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  • Gaming center temporary closure

    Naskila logoCOURTESY PHOTO Naskila logo

    Naskila Gaming has decided to temporarily halt operations once again due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to a post Thursday on social media, the gaming center in Polk County will close at midnight Dec. 10 and plans to reopen Jan. 16, 2021 at 10 a.m.

    "This is just to keep the community safe -- our patrons, our employees safe from the virus," Alabama-Coushatta communications director Christi Sullivan said."

    Sullivan said the closure is not related to an outbreak in the gaming center, but rather one to mitigate the spread.

    "Not at Naskila. Our numbers have risen, just as they have everywhere else, on the reservation. It is exactly how it is in Livingston and Woodville. All of the numbers are on the rise. This is exactly how we have done in November and early on when it first hit."

    Naskila has been operating at 50% capacity and chairs were removed from certain machines to aid in patrons keeping a social distance.

    Sullivan said the tribal council makes decisions for everything that occurs on the reservation. There has been an ongoing conversation amongst that group since March about hours of operation and helping prevent the spread of Covid-19.

    The tribe has not only considered local statistics for Covid-19, but also numbers from areas like Harris County and Jefferson County, as many patrons drive in from Houston and Beaumont.

    Employees of Naskila Gaming will continue to be paid, just as they have in other closures during 2020.

    Follow easttexasnews.com for any updates on this story.

  • Naskila Reopening

    20210211 160234COURTESY PHOTO

    Gaming enthusiasts have waited a few long months for the luckiest spot in Texas to resume operations. The most fervent of which were in the parking lot Thursday morning at 9 a.m. when Naskila Gaming again opened its doors to welcome guests.

    Naskila closed over the last half of December and all of January to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

    "We have a great crowd here today and I think everyone is excited to get back to Naskila, because we've missed them as much as they've missed us," marketing operations manager Laura Shelby said. "We've been closed since Dec. 10 and I think a lot of that is just excitement to be back and getting out of the house and it is a place they enjoy coming."

    The number of games at Naskila have not increased over the 790 that were in place before the closure. However, they are now over a larger area, allowing for more space and larger walkways throughout the gaming floor. A room once used as a banquet area now holds over 100 machines.

    For now, the facility is non-smoking where games are played. There is an area that before served as the front entrance that has been set aside for smoking.

    Masks are required and social distancing is encouraged. Dividers have been placed between each game that gives a bit more privacy and each player their own space.

    "A lot of other gaming places around the country are using them and it allows us to have every machine on," Shelby said of the dividers. "People aren't having to pick like, 'Oh, my favorite machine is turned off today,' or that sort of thing. It is also for people feel more safe that they can sit and gamble and not have to worry about it."

    Employees are tested each week for Covid-19. In addition, everyone who enters Naskila is scanned by a new tool that the group hopes will eliminate any spread of the virus while out for entertainment.

    "It is an infrared temperature taker. When you step into the right place well, it scans you and gives the security guard your temperature. It actually shows up on the screen."

    Taking every precaution since the virus became an issue, Naskila established the Clean Team, a group of neon-shirted workers with the responsibility of keeping germs to a minimum. There are approximately 75 on the crew that rotate in three different shifts. Signs are posted on each of the electronic Bingo units to let gamers know they can press a button for a Clean Team member to disinfect wherever a customer is playing.

    "We also installed 25 antibacterial wipes (stands) that our guests can just take at will and wipe down the machine if they choose to."

    With freezing weather expected, Shelby said she did not anticipate the casino closing. It has remained open through hurricanes and floods and is able to operate on generators if the power becomes an issue. There is an EMT staff and a clinic on the site, making it one of the safer places at any time.

    "It is nice to be back and have a purpose," she said of the return. "Everybody was ready to come back. Being off for a little bit is nice, but everybody gets bored. This week, we went through some training and it was just nice to see everybody. We missed each other just as much as we missed seeing the guests."