Casino stays open in Crawford County with commission approval

Jonathan Riley
The Kansas Crossing Casino has reopened with measures in place to prevent COVID-19 spread. -- FILE PHOTO

Half of slot machines shut down to comply with heath precautions

GIRARD — The Crawford County Commission gave its support last week to the Kansas Crossing Casino in Girard, which plans to continue operating only half of its slot machines as part of efforts to ensure health precautions after recently reopening following the coronavirus shutdown.

Last Friday, Kansas Crossing General Manager Jeff McKain said, the casino was told by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission to review its slot floor layout, and to ensure all machines were at least six feet apart. McKain addressed the commission Tuesday to ask for their support.

“We laid our slot floor out by turning every other slot machine off and removing those chairs from the gaming floor,” McKain said. This left the machines five feet apart, however, rather than the six feet advised under social distancing guidelines. “So last Friday we turned off an additional 70-plus games to our casino floor, so a pretty big chunk of games out there,” McKain said.

McKain later spoke with KRGC Executive Director Don Brownlee, however, and was told that if he could get the county commission’s support, the casino could return to its original post-lockdown layout with every other machine turned off, he said.

Besides turning off many of its slot machines, the casino is taking additional precautions, including temperature checks of all guests and employees, placing dozens of hand sanitizer dispensers and Lysol dispenser stations throughout the casino, requiring all employees to wear masks and gloves, and offering masks to guests if they want them, McKain said.

“So we feel like we’re doing a great job,” he said. “We feel like we’re doing way over what our competition is doing.”

Commissioner Bruce Blair said he thinks any business that is making a significant effort to implement coronavirus safety measures should not be penalized.

“Especially when you’re talking a foot,” Blair said. “I know the six-foot is what they tagged it with.”

Commissioner Jeremy Johnson asked if it would be possible to require all casino guests to wear masks.

“It’s possible,” McKain said. “Would it be detrimental? I believe so. I mean a lot of people just don’t want to wear the mask.”

Blair said a major reason for not prohibiting the casino from reopening was to keep area residents from traveling elsewhere to go to other nearby casinos and to risk spreading COVID-19 in the process.

“I’m still on the idea that if we can keep our people local versus going to out-of-state casinos, we’re safer,” Blair said.

McKain said if he had known that turning off every other slot machine might not be enough to satisfy government requirements for coronavirus precautions, the casino might have had to make a different decision about reopening and bringing as many people back to work as it has.

“It’s a tough one for us,” he said. “We definitely want to be safe and we think we’ve put a lot of protocols in place that we really feel good about.”

The commission agreed to write a letter of support for the casino and send it to the appropriate state agencies.