Ute Mountain Casino Hotel to reopen on March 3 with reduced capacity, enhanced health measures

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — The casino, hotel and gift shop at Ute Mountain Casino Hotel will resume operations at 8 a.m. on March 3.

The facility in Towaoc, Colorado, will reopen at 35% total capacity and with enhanced health and safety measures for guests and employees, according to a press release.

The casino will operate from 8 a.m. to midnight. However, Kuchu's Restaurant will not be open until March 10, followed by the Sleeping Ute RV Park on April 5.

Slot machines are seen inside Ute Mountain Casino Hotel on Aug. 19, 2020. The facility in Towaoc, Colorado will reopen on March 3.

The release states that the travel center in Towaoc will adjust operating hours to 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and its food court will reopen on March 3.

"With guest, tribal members and employee safety as the top priority, all employees will be tested for COVID and must show negative results before returning to work. There has been a heavy focus on vaccinating tribal members and enterprise employees throughout February with many receiving the first and second shot," the release states.

The casino and hotel initially resumed activities in August after closing for several month due to the coronavirus pandemic. It closed in early December as part of efforts by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A Ute Mountain Casino Hotel employee cleans a slot machine on Aug. 19, 2020. The facility in Towaoc, Colorado will resume operations on March 3.

"Ute Mountain Casino Hotel has long been a special place in the Towaoc community, and it deeply saddened us to temporarily suspend operations during this critical time. However, it is our duty to make sure the necessary measures were put in place for everyone's safety before reopening," General Manager Rick Scheer said in the release.

Navajo casinos reopening still pending

Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise Interim CEO Brian Parrish said on March 1 that gaming officials continue to evaluate relaunching the tribe's casino operations.

Gaming activities stopped on March 17, 2020, the same day the Navajo Department of Health confirmed the first case of COVID-19 for the tribe.

Last month, the Navajo leadership approved using $15 million from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to help the gaming enterprise. This is the latest funding from government officials to help the enterprise address impacts from the pandemic.

Parrish thanked the Navajo Nation Council, tribal President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer for the support.

"The funding is essential for us to be able to reopen and start down the road toward recovery. This pandemic has been devastating to the Navajo Nation, the Navajo people and also its enterprises. But we're confident, we have a great team, we’re strong and we're going to come back from this," Parrish said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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