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Arizona casinos stay open as usual despite statewide curfew

Casinos were just starting to reopen after weeks of closures forced by COVID-19 when a statewide dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed Sunday. But most casinos said they did not expect to change their hours or operations in the face of the curfew. (Photo by Cronkite News)

Public spaces around Arizona may have been closed overnight by a statewide curfew this week, but the casinos have stayed open.

After being closed for months by COVID-19, casinos around Arizona had just started to reopen when Gov. Doug Ducey on Sunday imposed a statewide dusk-to-dawn curfew in response to protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

But casinos around the state said their hours are unchanged, curfew or no curfew.

Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis announced in a Facebook video Sunday that the order would not apply to people traveling to and from the tribe’s casinos after curfew.

“The decision was made in accordance with Gila Gaming Enterprises and Community Council for our community’s casinos to remain open as well, knowing that our community has the resources to maintain security and protection,” Lewis said in the video.

The curfew, which runs from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day until Monday, allows people to travel to and from work and is being loosely enforced by most police agencies. Lewis said in the video that the order is targeted at those acting lawlessly during protests, not casino patrons.

The tribe’s three casinos – Lone Butte, Wild Horse Pass and Vee Quiva – were among the first to reopen, along with Fort McDowell Casino and Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino, on May 15 after the COVID-19 stay-at-home order ended.

Talking Stick Resort, Casino Arizona, Cliff Castle Casino and Cocopah Casino opened Monday, the day after the curfew took effect, while the Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s Casino Del Sol and the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Desert Diamond casinos are set to open this week.

The reopenings were a bit of good news after pandemic-related shutdown hit casinos, and tribes, hard.

“There is no other way to say it except it’s a massive impact – negative impact,” said Alan Meister, CEO of Meister Economic Consulting, which studies the gaming industry.

Meister said that while most casinos’ revenues went to zero when everything closed, tribal governments still had costs for maintaining buildings during the closure. Opening back up, he said, is how tribal governments can start to earn back that revenue.

And it’s not just tribal governments that were hurting, but also casino employees and vendors, Meister said.

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