ARLINGTON — Here’s what you won’t be able to do inside Angel of the Winds Casino Resort when it reopens: Smoke.
Blame it on COVID-19.
Those wishing to puff on a cigarette or cigar, or vape, will need to do so outside the resort’s 300,000 square feet, which covers the gaming, hotel, bowling alley and entertainment areas.
Leaders of the Stillaguamish Tribe, at the request of resort management, signed off on the major change as part of a broader effort to ensure a healthier venue for workers and customers in response to the pandemic.
“As we worked on our (coronavirus) response plan, it was part of the conversation. We understand this virus affects the respiratory system, ” General Manager Travis O’Neil said Tuesday. “This is a bold statement that we will take the team members’ and the guests’ health into consideration.”
The casino closed March 17 as Gov. Jay Inslee moved to shutter restaurants and bars and ban gatherings of large numbers of people. While the governor’s order didn’t apply on tribal lands, leaders of the Stillaguamish and other federally recognized tribes followed suit on their own by shutting down their gaming operations.
Angel of the Winds Casino Resort is looking to reopen next week. But the date could change. Tribal leaders are in contact with Inslee and want to remain on the same page in the fight against the spread of the potentially deadly virus, O’Neil said.
Switching to a 100% smoke-free establishment wasn’t too hard, he said. A six-week shutdown provided time to air the place out.
The change, announced Monday on Facebook, elicited many posts of praise.
“This is wonderful. Been like that here in Beautiful British Columbia for years,” wrote one woman. “I don’t care if you smoke, but I and the workers shouldn’t be forced to breathe in your habit! We all have a right to breathe clean air!”
Another wrote, “I have a feeling this will be happening at more casinos. Due to the number of people in one place I’m just guessing that masks will be required and you can’t smoke with a mask.”
But some customers posted they won’t be back.
“Used to go all the time because it was the only place to have fun, relax and smoke if I wanted to. Referred a lot of high rollers there,” shared one woman. “Will have to find another casino to go to. What civil liberties will they be taking away next??”
Economics didn’t drive the decision, O’Neil said.
“At this point, it is a matter of health,” he said. “We want to get through this and get back to a new normal, whatever that is.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.