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Little River casino welcomes back guests with soft opening Friday, full reopening June 1

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians will reopen the Little River Casino Resort at 8 a.m. on June 1.

MANISTEE COUNTY, Mich. — The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians held a soft reopening at it's Little River Casino Resort for tribal members and special guests May 29. The LRBOI plans a public reopening of the casino at 8 a.m. on June 1.

Tribal leaders voluntarily closed the casino March 16 to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

Little River Casino Resort Assistant General Manager Connie Waitner says the reopening is the result of two-months of hard work by the resort's "plan ahead committee." 

Friday morning at 8 a.m. invited guests were waiting for the doors to the casino to open. "It was kind of like back Friday," Waitner said.

Art Miller drove from his home in Grand Rapids to be among the first to return to the casino. 

"It's just fun," Miller said. "The adrenaline rush."

Guests will notice several changes. For one there are far fewer machines on the gaming floor. And more than 100 chairs have been removed to allow guests six-feet of space for social distancing.

The gaming floor now includes multiple sanitizer stations. And gaming tables have seating for fewer players.

To enter the casino guest must complete a self screening and have their temperature checked at the front door.

"The most important thing to us is the health and safety and welfare of our team members, guests, and our community," Waitner said.

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The casino will not hold concerts in 2020. And the number of rooms available to overnight guests is temporarily being reduced.

The casino's buffet is closed, seating at other dining options is spread out. The golf course is open, and the RV park will reopen next week.

"We wanted to kind of take it very slowly and make sure that we were doing everything right," Waitner said.

Over the next several weeks and possibly months Waitner hopes all of the casino's 760 employees will be called back to work.

"It's about hope for the the future, and our community, so we're going to be alright," she said.

Initially only persons over 18 will be allowed at the resort. 

The LRBOI is recommending guests bring and wear their own masks. If a guest does not have a mask one will be supplied by the casino.

New cleaning protocol calls for deep cleaning each day after midnight, and periodical cleaning throughout the day.

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