116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa's casinos say they aren't gambling on the public's health.
Last month, Gov. Kim Reynolds lifted statewide restrictions on public gatherings and mask-wearing, but most of the 19 state-licensed casinos and four Native American-owned casinos have kept pandemic protocols in place, said Brian Ohorilko, administrator for the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, based in Des Moines.
So patrons still need to cover their nose and mouth when playing the slots and gaming tables, dining in the restaurants, staying in the hotels, and at Riverside Casino, attending Rodney Carrington's back-to-back sold-out comedy shows Thursday night.
'I have not heard of anyone that has talked about reducing or changing their protocols from a sanitation and cleaning standpoint,” Ohorilko said. As for face coverings, he said he doesn't have data in hand but has heard anecdotally that a few facilities are starting to relax some mask requirements.
'Most are still requiring masks in the facilities. We're still seeing that requirement at the majority of the locations at table games areas where customers are sitting fairly close, and may not be able to social distance like you can at a slot machine,” he said.
'A lot of our casinos have invested in different types of barriers,” he added. 'We saw everything from homemade barriers to barriers that are very specific to table games and made for this particular purpose. A number of the places still have those installed.”
Eastern Iowa casinos all say on their websites they have mask mandates and social distancing in place.
Entertainment still is shut down at the Meskwaki Casino near Tama, which is not under the state commission's regulations, and the Diamond Jo in Dubuque. But the Q Casino, also in Dubuque, has slated three summer concerts on its outdoor Back Waters stage.
'We're starting to see people come back to the facilities,” Ohorilko said. 'It really is a sign or signal that the casinos are doing a good job of keeping people safe. I think customers are seeing that and are starting to attend. But at the end of the day, it's important for everyone to make their own decisions with respect to the policies at each of the individual facilities - and the policies are different at the different locations.”
Riverside Casino reopened June 1 after voluntarily closing March 16 near the start of the pandemic in Iowa, Marketing Director Damon John said. Entertainment returned July 10 with a socially distanced Dueling Pianos concert in the Event Center, followed by several indoor and outdoor events.
Local and area bands are performing socially distanced shows Friday and Saturday nights in the casino's Show Lounge, with dancing allowed by patrons' tables.
A recent Valentine's Dinner sold out 100 seats in the Event Center, and a 180-seat Mother's Day dinner event will be announced next week, but Thursday's Carrington doubleheader is the highest-profile entertainment booked so far in the Event Center. And even then, just 308 seats are being sold in pods of two or four, spaced 6 feet apart, said John, noting those numbers are about 1,000 under the usual concert capacity.
Carrington also is doing two shows Friday at Rhythm City Casino in Davenport and two shows Saturday at Dubuque's Five Flags Center. With the pandemic, reduced seating capacities mean reduced revenues, but also lower booking fees.
'That (Carrington) is willing to go out there is kind of cool to see,” John said.
Pandemic protocols will be strictly enforced at the Riverside shows.
'The safeguards in place currently are the ones that were up before the governor lifted restrictions, so we've had no change there,” John said. Casino complex officials are following guidelines from the Iowa Department of Public Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the local chief medical officer, Dr. David Nacos from the Washington County Hospital.
Pipes and drapes will be set up in the lobby outside the Event Center, to control a socially distanced crowd flow in and out of the facility, and masks will be required during the shows, except when patrons are actually drinking beverages.
In between shows, John said, environmental service professionals and other staff members will wipe down the chairs, and do the same after the late show, before the chairs are stacked and stored for the next event.
Patrons who haven't been to the Riverside complex since the pandemic set in will see signage about mandatory face coverings and physical distancing; face shields on gaming table dealers; plexiglass barriers between some slot machines, and other machines either moved out of the way or cordoned off to allow for physical distancing; hand sanitizer stations; as well as safety precautions at the facility's restaurants, hotels, spa, indoor pool and other amenities. Those are outlined on the COVID-19 visitors link on the Riverside website.
John said patrons have willingly complied with the protocols during the pandemic.
'We've seen people excited to get out and enjoy the casino and all of our amenities,” he said. 'It's refreshing to see people embrace the policy. A lot of businesses in the area have kept their policies intact. We don't see any issues where people are not wanting to follow the policy. I think everyone is used to it at this point.”
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See the latest on Eastern Iowa casino COVID-19 safety protocols:
' Riverside Casino: 3184 Highway 22, Riverside; riversidecasinoandresort.com/covid19-policies.html
' Meskwaki Casino: 1504 305th St., Tama; meskwaki.com/reopening-update/
' Diamond Jo Casino: 301 Bell St., Dubuque; diamondjodubuque.com/boyd-clean
' Q Casino: 1855 Greyhound Park Rd., Dubuque; qcasinoandhotel.com/
' Catfish Bend Casino: 3001 Winegard Dr., Burlington; thepzazz.com/covid19
' Casino Queen: 100 Anti Monopoly, Marquette; casinoqueenmarquette.com/queen-clean/
' Isle Casino: 777 Isle of Capri Blvd., Waterloo; islewaterloo.com/health-and-safety
' Rhythm City Casino: 7077 Elmore Ave., Davenport; rhythmcitycasino.com/covid19-policies.html
' Isle Casino: 1777 Isle Pkwy., Bettendorf; islebettendorf.com/health-and-safety