Beverly Zeller, of Oriskany, jokes that Vernon Downs Casino paid for her son's braces. When she said she'd be first in line when the casino reopened on Wednesday, she wasn't lying.
"I say it's my second family, you know, it's small enough where everybody knows your name. It's not just about the winnings, it's about the people," says Zeller, who waited outside the casino an hour before it opened Wednesday with her brother, David Bedus.
Zeller and her brother were not alone.
"We've had dozens of people already coming up wanting to know what time we're opening, so that's a good sign," said Vernon Downs Marketing Manager, Stephan Gibson.
The casino has spent thousands of dollars getting ready to safely reopen.
"We've got these air scrubbers, there's 21 on the property here, which is above and beyond the guidelines. Cleans up over 99% of the microns in the air, plus we've installed the merv 13 filters that's been requested," said Gibson.
Missing chairs illustrate social distancing. Hand sanitizer and hand wipes abound. Face coverings must be worn. A crew is dedicated just to wiping down machines. Vernon Downs is requiring employees to wash or sanitize their hands at least every 20 minutes. And capacity is reduced to 25%.
"Our capacity is at the 25% level. We'll have 700 that could be in the building; we have just over 200 machines that are on and in play," says Gibson.
Twenty-five-percent capacity won't allow Vernon Downs Casino to hire back everyone who lost their jobs when the casino went dark, due to Covid, six months ago. But, still, they are grateful.
"We're happy to get to work. we're not dwelling on the past. We're not gonna dwell on the 25%. We're happy to have anything and to have the doors open," says Gibson.
Vernon Downs Casino's regular hours resume Thursday: 9am-midnight, Sunday through Thursday; 9am-2am, Friday and Saturday.