Prairie Meadows Remains Closed Amid Loosened Restrictions at its Horse Track
May 14, 2020 – Altoona, IA. Yesterday, as outlined in the Proclamation issued by Governor Kim Reynolds, all casinos in Iowa shall remain closed through May 27, unless otherwise modified by a subsequent proclamation or order. Also within the Proclamation, horse and dog tracks may reopen provided that the facility does not permit any spectators to attend its events in person. While we appreciate the Governor’s desire to reopen Iowa businesses, the Prairie Meadows’ Board of Directors and Executive Management have determined that at this time it is not safe to conduct live racing at its facilities. “At Prairie Meadows, we care deeply about the health and well-being of our family of employees, our guests, the horsemen, and our community,” said Gary Palmer, Prairie Meadows President & CEO. “This is a position in which we have been steadfast since deciding to close our full operation before any other casino in the state,” Palmer added.
The following five points highlighted below were key to finalizing this decision:
- Prairie Meadows has been closed since March 16 because COVID-19 has caused many lives to be lost and a significant amount of serious illness. It laid off 1,130 of its employees on May 3, and is not willing to ask any of them to return and risk their health or life until safer working conditions can be provided.
- It was reported this week that Polk County is in the top 10 counties in the country where the Virus is spreading the fastest. Until this trend reverses and a decline in the Virus is evident, Prairie Meadows does not wish to reopen any portion of its facilities.
- A convenient and reliable test for the Virus is not yet readily available and is considered an important step to Prairie Meadows’ reopening.
- The racing backside (barns and dormitories) creates a congregate environment for 500 – 1,000 horsemen and their workers who visit from all over the country, and stay for months at a time. This creates a serious issue complying with social distancing recommendations.
- Prairie Meadows is pursuing every measure to ensure compliance with the federal and Iowa guidelines and the safety of its employees, the horsemen, and their workers.
Prairie Meadows has, and will continue to follow the advice and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Iowa Department of Public Health, and Governor Reynolds. Additional staff protocols have been developed for monitoring the ever-changing COVID-19 crisis. “As we continue our vigilant work on preparing our property for its eventual reopening, I’m reminded just how committed our team is in overcoming this horrible pandemic,” said Palmer. “While there is no playbook for this great challenge, I am confident that our men and women at Prairie Meadows will rise above it, and again soon, welcome back our employees, guests, horsemen, and community – safely.”
About Prairie Meadows
Prairie Meadows began operations as a nonprofit organization in 1989 with the goal of promoting economic development, jobs, agriculture, and tourism in the state of Iowa. Through taxes, grants, and charitable donations, Prairie Meadows has given more than $1.9 billion to the state of Iowa, Polk County, City of Altoona, City of Des Moines, Polk County Schools, and numerous other local and state charities. Prairie Meadows offers nearly 1,700 slot machines, table games, live and simulcast racing, sports wagering, hotel accommodations, entertainment, and more.
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