement. “Mohegan Sun’s capacity limits will continue to operate at no more than 50% to allow for physical distancing, and reservations are encouraged. Dining rooms will have last calls for in-restaurant food service no later than 9:30 p.m.”

The casinos’ restaurants will continue providing takeout service beyond their closing time.

Since reopening in defiance of Lamont, who wanted them to stay closed beyond June 1, the casinos, located on sovereign land, have grappled with significant reductions in their business and workforces while striving to protect employees and the public from COVID-19. Guyot said Foxwoods, which shut down in March, has brought back about 3,000 employees since reopening and has about 2,200 on “temporary layoff” status. Some of those temporarily laid off found other jobs, he said.

While the casino has made no decision about “next steps” regarding employees, the leadership of the union representing Foxwoods table-games dealers informed union members this past weekend that management has indicated permanent layoffs are coming soon.

Foxwoods’ poker room, long the largest on the East Coast, has not reopened, and Guyot said no timeline for its comeback has been set. Some casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas have reopened their poker rooms.

“We’d love to bring it back, and sooner than later. It’s one of the things we get the most comments about,” Guyot said. “But it’s about safety first. Everything we do has to be based on safety and science.”

Mohegan Sun, which had just over 6,000 employees when it shut down because of the pandemic, had brought back nearly 4,800 workers by the end of October. In mid-August, Hamilton said those not called back to work by Sept. 30 would be laid off.

“We continue to closely monitor the pandemic and look forward to a time when we can reopen the aspects of our property that we have been unable to,” he said last week. “When we have the ability to reopen these areas, like Mohegan Sun Arena, Earth Expo and valet, this will allow us to recall many more of our team members.”

The casinos have reported a small number of COVID-19 cases among employees. Pressed for specifics, Guyot would only say that there has been a “limited number” of cases. He said in each of the cases, the employee picked up the disease outside of work and immediately quarantined and submitted to contact tracing. He said the casino expects to introduce a COVID-19 testing platform for all employees within the next month.

“We’ve had over 1.5 million guests here since June 1 and have yet to see a case of transmission within the resort,” Guyot said.

Mohegan Sun employees as well as members of the Mohegan Tribe have had access to COVID-19 testing through the tribe’s partnership with the Yale New Haven Health System.


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