The Tonto Apache Tribal Council reopened the Mazatzal Casino at noon, Thursday, May 21.

The hotel and casino closed March 19, 11 days ahead of the state of Arizona’s stay-at-home order in an effort to be proactive in response to COVID-19.

Prior to and throughout the closure, operations protocols were developed, enhanced cleaning measures were implemented along with social distancing efforts in line with CDC recommendations.

All changes were for the health and safety of team members and the community and will continue in accordance with official guidelines.

Hours of operation have changed — the casino is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; from 8 a.m. to midnight Thursday; and from 8 a.m., Friday through 10 p.m. Sunday.

Enhanced safety measures will be in place including physical distancing, aggressive cleaning and sanitation guidelines, and mandatory face-covering protocols for all team members to protect the health and safety of everyone.

Guests are also strongly encouraged to wear their own facemasks. All visitors to the casino are required to undergo temperature screening prior to entering the casino. The only available entrance is the main door on the south side of the building in order to screen temperatures and check to see that guests are not exhibiting symptoms.

The east side entrance and parking lot are closed, only the south lot is open.

The enhanced cleaning procedures include increased frequency of disinfecting restrooms, sanitizing gaming machines multiple times during shifts, as well as sanitizing door handles, doors, courtesy phones, tables, chairs and other high-touch and high-traffic areas multiple times a day and at the request of guests.

There are also numerous hand sanitizing stations throughout the casino and social distancing marks on the floors in front of the cage cashiers, Players Club, hotel front desks, kiosks, ATMs, beverage stations and the Grille. Additionally, protective shields are in close contact areas including the Grille, cage cashier, Players Club and front desk.

All alcohol service, including cocktail service on the casino floor and at table games, is suspended until further notice. However, casino administration is looking into how alcohol service can resume on the floor.

All food service venues, except the Grille, are closed. Seating for Grille meals is now in the event center to assure social distancing. The hotel and gift shop are also closed for now. The closures are operational decisions, said Hubert Nanty, Mazatzal Hotel & Casino general manager.

The Apache Spirits Bar is open for gaming only with limited seating capacity.

The Mazatzal Hotel & Casino is opening in three phases based on official guidelines, according to John Giles, marketing director.

The reopening is in accordance with current guidelines and the subsequent phases will go into effect when appropriate.

The casino brought back about 80% of its furloughed team members for the reopening Thursday, May 21.

No machines were removed from the floor, but they have been rearranged for physical distancing — deactivated machines separate active machines. Giles said about 50% of the machines are operational and about 50% of the table games will be available.

As official recommendations allow, more activities and services will resume.

The two-month closure has caused injury to the tribal economy, Nanty said, but he did not know what service programs it suspended or which office closed to accommodate the drop in revenue.

“With the support of the community we should start to recover,” Giles said.

“When the casino reopens that shows Payson is coming back,” he added.

Staff said the Grille has new menu items, including a different dinner special each night. Expect new menu choices when the Cedar Ridge Restaurant resumes operation, however, the buffet service would be discontinued indefinitely due to the multiple touch factors it creates.

Everyone on the team at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino looks forward to welcoming guests back, Giles said.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

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