GIRARD, Kan. — Although non-tribal casinos are required to remain closed during “Phase 1.5” of Gov. Laura Kelly’s “Ad Astra” plan for reopening Kansas, the Crawford County Commission approved a letter of support for Kansas Crossing Casino’s own reopening plan Tuesday, and another asking Kelly for an exemption that would allow the county to move into Phase 2 of her plan.


“You’ll see every employee will have a mask on when they come in, they’ll have a temperature check when they come in; gloves will be used for the employees; we’re also going to be temp-checking all guests and vendors that come through the door,” Kansas Crossing General Manager Jeff McKain said in presenting the casino’s reopening plan at the Tuesday commission meeting.


McKain, who took over as general manager of the casino in late March, noted he had previously presented the plan to the Crawford County Health Department.


Hand sanitizer dispensers have been placed throughout the casino, McKain said, and signage has been added to remind guests to comply with social distancing. Other measures to ensure social distancing include every other slot machine “at a minimum” being turned off, half the chairs being removed from the casino, and messages broadcast over its PA system.


Commissioner Tom Moody pointed out that if Kansas Crossing remains closed but other casinos across the state line in Oklahoma are open, people who want to visit a casino could simply go to those other establishments, which could actually be more dangerous in terms of spreading COVID-19 because they would be more likely to come in contact with people from other areas that may have been hit harder by the coronavirus.


“So I don’t know that we’re, you know, gaining leaps and bounds by not having it open,” Moody said, “because the people I think that are going to frequent it are going to go just south and then come back anyway.”


Commission Chairman Bruce Blair said he agreed with Moody.


“It’s kind of scary,” Blair said, “because you know those people going to casinos south of us are coming from farther south,” adding that it was in the county’s interest to give people who want to go to casinos an opportunity to stay in the local area and minimize them traveling elsewhere.


County Health Officer Rebecca Adamson said there have not been enough positive coronavirus cases in Crawford County to justify being more restrictive than what Gov. Kelly has ordered, and based on the number of negative test results in the county she supported seeking an exemption from the Phase 1.5 requirements for the casino and other kinds of entertainment businesses that have been working on plans to safely reopen.


“I don’t think it’s any different than any other business,” Adamson said.


Later the meeting, in addition to a letter of support for Kansas Crossing’s plan, county officials drafted and the commission approved a letter to Gov. Kelly asking for the county to be exempted from Phase 1.5 of her plan.


“Crawford County has met every benchmark set by the state. We have done our part to slow the spread and have flattened the curve. We are asking for you to exempt Crawford County from phase 1.5 of the Governor’s plan. Crawford County is ready to safely move forward as a community. Please consider allowing Crawford County to follow the Governor’s original plan, move us to Phase 2 and allow us to continue forward,” the letter read, in part.


“I think it’s time, just due to the fact that if we can keep people here from traveling, it’s in our best interest,” said Blair.


“I know there’s going to be people upset, but I really think it’s the best decision to try to keep people local.”