The Saracen Resort Casino in Pine Bluff announced this morning that it will close due to coronavirus. The Southland casino in West Memphis also announced closure last night.
The announcement from Saracen by John Berrey, chair of the Quapaw Nation, owner of the casino:
After discussions with Governor Hutchinson, we will follow his public health guidance and order to temporarily suspend operation of the Saracen Annex venue in Pine Bluff, Ark., effective noon today and extending through the end of March. We will continue our dialogue with both state and federal health officials regarding best practices as identified by the CDC; we share everyone’s concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Quapaw Nation and the Saracen Development Authority are committed to doing all we can to prevent spread of the virus, and to assist affected employees as well as partnering with the local community to weather this storm together.
Construction of the Saracen Casino Resort will continue, as will retail operations at the Saracen Q-Store, utilizing CDC recommendations for the safety of our team members and the public alike.
Oaklawn announced closure of its casino yesterday. The two others had operated with extra cleanup efforts, but the escalation of state and national calls for social distancing has had a dramatic impact.
UPDATE: In answer to a question about pay for workers, Berry responded:
Team members will be paid at their base pay (or minimum wage if they are tipped employees), through March 31st.
Southland closed to new gamblers at midnight last night. It announced then:
In coordination with the Arkansas State Racing Commission and the State of Arkansas, we are acting to temporarily close the venue. No new patrons will be permitted into the facility after 11:59 p.m. tonight, Monday, March 16, and the facility will be closed at 6 a.m. March 17 until further notice. All activities are canceled, including casino promotions.
We will be communicating as quickly as possible with our employees to assist them during this period
When Oaklawn closed it announced it would continue to pay the 1,000 on its staff salary and benefits during the initial two-week closing period.
Will two weeks be enough? This is the question facing everyone.
Oaklawn and Southland had operated as casinos previously, but Amendment 100 of 2018 expanded their authority for gambling and also authorized two additional casinos in the state. Saracen opened Oct. 1 with an annex as a larger resort casino and hotel was built. It has been doing brisk business. Debate is still underway on a casino permit for Pope County, though one of the companies seeking the permit, Legends Resort and Casino, announced yesterday it was suspending the operation of a Russellville office on account of the virus.