The employees, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of losing their jobs, said the casino isn't doing enough to prevent staff members and guests from catching the virus.
"I don't think we should be open at this time. I think we should be sitting back and waiting, especially when the numbers are increasing again," one long-time employee said.
Three employees with more than 24 combined years of experience shared their concerns after Thunder Valley Casino and Resort reopened on June 8. Lack of enforcement inside the casino was their main concern. Although masks are required and social distancing guideline signs are up for guests to read, but the moment they get inside, the rules are not followed. They say some wear masks, but not all and many use food or drinks as an excuse.
"They are not really enforcing putting the mask up because everyone is afraid to offend anyone," said another employee.
"Really social distancing seems nonexistent. I mean, if there is any at all. It just doesn't seem like it's taking place at all," a third employee said.
Video obtained by ABC10, which was taken inside the casino, shows a mix of people wearing masks and others ignoring the requirement. It also shows a lack of social distancing, according to the person who took the video.
"It turns out to be one big party with the mask hanging down," said one employee.
These employees also sent ABC10 two staff memos, both of which had a protocol written about usage of hand sanitizer at tables.
"Dealers please do not put hand sanitizer on your own hands at the table. It is fading the cards and making them sticky," the memo read.
"To me that's outrageous. That's a health code concern for myself without COVID around, because we do see so many things on those tables," one employee said about that rule.
Thunder Valley Casino Resort spokesperson Doug Elmets said that is not the case.
"There are bottles of hand sanitizer at each of the Table Games and, per our strict protocol, all guests are required to sanitize their hands at all of our games prior to being able to play," Elmets wrote in a statement. "The dealers also utilize hand sanitizer before they deal the game. In addition, the chairs, rails, and any high frequency touch points are sanitized prior to our guests playing at a game. The frequency of card changes occur twice as often as they did prior to COVID-19. In addition, the cards used on poker games are sanitized regularly with ultraviolet light."
Thunder Valley Casino Resort also said they are randomly testing employees for COVID-19. Elmets said out of some 400 tests, all have come back negative. He said temperature checks for employees and guests are also happening, and "guests are provided a mask if they do not have one, as masks are a requirement."
Three employees told ABC10 that guests are not given masks anymore if they do not have one. They want more to be done to protect their health and the health of guests.
"Our health is important to the guest because if we are sick then we can get them sick," one employee said. "That’s a scary proposition. It’s the health and safety of the employees of the company not only is it beneficial to the earnings of the company but in this situation, extremely beneficial to the health and safety of guests."
ABC10 sent a list of questions for Thunder Valley officials to answer. Here are their responses:
Q: Is there plexiglass installed between card dealers and patrons?
A: There are plexiglass barriers between all poker players. We have also reduced the number of guests that can play at each of the other table games by one half to provide for appropriate social distancing.
Q: Employees have said they have been instructed not to use hand sanitizer while touching cards because it fades the cards and makes the cards sticky? Is this accurate?
A: No. There are bottles of hand sanitizer at each of the Table Games and, per our strict protocol, all guests are required to sanitize their hands at all of our games prior to being able to play. The dealers also utilize hand sanitizer before they deal the game.In addition, the chairs, rails, and any high frequency touch points are sanitized prior to our guests playing at a game. The frequency of card changes occur twice as often as they did prior to COVID-19. In addition, the cards used on poker games are sanitized regularly with ultraviolet light.
Q: How is the mask mandate being enforced once inside the casino? I understand masks are required to enter. Employees have said many patrons take off masks inside?
A: Masks are required at Thunder Valley Casino Resort. Prior to entering the parking areas, guests are notified by signage that “Masks and Required.” Once guests arrive for their temperature screening, if they do not have a mask, they are provided one. Overhead announcements are played throughout the day and evening informing guests that masks are required while on property. As with any other food establishment, guests are not required to wear their mask while eating or drinking. Every team member is required to approach guests that do not have their mask on. In addition to our Security Team, we have managerial staff specifically assigned to monitor compliance and approach guests that do not have their mask on. Should a guest fail to comply with this mandate, which has happened very occasionally, the guest is politely escorted off the property by security.
Q: How is social distancing being enforced while inside the casino?
A: Adherence to social distancing guidelines is being handled via signage both on the floor which stipulates where to stand while waiting for service, duratrans, overhead announcements, managerial oversight and plexiglass barriers between all slot machines that are less than six feet apart. Surveillance is instructed to provide immediate notification to floor personnel should they see guests congregating and managers are assigned to floor duty on busier shifts to facilitate enforcement.
Q: Are all games open? Are some not operating?
A: There is reduced seating capacity at every table game. Blackjack would normally have (6) players at a table, but now only (3) players maximum are allowed. Bingo is not being offered at this time and some 25% of the slot machines are closed to facilitate social distancing and reduce congregating.
Q: Are you all providing COVID-19 tests for employees?
A: We are providing randomized weekly on site COVID-19 tests for Thunder Valley Team Members utilizing Stem Express, a leading life science and biotechnology company serving guests in the areas of primary cell collection and laboratory services. The test provided consists of a nasal and oropharyngeal swab collection. We have conducted some 400 tests to date, and they have all come back negative. The testing program is mandatory and the few employees that have refused the test are not allowed to work.
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