Island Resort in UP to reopen gaming, golf and hotel

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CREDIT: Island Resort and Casino

HARRIS, Mich. (WJMN) — Island Resort and Casino announced in a Facebook post on May 5 that “due to unseen circumstances, the Island Resort and Casino reopening has been postponed until Saturday, May 16.”

No other details were given.

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HARRIS, Mich. (WJMN) — The Island Resort and Casino west of Escanaba announced on Friday it plans to reopen in phases, starting with the slot floor, bingo, and food and beverage service on May 6.

The facility in Harris is set to open its doors at 8 a.m. Wednesday. It will have been closed for seven weeks, since March 21.

The golf course will open May 8 and the hotel will resume operations May 13. The spa, convention center, table games and showroom are still being looked at for future dates to reopen.

Casino General Manager Tony Mancilla believes it’s the right time to reopen.

“We feel we’re doing what everyone else does. Hotels are open, restaurants are open. We have those things. The only difference is the slot floor. We think we can keep that clean and our customers themselves will keep themselves safe,” Mancilla said.

On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed executive order 2020-69, which extends her previous order closing places like theaters, bars, casinos and more through May 28. The Island Resort and Casino is owned by the Hannahville Indian Community and is therefore not under state jurisdiction.

“As far as the governor’s order, those casinos are in the hot spot of Detroit. Those three casinos they have jurisdiction over are right in the middle of where all this is happening, and that makes sense. It doesn’t make sense for us here in the U.P. that was lightly hit,” Mancilla said.

Mancilla recommends all potential customers review procedures before planning a trip.

“On the customer side, they are going to be temperature checked when they come in the door. They can only come in through four entrances, where they’ll be greeted by security. If they have a temperature over 100 degrees, per CDC guidelines, they cannot come in,” Mancilla said.

Mancilla said if customers want a mask, they will be available, but the casino will not require people to wear them. Lines at cashiers will be distanced. Every other chair has been removed from the slot floor.

“Once people are in the facility, it’s their responsibility to take care of themselves,” Mancilla said.

Employees will come in one door and be temperature checked. There will be plexiglass screens separating most employees from customers. Routine cleaning of facilities including slot machines will continue.

“We’re following what they do in the state with food and beverage takeout. We’re going to follow the guidelines on golf,” Mancilla added.

Mancilla believes the number of people coming back in the casino the first couple of weeks will be light. He said if a customer sees how many people are there and doesn’t feel comfortable, it’s up to them to decide whether to stay or go home.

Of the casino’s nearly 850 employees, 200 are essential and have continued working. That includes directors, managers and people with specialized knowledge in the maintenance departments. Mancilla said the other 650 employees are mainly part-time. The casino was able to pay them for the first two weeks. After that, employees were able to collect unemployment benefits.

Employees over 65 and with underlying health conditions are not going to be asked to come back immediately. He said that amounts to 15 % of the workforce.

Full-time employees will be the first back on the job, so roughly 200 more will be back to work in the first few weeks, and the casino will transition in the remaining 450 as business picks up.

Mancilla said bringing back some of the part-time employees could be a challenge.

“With this unemployment situation, I have a feeling we’re not going to get them all back. They are making more money right now doing nothing than working. That’s the harsh reality is the federal government is giving them the extra money and that’s fine and people need it, but it’s going to have a negative impact once all these businesses start reopening,” Mancilla said.

Management of the casino has worked with the Nevada and National Indian Gaming Commission standards and procedures to safeguard its customers and employees.

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