After Nearly Six Months, Commercial New York Casinos Reopen With Restrictions

Written By Derek Helling on September 10, 2020 - Last Updated on November 24, 2021

After nearly six months without guests on the gaming floors, non-tribal casinos are back up and running in New York. The news of New York commercial casinos reopening is a welcome announcement for many in the state.

There are several things that potential patrons should note when planning to visit gaming facilities like Rivers in Schenectady, however. Many amenities and games at these casinos remain unavailable.

New York casinos reopening: what to know before you go

Three of the four commercial casinos in New York reopened to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Empire City Casino in Yonkers, however, will not reopen until Monday, Sept. 21.

All non-tribal casinos are limited to 25% of their fire code capacity per New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo instituted other uniform restrictions, including:

  • No table games.
  • No beverage or food service on gaming floors.
  • Mandatory wearing of face masks by employees and guests.
  • Maintenance of social distancing on gaming floors.

Operators like MGM Resorts, which runs Empire City, plan to exceed those mandates. The following is specific information on each property.

Empire City restrictions and safety protocols

MGM’s seven-point safety plan includes shuttering slot machines to promote spacing on the gaming floor and sending restaurant patrons text messages to advise them of when their tables are ready.

Empire City plans to do symptom screening and temperature checks for employees on a daily basis.

At this time, valet parking services and shuttle services are not operating. Self-parking is available.  Guests will only be able to enter the property on Yonkers Ave.

Additionally, the casino will screen guests for symptoms and temperature before admitting them to the gaming floor. After admittance, guests will discover that the casino has eliminated seating at slot machines.

While the Big Kitchen, Empire City Chophouse, and The Pub will be open for dining, the bars on the property will remain closed.

Simulcast racing will also not be available, nor will on-site wagering on the live races at Yonkers Raceway.

Yonkers Raceway will not allow spectators for the indefinite future. Again, this property will not open until Sept. 21.

Resorts World Catskills restrictions and safety protocols

If a seven-point plan isn’t impressive, then perhaps the 21-point safety plan of Resorts World Catskills will reassure guests. Like all other properties, this includes new plexiglass barriers in high-traffic areas and hand sanitizing stations throughout the facility.

Since the property reopened at 9 a.m. on Sept. 9, its staff has been busy continuously disinfecting gaming positions on the floor. Casino guests must submit to temperature screenings to gain access to the gaming floor here as well.

Dining options will be available for guests, with digital menus that diners can access on their personal devices. Guests can only enter through the main entrance and parking garage for the time being.

Rivers Casino restrictions and safety protocols

Rivers reopened at 6 p.m. on Sept. 9, with many of the same conditions for guests. The most important thing for guests to note is that for now, the casino has restricted its hours to 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Also, for the time being, guests can only enter near the event center and Landing Hotel. Valet parking is also not available for the indefinite future.

Johnny’s-To-Go and Mian are not open for business right now. Flipt is open, however, with an enhanced menu that features some of the favorites from those dining establishments.

Duke’s Chophouse is also open with a limited menu and reduced hours.

Similar to all other properties, guests will have to submit to temperature checks and find slots spaced out on the gaming floor.

Tioga Downs restrictions and safety protocols

This property reopened at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, and like Rivers, it has reduced its hours to give staff extra time to clean the property each day. The casino is open 9 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Like at Yonkers Raceway, there will be no simulcasting of horse races. While the property intends to resume live races on Sept. 11, they will not allow spectators even when that occurs.

Coasters Sports Bar, Java G’s Café, and P.J. Clarke’s will all be open according to statewide dining restrictions.

The hotel will also reopen on Friday.

Guests returning to this property should expect temperature checks, hand sanitizing stations, and limited slot machines. All the precautions are in place to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

After six months without any revenue coming in, these facilities are determined to do all they can to stay open now that they are operating again.

New York casinos reopening means patrons can enjoy these properties again on a limited basis, with hopefully successful operations leading to even looser restrictions in the future.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. 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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