Gov. Cuomo Ends Capacity Restrictions At State’s Commercial Casinos

Posted By Derek Helling on June 24, 2021

Thanks to an appreciable dip in New York’s COVID positivity rates, state casino restrictions are becoming a thing of the past. The four upstate casinos are now free to set their own rules on a number of items.

Those include whether to continue requiring vaccinated customers to wear masks and how full their properties can be. The casino operators have been quick to react for the most part but some things are still in the works.

The latest New York casino COVID-19 restrictions

On Tuesday, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a further easement of pandemic protocols around the state. As far as the state is concerned, commercial casinos can return to 100% of fire code capacity. In the state’s view as well, it’s safe for fully vaccinated guests to peruse the properties without wearing face masks.

The state does still recommend that individuals who are not fully vaccinated continue to wear face masks in such places, however. Additionally, capacity, masking, and social distancing restrictions for all individuals attending “large-scale indoor events” remain in place. The state defines those as indoor events with 5,000 attendees or more.

Still, this is the most open situation for NY casinos since February 2020. It’s also the result of a gradual easement. Early in May, Cuomo raised the capacity from 25% to 50% of fire code. That came after the cessation of a midnight curfew late in March.

In his rationale for the latest move, Cuomo cited both low positivity rates and high vaccination counts.

“What New York has done is extraordinary,” Cuomo stated. “Not only do we have the lowest COVID positivity rate in the United States of America,  [but] we have [also] hit 70 percent vaccination ahead of schedule. We successfully deployed the weapon that will win the war, and New York led the nation.”

It’s now up to the individual casino operators how to proceed on these points. New Yorkers shouldn’t expect an immediate return to pre-pandemic operations overnight.

What are the four commercial casinos up to now?

When it comes to restoring amenities and gaming positions along with health protocols, these gambling companies have decisions to make. Some of the services and spaces may still be unavailable for the time being as they make new plans and ramp their staffing levels back up. Here’s a breakdown by the facility.

del Lago Resort & Casino

According to the resort’s website, the casino is again open to full capacity and 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays. The property will close from 3 a.m. on Monday morning until 8 a.m. That five-hour closure will repeat on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Some table games are available from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

All restaurants are now open again with no capacity limits but hours vary. del Lago does not require guests who are fully vaccinated to wear masks on the property but does require that of all guests who are not fully vaccinated. The entire menu of slot machines is available again. However, the poker room, some gaming tables, and the VIP suite remain closed.

Finally, beverage service on the gaming floor, on-site transportation, coat check, valet service, and the hotel business center are still unavailable.

Resorts World Catskills

The gaming floor at Resorts World Catskills is again up to full capacity and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The entire complement of slot machines and gaming tables are again open for business. Additionally, the poker room is up and running once more.

Although beverage service on the gaming floor remains unavailable, all restaurants are open again to full capacity. Hours vary from specific offering to offering, however. Guests who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear face masks. However, guests who do not fit that criterion need to continue to wear face masks. Valet service remains inaccessible, too.

Rivers Casino Schenectady

The casino’s hours are 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily and the property is back to full capacity. All slots and table games are back in play but the poker room remains closed. Van Slyck’s bar is again open but beverage service on the gaming floor is still prohibited.

True to the pattern, Rivers no longer requires guests who are fully vaccinated to wear face masks. Again, patrons who are not fully vaccinated will need to continue to abide by that requirement. According to its website, Rivers plans to offer live entertainment again as soon as possible.

Tioga Downs

If you’re traveling to or live near Nichols, the good news is that this facility is back to full capacity. The hours are 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily. If you’re fully vaccinated, you can forget the mask. For those who are not there yet, though, you’ll still need it.

Many of the gaming positions on the main floor – slots and table games – are ready to welcome patrons back. The poker room remains closed, however. At this time, Virgil’s Real BBQ, the County Fair Buffet, and the Sideshow Lounge remain closed as well. Tioga Downs plans to reopen the lounge on July 2, though.

As the summer wanes on, more of the amenities and services at these gambling facilities should spring to life again. The progress that these casinos have already made is a testament to their resiliency through the pandemic.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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