Governor believes tribes are jumping the gun

As casinos around the United States are starting to reopen after two months of closure, California Governor Gavin Newsom wants to some Native American tribes to reconsider. On Friday, he asked the tribes that operate three casinos to think twice about getting back to business.

Most tribal casinos are staying closed at least through May, but three: Viejas Casino & Resort, Sycuan Casino Resort, and Valley View Casino are all set to open this week. Viejas already opened on Monday, Sycuan is opening on Wednesday, and Valley View will unlock its doors on Friday.

“I understand that some tribal governments are planning on reopening casinos on their lands,” Newsom wrote in a letter to the tribes. “This deeply concerns me, and I urge tribal governments to reconsider and instead make those determinations based on how they align with the current local public health conditions and the statewide stage of reopening.”

Appeal to common sense

While the Governor certainly empathizes with casinos and all businesses for the massive financial hit they have taken, he said, “I cannot stress enough that the risk of COVID-19 transmission remains a serious threat for all Californians.”

He also noted that the state’s health officer has not given permission to businesses that normally have large crowds, businesses like casinos, to reopen.

Newsom emphasized that he is not saying that that tribes must defer to state or local governments for reopening instruction.

“However, in the spirit of sovereign-to-sovereign engagement I respectfully request that until a surrounding or neighboring local jurisdiction has legally progressed into Stage 3, your tribal casinos remain closed,” he added.

Three tribes opening in phases

Viejas Casino & Resort began its phased reopening on Monday, May 18. It is limiting table games to three players each and every other slot machine is turned off to help with social distancing. Bingo and off-track betting remained closed.

The casino has detailed its safety measures on its site, which include a temperature scan of everybody entering the property.

It also invested in UVC technology to kill the COVID-19 virus on all high-touch surfaces every day. A video discussing the process is posted on the casino’s website, though fair warning, it is full of ridiculous stock footage.

Sycuan Casino, in the San Diego area, will open at noon on Wednesday, May 20. It is taking similar precautions to Viejas, including requiring everybody on the property to wear face coverings. Guests can removed their masks to eat or drink.

Plexiglass shields have been installed in “close contact areas” like cashiers and hotel check-in, but it does not sound like anything has been erected at the gaming tables.

The Los Angeles Times asked officials of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation about their dealings with Governor Newsom, but chief administrative officer Adam Day declined to comment aside from saying that the tribe has a good relationship with Newsom and that government-to-government conversations are confidential.

Valley View Casino in San Diego County will reopen on Friday, May 22 at 8:00am.

“In addition to offering our guests a much more spacious casino, restaurants and hotel, we have taken many other precautionary measures that you will notice when you return including requiring all of our guests to please be prepared to have on an appropriate face mask before entering into our casino,” wrote general manager Bruce Howard in a message posted on Valley View’s website.

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