Players, workers welcome Brighton reopening

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
BRIGHTON — Players work the machines seated at a physical distance of at least 6 feet from each other and must be wearing a mask unless they’re having a beverage, eating or smoking.

BRIGHTON — The Seminole Brighton Casino reopened to guests — basically all but the bingo players — on June 16 at a state-mandated 50% of capacity. During a lunchtime visit Friday, June 19, all signs seemed pointed to a bell-ringing, flashy comeback for the entertainment venue, as the player and Josiah restaurant crowds were substantial, even for a Friday, and the parking lot was nearing full.

Guests will immediately notice, before they even get to the entrance, some changes put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, which was the reason the complex shut its doors back in March. There are social distance markers on the walkway from the parking lot for when people have to line up to get in, and sanitation stations meet guests along with the greeter at the entry foyer, who will guide them through the new entry requirements.

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
BRIGHTON — At their card tables, Seminole Brighton Casino installed new Plexiglas shields to keep all the players, dealers and attendants from breathing each other’s air. Behind this area is the smoke-free gaming section.

Everybody’s temperature is checked when they arrive at the front desk. Visitors simply stand in front of it. If anyone registers over the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guideline of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they’ll be asked to step away, remove their mask this time and then test again, but a second and/or third time in a row is a red flag and they’re not allowed entry but instead advised to see a health care professional.

Then before you enter the casino proper, attendants will make certain you’re wearing a mask or CDC-approved cloth facial covering, or give you one. If you’re picking up something from the Josiah restaurant, there’s a separate line, 6 feet or more away.

Atmosphere not much different

Inside, every other slot machine is turned off. New, clear plastic barriers divide players at table games and customer service areas. Signs are posted throughout the complex to encourage social distancing and help ensure adherence to Safe and Sound Program guidelines.

All team members are part of the new “Safe and Sound Clean Team” to focus on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces throughout the casino, with special emphasis on high-touch surfaces and common areas. And, hand-sanitizing stations are in many, various locations.

Players there June 19 were happy to be back.

“Seminole Gaming has made a tremendous commitment to sanitary protocols and a safety-first mentality for both guests and team members,” said Jim Allen, the CEO of Seminole Gaming and Chairman of Hard Rock International, in a company news release last week.

“We are making sure our resorts and casinos are safe and sound so our guests and team members have peace of mind when they return,” he said.

A couple of previous regulars were quite delighted to return.

“It is like a miracle. I’ve been coming out here for almost 30 years, and they did it up very well. I felt so happy, and I even cried a little bit because it was open,” Mary Ellison, from Okeechobee, gushed. “People are cleaning all the time,” she added, “and if you do what they say and wear your mask, you feel safe. I’m just happy they are open again.”

Said Rob Pisani of Stuart: “I’m so glad the casino is open. The place looks terrific, and the staff has been wonderful. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the machines are really paying. I can’t wait to come back next week.”

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
BRIGHTON — Only every other gaming machine in the bar area is in use at any given time.

Seminole Gaming reopened another of its properties in the state sooner. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa reopened in mid-May. Also on Tuesday, June 16, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and Seminole Classic Casino reopened.

The Seminole casino in Immokalee will reopen as well, but no date has been set as preparations there still are being made.

Team delighted to be back

Staff members at Seminole Casino Brighton naturally also were very pleased to be returning to work, after three months that seemed to last much longer.

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
BRIGHTON — Larona Hall, who just completed 20 years with the property in December, serves on the casino’s “Safe and Sound Clean Team,” sanitizing the face of a machine after a player left it.

Jeanette Cortino-Weller of Port St. Lucie, who’s a beverage server on the casino floor, stated: “It’s amazing to see our guests coming back, see them so happy, and know that they have been through all of this like the rest of us and that they are all doing well. And, even though they have masks on and we can’t see their faces, it’s nice to see their eyes glowing!”

“I’m happy to be back — I really like working here,” said Ana Reyes from Okeechobee. “Being at home for two months is not fun, so I’m happy seeing all of our guests again,” she said while on her facility/housekeeping rounds.

The Josiah Restaurant inside the 27,000-square-foot complex has reopened and will have limited seating (every other table) from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. for dine-in or to go orders. Guests can enter the casino and dine-in at the restaurant via the main covered casino entrance. Takeout orders can be picked up only at the restaurant entrance. The bingo room remains closed at this time, but the casino is open 24/7.