Photo: Joe Amarante / Hearst Connecticut Media
Connecticut’s huge casinos are slowly but steadily reopening their popular attractions and eateries, even as COVID-19 keeps flaring up in other states and officials of the two facilities keep a watchful eye on pandemic data and protocols (masks, sanitizing wipes, plexiglass, testing).
While the workforce in Uncasville and Mashantucket is ramping up after a risky-but-so-far- succesful return with much-reduced staffing in June, Massachusetts casinos returned in July and have cut hundreds of jobs in facilities that, in the case of MGM Springfield, never lived up to the number of jobs promised to Bay State regulators. MGM originally hoped to employ 3,000; it opened with 2,000 and reopened after a four-month shutdown in July with 800, according to online reports. Posh Encore Boston in Everett promised 4,000 jobs, reached 4,200 but began this month with 2,700 (and 915 still furloughed), according to Boston.com.
Mohegan Sun’s website says that “Nearly 8,000 people are employed at Mohegan Sun,” but that was pre-COVID. The casino returned in June and as of late August, was employing “more than 4,200 team members,” according to a spokesman.
The Massachusetts casinos (the third one is Plainridge in Plainville, Mass.) can’t compare to Connecticut’s in total number of restaurants or attractions (even though live music and arena shows are still victims of COVID realities in both states). But officials know it helps to have more of the attractions open (with strict protocols) so masked visitors aren’t limited to just slot machines and a food court if they venture out of their houses.
Mohegan Sun recently saw the reopening of SolToro restaurant and bluwire electronics store, joining the reopened Ballo Italian Restaurant, Tom’s Urban, Game On, Bobby’s Burger Palace, Carlo’s Bakery, Comix Roadhouse, Jersey Mike’s Subs, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Jasper White’s Summer Shack and Todd English’s Tuscany, along with the Sky Tower and Earth Tower hotels and about 20 retail outlets, the casino said recently.
Foxwoods Resort Casino reopened Cedars Steaks & Oysters, Hard Rock Café and a few other restaurants in early August, followed by the Fox Tower Hotel, Caputo Trattoria and High Roller Luxury Lanes in late August. (High Rollers opened its lanes 10 years ago this month, by the way.)
Even bingo is being transformed in the pandemic era. Foxwoods reopened its Bingo Hall Sept. 3, with several modifications made for safety:
The hall is operating at reduced capacity (still a hefty 950 total), seven days a week with morning sessions starting an hour earlier at 9:30 a.m. to provide additional cleaning time between sessions and evening sessions beginning at 6:30 p.m. The duration of each session is reduced to two hours and 30 minutes.
There is distancing of at least 6-10 feet between players and the Bingo Hall has been divided into 14 zones. After each bingo session, participants are asked to remain seated until the caller announces your zone for departure. And, like flying an airline today, masks are in; smoking is out.
Several of Foxwoods’ elevators are now outfitted with technology that doesn’t require you to touch a button, making Foxwoods the only casino in the country offering guests this touchless experience, a Foxwoods publicist said. Otis Elevator created a voice- and gesture-activated system that allows users to make audible commands to an elevator (“Hey Otis… Level Four”) and/or call the elevator by the gesture of their hand (wave up to go down). If you talk a lot with your hands, you might be on the lift a long time.
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