Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Little Six Casino will close for at least two weeks starting noon Wednesday, March 18, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community announced late Tuesday.
“We have now determined that it is in the best interest of our team members and guests to temporarily close Mystic Lake and Little Six casinos, as their health and well-being is our first and highest priority,” Angela Heikes, president and CEO of the community’s Gaming Enterprise, said in a written statement.
All reservations during the closure will be canceled and refunded automatically, according to a news release from the community. Employees, meanwhile, will receive up to two weeks of pay during the closure.
Community leaders said they plan to reassess the situation in two weeks to decide whether to continue.
The Scott County Public Health Department announced Wednesday that the county’s first confirmed case was a Prior Lake man over the age of 50 who had likely been exposed to travel.
The disease is likely to continue spreading, prompting orders from Gov. Tim Walz closing schools and other gathering places across the state.
“We have been balancing our responsibility of providing jobs and benefits to the thousands of people who depend on us with the rapidly developing guidance from the federal and state government,” community Chairman Keith Anderson said in a statement.
“We have been working diligently on this by the hour to make the right decisions at the right time for our members, employees, team members and guests.”
The community, Scott County’s largest employer, had previously closed some portions of its operations, such as Mystic Lake’s buffet and spa, and limited crowding and close contact among guests. Shows at the Mystic Showroom have also been postponed until at least April.
The community has made other changes across its array of businesses. Hot food service stopped at all the Shakopee Dakota Convenience Stores after Tuesday, and classes at Mazopiya and Dakotah! Sport and Fitness have been halted.
The service changes didn’t stop guests from visiting the casinos earlier in the week. Matthew Soule said he visited Little Six Tuesday night and had friends who were at casinos until they closed Wednesday afternoon.
“I’ve been there on the busiest of busy days, when it’s jam-packed and you can’t find a machine,” Soule said of his visit on Tuesday. “I would say that it was easily at half of what it normally is.”
Soule said that he’s always been impressed by the cleanliness of Little Six and noticed staff taking extra precautions ahead of the closure.
When Soule went to cash in his winnings with a cashier, he was told to put his ticket in a bucket instead of handing it to the staff member who was wearing gloves.
But he said he was still able to walk right up in front of the staff member; health officials have recommended people in public stay 6 feet away from each other.
“You know I’m still standing right in front of you, if I begin to cough you’re out of luck,” Soule said.
Some residents took to social media before the closure criticizing the casino’s decision to stay open on Monday and Tuesday and accusing the Mdewakanton community of a lack of concern for patrons and employees.
“I was really kind of disappointed that they didn’t close sooner,” Soule said, adding he followed news of other casino closures in the days before the announcement.