Several tribal nations in Oklahoma have suspended casino operations to guard against the spread of the COVID 19 virus.
On Monday, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, which operates a casino in Okemah, announced that its casinos would be temporarily closed beginning at midnight. Similar announcements were made by the Cherokee Nation and the Choctaw Nation.
“As a nation and a community, we must lead by example. The temporary closure of all Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos, including River Spirit Casino Resort’s hotel and restaurants, is in the best interest of the safety of our guests and employees,” MCN Chief David Hill said in a press release. “While there is great uncertainty on the business and community impact, we must all work together and be proactive to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among the public-at-large.”
Hill and officials confirmed the 2,200 employees at Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos and River Spirit Casino Resort will continue to be paid through the end of the month. The temporary closure includes casinos in Beggs, Holdenville, Eufaula, Bristow, Checotah, Okemah and River Spirit Casino Resort in Tulsa. The travel plaza casinos in Muskogee and Okmulgee will close, but the convenience stores remain open to serve the public in need of essentials.
“Our Nation’s citizens and employees have already faced a remarkable test of endurance last year during the closure due to historic flooding,” Hill said. “Once again, we are rising to the challenge together and doing our part to benefit the communities in which we live and serve.”
Leading up to the closure, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos increased its cleaning protocols and added anti-bacterial stations throughout the facilities to help combat the unintentional spread of the virus, according to the press release.
“While educating employees and guests about the CDC guidelines and dedicating additional resources for cleaning has been impactful, it is now clear that a more extensive action is necessary,” said Pat Crofts, River Spirit Casino Resort Chief Executive Officer. “We will continue to monitor the national guidelines and will reopen River Spirit Casino Resort and Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, we will continue to support our employees and communities in every way that we can during this period of closure.”
The Cherokee Nation operates 10 casinos across the state, including locations in Tulsa, West Siloam Springs, Roland, Grove, Ramona, Sallisaw, South Coffeyville, Tahlequah and Claremore. Those locations are expected to remain closed through March 31.
All Choctaw Casinos in Durant, Grant, Pocola, McAlester, Broken Bow, Idabel and Stringtown are closed effective 11:59 p.m. on March 16. All gaming inside Choctaw Travel Plazas is temporarily suspended, but guests may still purchase gasoline and other items. All concerts at the Grand Theater are postponed through April 3.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our guests, associates, vendors, entertainment partners and individuals in the communities in which we are located,” Chief Gary Batton stated in a press release. “Choctaw has been closely monitoring the constantly evolving situation regarding COVID-19, and based on the latest information from local, state and federal health officials, we feel it is our responsibility to do what we can to help reduce the rapid spread of this disease.”