SALAMANCA — Those patrons feeling lucky were ready to roll Thursday as the Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino opened its doors to the public for the first time in three months.

A long line of guests began forming outside the Event Center doors near the casino’s east parking lot before 9:30 a.m. in anticipation of the opening. As patrons made their way down the hallway toward the gaming floor at 10 o’clock, dozens of casino team members welcomed them back with thundering applause.

“We see this as an exciting time,” explained David Sheridan, interim CEO and CFO of Seneca Gaming. “Our patrons are very grateful to be welcomed back.”

Just in time for the holiday weekend, the casino reopened to the public Thursday at 10 a.m. Temporary hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily with an eight-hour window set aside for cleaning the entire premises. On July 6, 24-hour operations will begin.

The Seneca Nation ordered the temporary suspension of all gaming operations on March 16 as part of the widespread response to the novel coronavirus pandemic undertaken across all Seneca territories.

As with previous Seneca Resorts phased openings in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, guests can expect the same strict protocols in place to protect the health and safety of themselves and team members.

“We’ve really been preparing for this since the day we closed, so we’re going on three months of preparing for reopening,” Sheridan explained shortly before the doors opened. “Everything from the deep clean of the facilities to the inclusion of social distance markers.”

Other protocols in place include limited slot machines with marked distance between them, limited table games, minimal food and beverage offerings and socially distanced seating.

Throughout the facilities, both paper and electronic signage encourage guests to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, and markers along the floors ask everyone to stay 6 feet apart when possible.

Upon arrival, both guests and team members go through the Wellness Checkpoint screenings to have their temperatures read, Sheridan said.

“We’ve received a lot of feedback from our patrons on protocols we have put into place,” he said. “They feel safe in our facilities, and generally everyone is excited to be back.”

One casino team member excited to be back is Beth Nephew, executive director of marketing

operations, who said the months-long wait for the green light to reopen included a lot of preparation.

“A lot of hours have gone into rewriting procedures to make sure we’re safe and ready to open for the patrons and our team members,” she said. “We’re hoping to continue keeping things as normal as possible while keeping safe, and that goes for our team members and guests.”

For refreshments, the Bear Claw Cafe will be open for grab-n-go options with very limited distanced seating. Seneca Café will also be open with a limited menu and socially distanced seating. All other restaurants are closed at this time, and there is no alcohol service across the property.

“As we look to reopening, as many other businesses do, I think it’s really important for the economy, and I think it’s for our team members and our guests, to understand that we’ve taken every precaution that we can, and to do so safely,” Sheridan said. “It’s very a measured approach when monitoring the statistics within the region constantly, and we’ll adjust as necessary as we go forward.”

Before arriving, guests are encouraged to visit senecaalleganycasino.com for a message from the resort, a list of what to know before going and a page of frequently asked questions.

Looking ahead, Sheridan said the casino is hoping to open the Western Door Steakhouse in the near future if the situation allows. He said they’ll also be monitoring the possibility of opening the hotel and other facilities as they take a cautious approach to expand what is available.

“We’ve had a great reception from our patrons and team members in Niagara Falls and in downtown Buffalo at our Buffalo Creek property, and we’re very excited to welcome everyone back to Seneca Allegany as well,” he added.

Other highlights of this phase of reopening include:

  • All guests must be 21 years of age or older. No one under 21 will be admitted.
  • No valet parking at this time. The parking garage is closed. The east parking lot will be open to all guests. Drop-off and walk-in is available at the Event Center glass doors entrance. The Bus Lobby entrance is for handicapped drop-off only.
  • Face masks are mandatory for both guests and team members and must be worn at all times while on the property with the exception of a brief time when eating or drinking. If you d
  • on’t have a face mask, one may be provided for you.
  • There will be no smoking anywhere inside the resort. Smoking will be allowed only in outdoor designated areas and with social distancing. Any guest who goes outside to smoke must go through the Wellness Checkpoint upon reentering the building.
  • Every guest must use hand sanitizer before entering.
  • The casino is operating at reduced capacity in order to maintain social distancing at this time. Guests may be asked to come back at a later time.
  • The Sports Lounge will be open for kiosks only. No counter service will be available.

(Contact Salamanca Press editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com.)

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