[Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original posting.]
Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, Connecticut’s two tribal casinos that enjoy a statewide monopoly, each reopened on Monday morning as the first such casinos in the Northeast since the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic halted such entertainment in mid-March.
Which one is more worth a visit?
Both have plenty of safety protocols in evidence, but your level of risk tolerance can dictate your preference.
Strict measures at Foxwoods
Foxwoods — the nation’s second-largest casino — checked the temperature of each visitor to the Mashantucket site with a non-invasive machine to make sure only those with temperatures under 100.4 degrees can enter.
Each table game, meanwhile, has only three chairs, with plexiglass separating the dealer from the players. The plexiglass is even more extensive at the craps tables (see photo at top of article) — a particularly problematic game these days, potentially.
Casino cleaners were very much in evidence at mid-day, spraying down just-available slot machines with disinfectant once patrons moved elsewhere in the casino.
At the slots areas, players were spaced the social-distancing-protocol-recommended six feet apart.
More mellow Mohegan Sun
At the nearby Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, there were no temperature checks in sight. Rest assured, however, that you and your fellow gamblers are getting checked.
“Mohegan has implemented non-invasive temperature scanners at its entrances, in which guests will not be stopped unless they register a temperature higher than 99.9 degrees Fahrenheit,” a Mohegan Sun spokeswoman told US Bets. “There are also security personnel with handheld temperature checks that are being utilized when guests re-enter the property after being outside, just as an extra precaution. Any guest with a temperature reading higher than 99.9 will be re-tested to confirm.”
My recommendation would be to have prominent signage explaining these invisible temperature checks, especially because the rival Foxwoods has a system that ensures that guests know about this important feature.
Far less plexiglass was noticed at Mohegan Sun at the gaming tables, and craps players and their slot-playing brethren were sometimes less than six feet apart. The vibe was a bit different, too, with some craps players reminiscing to strangers about memorable previous experiences with the game at that casino. In other words, a more familiar craps table vibe.
One commonality, however, was crucial: Not only are protective masks mandated, they were worn nearly universally — and with the masks going over the nose as well as the mouth.
That’s has become typical behavior in the tri-state area, which has taken the brunt of the more than 100,000 pandemic-related deaths in the U.S. The only offenders on this front were customers drinking at the bar — and even there, the masks were in plain sight as a default mode between sips or bites.
Modest crowds, no lines
Each casino — both located nearly 150 miles north of midtown Manhattan — only opened to about 25% maximum capacity. There were no lines to get in — a common feature at just-reopened casinos out west — at either casino at mid-day (although reportedly there were dozens of cars in line for the morning reopening).
At Foxwoods, a walk through the Tanger Outlets retail section revealed that most stores were closed. The few that were open, like Uggs or Forever 21, didn’t appear to have any customers.
The Centrale Casino section at Fox Tower was closed off entirely, forcing a several-minute walk and use of two escalators to reach open casino floor space.
Both casinos offered some reassuring refreshment: Dunkin’ Donuts at Foxwoods and Krispy Kreme at Mohegan Sun.
The seats removed at every other slot machine at Mohegan Sun looked organic — no foreboding tape on a machine or obvious evidence that there ever were such seats.
No governor’s approval needed
Signage placed by state officials on Route 2 near Foxwoods warned drivers to “avoid large crowds” and “Don’t Gamble/w/Health” — evidence of Gov. Ned Lamont’s unhappiness with the reopenings.
But the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan tribe operate as sovereign nations, so Lamont’s influence was limited to mere recommendations.
What was missing upon reopening? Valet parking, poker, bingo, keno, and buffets, among other standard offerings. There is no legal sports betting in Connecticut, either.
Two things there were plenty of were hand sanitizer and signs recommending its use.
The two casinos reported they returned 25-50% of their employees on Monday.
The reopenings in Connecticut came three days ahead of dozens of Las Vegas’ iconic casinos’ plans to reopen in the early hours of Thursday morning.