ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Good news for gamblers – the Missouri Gaming Commission’s order closing the state’s casinos expires at midnight this Sunday. Government officials and casino operators are preparing for the reopening.
All casinos in the state were ordered closed on March 17 because of the coronavirus crisis. The casinos are anxious to get their doors open again. Meanwhile, St. Charles County officials are hoping the reopening does not get out of hand.
Ameristar Casino in St. Charles just announced it will reopen Monday, June 1. The casino is promising a safe and comfortable environment for guests.
St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann and other leaders are concerned that desire could be overwhelming.
Ehlmann is concerned that if Ameristar is one of two casinos reopening the area on Monday—the other being Lumière Place in downtown St. Louis—they may have swarms of gamblers show up.
“Obviously, those people waiting in line – we don’t want them breathing down each other’s neck and so I am very hopeful, and that’s one of things we want to meet with the casino people tomorrow, is to make sure they are prepared to deal with those long lines,” he said. “Normally, this would be the kind of thing we would love to see people coming from all over the region coming to spend their money in St. Charles County but those people, in some cases, are bringing with them the virus.”
The Missouri Gaming Commission says Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers who are in casinos anyway to enforce gaming laws will keep an eye out for people who aren’t social distancing. They will not arrest them, though.
“I think there’s a welcome concern,” said St. Charles County Councilman Mike Elam.
Elam says Ameristar is the most popular attraction in the state. More people enter the casino than all the fans who attend Cardinal games in a season.
“I think Boyd (the Ameristar owner) has a very good plan as to how they’re going to reopen,” Elam said.
The casino’s Facebook page shows video of enhanced cleaning procedures. Management says they will utilize personal protection equipment throughout the casino. Guests will be offered face masks if they don’t have one, filters for air circulation will be changed more frequently. Social distancing will be employed and the number of guests will be limited in certain areas.
There’s no doubt there is a lot of pent up desire among gamblers to get back to the tables and slots.
It’s not inside the casino that has officials worried as much as what could happen outside if they are slammed with customers on the first days.
“It just depends how many of those folks decide they need this gambling,” said St. Charles County Councilman Terry Hollander.
Elam says he doesn’t want to see St. Charles turn into Lake of the Ozarks. Videos of people close together partying at the lake garnered national attention that won’t soon be forgotten by citizens or infectious disease specialists.
“It made me deeply concerned. I’m very concerned because this virus is still among us,” said Dr. Alexis Elward, infectious disease specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
St. Charles government leaders are cautiously optimistic there won’t be a Lake of the Ozarks repeat here.
“I don’t think we’ll see that at all. I think things will be regulated,” Hollander said.
Elam hopes people make good decisions and listen to any and all health advisories and abide by guidelines.