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FireKeepers Casino reopening with big changes

NOW: FireKeepers Casino reopening with big changes

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. -- FireKeepers Casino is one of seven tribal casinos preparing to reopen in our area.

Staff spent Thursday being trained on all of the new safety measures; including social distancing markers, a decreased occupancy, hand sanitizing stations and disinfecting of contact areas.

But just how is the casino able to open when most of Michigan remains shut down?

“We are an essential business, so just as essential businesses identified by the state government or the federal government, we were identified by the tribal government that we are essential,” said Kathy George, CEO of FireKeepers Casino.

The casino falls under sovereign, tribal land in Battle Creek — governed by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.

The tribe’s government deemed the casino able to open, and now they will do just that Monday, June 1.

It’s something officials say they’ve been working toward since the casino was forced to shut down in March.

“We started to collaborate with other casinos, the CDC and with our health officers to figure out what is the safest way we can reopen and get our head around what we need to do to adapt our businesses model,” said Mike McFarlen, Vice-President of Food and Beverage.

There will be temperature checks upon arrival and a face mask requirement. FireKeepers Casino is also now a non-smoking area, with the exception of new, designated smoking areas.

The casino has multiple restaurants as well and each have undergone a number of changes.

“There’s going to be an individual that just brings things to your table - basically a food delivery person. Then you’ll have an order taker, which pretty much their only function is to stay socially distanced and take the order. So, you have people who are actually in contact with the food and people who are not,” said McFarlen.

Officials have also shut down self-service stations and will instead go around with non-alcoholic beverage carts. As for alcoholic drinks at the bar, they’ll be served in disposable cups for a safer experience.

At the slot machines, normally there would be three to four chairs. But due to the pandemic, officials have changed it to just two chairs to implement social distancing. Aisles have also been expanded between machines to give people more space.

As for table games, they’ll now be played with much smaller groups.

“This table will not be used at all. You can see all of the chairs have been removed and at this table we have two chairs,” said George. “So it depends on whether they’ll be two or three spaces open - like at a smaller table it’ll be two, plus the dealer.”

While they know this isn’t what people are used to at the casino, they’re sure customers can still enjoy the same entertainment — safely.

“We want people to feel like they’ve come home and they look around and see that half of the machines are closed and the restaurants have socially distanced,” said McFarlen. “People are abiding by what we see to be the best practices for customer safety.”

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