Updated: February 28, 2021 09:46 PM
Created: February 28, 2021 08:50 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For nearly a year, the grounds at Expo New Mexico and The Downs Racetrack and Casino have been busy with food drives, COVID testing, PPE distribution and vaccine distribution.
“It's a challenge and it has for everybody but you know, you can't whine about it. You got to figure out what your path is going to be,” said Dan Mourning, general manager of Expo New Mexico. “We decided early on that I said that we are going to take Expo New Mexico and the State Fair into serving the community.”
However, now they can see a light is at the end of the tunnel after the governor recently relaxed some public health order restrictions.
“We'll be ready for anything, just like we were this last year where we could do nothing on the grounds, and we pulled off a great virtual fair,” Mourning said.
“I guarantee you whatever capacity that we have the State Fair is going to be off the hook—I can assure you we will accept nothing less” he added.
Right around the corner from Expo New Mexico, The Downs reopened its casino this weekend. For both entertainment venues, safety continues to be the top priority.
“We needed to do the right thing and we made a significant investment in many things around the property,” said Frank Neborsky, general manager of The Downs Racetrack and Casino.
Plexiglass dividers were installed between each slot machine.
“Physical barriers between our guests and team member, contact points like the cage and players club, and you know, some of the point of sale outlets for our food offerings,” Neborsky said.
Neborsky said cleaning crews disinfect the area the moment someone gets up.
“We went above and beyond what the guidelines and standards of that the CDC set and the Department of Health because we wanted to make sure that when people did come back, when our team members came back to work, and our guests came back to enjoy themselves here, that they felt comfortable, safe,” he said.
Socially distances signage is posted everywhere. Everyone is also required to wear a mask.
Neborsky said The Downs also invested in some new technology during quarantine.
“When you enter the building, there'll be a checkpoint. So, as you're approaching that checkpoint we will be checking ID to make sure everyone has a valid ID when it comes on the floor, that they're 21 years or older. And they'll walk up to a security post, and they will be scanned for temperature,” he said.
Under the public health order, casinos licensed by the state can now operate in some capacity. Since The Downs is located in Bernalillo, which is currently at Level Yellow, they can operate at 33% capacity.
“To see the excitement on our employees our team members’ faces,” Neborsky said.
“The 26% tax that we pay to the state general fund and the 20% tax we pay to the horse racing industry—it gives us a way to get back to the community and get more people back on their feet and working, so it's very exciting,” he added.
As the state’s COVID numbers improve, the two are looking forward to opening up more parts of the facility.
“There is something true about smiling eyes when people are happy, and even underneath a mask. You can look at those eyes, and you can tell them that they're happy excited and it's just great to be back,” Neborsky said.
They hope to bring back all 500+ employees who worked there.
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