- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2020

When MGM National Harbor reopens to the public on Monday, prospective guests can expect “contactless” check-ins, single-use baccarat cards and Plexiglass galore to guard against COVID-19.

Officials said the three-year-old resort in Prince George’s County will open to 50% capacity, and its hotel will open roughly a third of its rooms, three months after a state order forced casinos to close as the coronavirus began to spread.

National Harbor’s check-in desks will be covered by Plexiglass windows, as are other points around the property, and only half will be open to create distance.

A key element of its “contactless” strategy is encouraging usage of MGM’s smartphone app, which will allow guests to check in, verify their identification and pay, as well as make reservations at the resort’s eight restaurants.

Dominique Bertolone, MGM Resorts’ senior vice president of food and beverage strategy, said most restaurants will reopen Monday and guests will be able to scan a code with their app to reserve a table in a “virtual queueing experience” that will help avoid large clusters of people waiting together.

Guests will have two options for menus: one printed on disposable paper or a smartphone display via a barcode.

“We actually believe that not only this is going to enhance the guest experience, but it’s part of our future,” Mr. Bertolone said. “Think of all the applications Not only do we believe it’s going to stick, we believe it’s going to be expanded as well.”

MGM executives said these digital benefits were in the works before this year, but once the pandemic came to the U.S., they decided it was the right time to accelerate their projects.

“It’s going to be something totally different. It’s gonna take a little bit to get used to,” said Anthony Caratozzolo, National Harbor’s vice president of hospitality. “It’s totally new. But I think the guests are really going to enjoy it, because it just speeds up the whole process.”

National Harbor isn’t the first MGM property in the country to reopen: A resort in Mississippi, about half of its Las Vegas properties and a resort near Cleveland reopened earlier this month with increased safety protocols.

Those protocols include requiring face masks, maintaining 6-feet of social distance at all times and adding hand sanitizer stations.

National Harbor guests will undergo a temperature check via thermal imaging whenever they enter the casino. John Flynn, MGM’s vice president of administration, said only 50% of the card tables and gaming machines will open Monday and not all of the resort’s employees will need to be back at work.

Employees have set up more Plexiglass at the tables to keep guests separated from each other and from the dealers. Dealers will regularly sanitize equipment, including poker chips.

Cards will be dealt face-up for some games so that guests never touch them; in others, like baccarat, cards will be “single-use” and thrown away after every game.

The resort will have a soft opening for a small number of rewards program members this weekend before opening to the public, Mr. Flynn said.

“We want to get the community comfortable with these new health and safety protocols,” Mr. Flynn said. “We want to get our guests and our employees comfortable with it. So I think generally speaking, making sure that we’re going nice and slow, that we’re doing this in a thoughtful way, is very important.”

Entertainment venues around the region and the country have started to allow guests back inside, including the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, which will open to the public on Sunday.

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