Tioga Downs reopens

Guests enter Tioga Downs in Nichols on the first day of their reopening on Wednesday.

NICHOLS — On Wednesday, the long awaited reopening of Tioga Downs Casino Resort arrived as staff welcomed guests with stringent safety protocols put in place. But the 4 p.m. opening of the W. River Road casino in Nichols, N.Y. was anything but normal.

Upon entering the facility, a temperature check is administered and there are counters that keep the casino at the 25 percent capacity. Also in place is Plexiglas at the cage windows and hotel desks, and masks are required.

On the game floor, the machines are spaced out for distance, with some of them shut off to assist in the social distancing.

“We’ve done a lot of things to keep things safe,” said Jim Weed, director of Marketing.

Tioga Downs’ General Manager, Charlie Otto, stated the facility was able to bring back a small number of employees, and will bring more back in as the opening progresses. The number of employees that returned on Wednesday, however, is unknown, and the information could not be obtained.

Prior to the shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tioga Downs employed approximately 600 employees at the Nichols facility. They employ another 300 at their sister facility in Vernon, N.Y., a harness racing track that is supported by revenue from the Nichols casino.

In March, the casino reduced to 50 percent until they were shut down completely on March 16.

Now at 25 percent capacity, and inclusive of employees, according to Otto, things are quite different. Safety, however, is a priority, he noted.

Weed echoed Otto’s words, stating that safety is their priority.

“We are working actively with Public Health, and have gone beyond the requirements set forth by New York State,” said Weed.

With a good crowd, or a full house rolling in on Wednesday, Weed stated he is very excited about the opening.

“We are one step closer,” Weed added. “Our huge emphasis is safety.”

Hours are Sunday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.

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