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Naskila reopens with emphasis on safety

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By Jason Chlapek

Naskila Gaming Center reopened its doors after a two-week hiatus last Monday.

The gaming center is the second-largest employer in Polk County and is on the ground of the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation. Naskila closed for two weeks (Nov. 2-15) as a safety precaution due to an increased number of Covid-19 cases in the region.

“We have four days under our belt and our guests have been very supportive of our efforts to keep people safe,” Naskila Chief Marketing Officer Scott Smith said. “We had a lot of support during the shutdown and we have the same level of support now that we’re reopened. The two weeks gave us a chance to evaluate our procedures and redouble our effort to protect the community, team members and the tribe.”

During the two weeks, employees still earned paychecks. Smith said he and his team are very grateful to the A-C tribal council for continuing to pay employees during time away.

“We paid our employees during the two weeks,” he said. “The tribe has been so supportive of team members not only with wages, but also with benefits. It’s spectacular. I can’t say enough about the tribal council and what they’ve done to keep our team members paid.”

Naskila closed its doors last spring and didn’t reopen until Sept. 10. Smith said during that time, the gaming center staff had plenty of time and opportunities to examine how Naskila should reopen.

“Things are very different,” he said. “The one area that has been great is our guests have been so cooperative with our procedures. We have had zero resistance to our social distance policies. The people have been wonderful. No significant changes. We are testing team members on a weekly basis, but we just evaluated the clean team. They’re highly visible and wiping stuff down. Being closed for seven months gave us time to plan. We saw what was working at other places and we have a really strong program. We’re going to continue to make it better and focus on the safety of the community. We also opened with a no-smoking policy and moved 106 machines to our patio where the buffet used to be. That was a major redesign to promote social distancing. Our smoking area was self-contained previously. Initially there was some push back on social media, but our guests have been so cooperative with our policies.”

Smith said Naskila is open 24/7 again. He also said attendance is pretty close to normal.

“Our head counts are very similar to this time a year ago,” Smith said. “You can tell that it means a lot to people to be able to get out of the house and do something.”

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