More tribal casinos in the US voluntarily close due to the COVID-19 threat

In the US, as commercial casinos are increasingly mandated to close due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the number of tribal casinos that are voluntarily closing is also growing.

Casino leaders around the country have been meeting to determine the proper course of action regarding the safety of their staff, guests, and communities.

CT, NY, NJ deal:

In an agreement announced Monday by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun closed at 8pm Tuesday for a minimum of two weeks, amid concerns over the novel coronavirus. It is a first-time closing for either casino, since opening in 1992 and 1996 respectively.

According to the CT Post, the deal follows pressure from the eastern state’s governor, who on an early Monday conference call with Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Phil Murphy of New Jersey, said that he was trying to persuade both casinos to shut down during the crisis. Governor Cuomo reportedly echoed that regarding the tribal casinos in his state.

The governors jointly announced that all casinos, gyms and movie theaters in the tri-state region would be shut down.

An executive order from the state is not applicable to either the Mohegan Tribe or Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the operators of the state’s two Native American-owned casinos because tribal casino operating on sovereign land are not subject to state laws.

By Monday both casinos had already begun closing parts of their gaming operations and were no longer accepting hotel reservations.

In New York, the Oneida Indian Nation temporarily closed its Turning Stone Resort Casino, Point Place Casino and Yellow Brick Road Casino on Monday, and according to an official statement from the Nation, no timeline has been given for reopening.

Voluntary closings:

Tribal casinos that have elected to temporarily shut down include:

  • Michigan – of the state’s 27 tribal casinos owned by 12 federally-recognized tribes, the following have opted to close. Gun Lake Casino in Wayland, owned by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians; Bay Mills Resort and Casino in Brimley will close on March 20 and will remain closed until April 10, while its sister casino, Kings Club Casino, has also closed. The Grand‌ ‌Traverse‌ ‌Band‌ ‌of‌ ‌Ottawa‌ ‌and‌ ‌Chippewa‌ ‌Indians‌ has closed its Turtle Creek and Leelanau Sands casinos. The Little River Casino Resort, owned by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is closed through March 30; the Little‌ ‌Traverse‌‌ ‌Bay‌ ‌Bands‌ ‌of‌ ‌Odawa‌ ‌Indians‌ has closed both its Petoskey and Mackinaw City casinos through April 30; the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi has closed its Firekeepers Casino and Hotel; the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians has closed all four of its Four Winds Casinos; the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, Saganing Eagles Landing Casino & Hotel and The Slot Palace & Bingo Hall have all been closed by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe; and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians will reportedly close its five casinos by March 22.
  • California – Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in Jackson; Soboba Casino Resort in San Jacinto; Valley View Casino & Hotel in Valley Center is closing March 22 through April 5; Augustine Casino in Coachella; Casino Pauma in Pauma Valley; Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks; Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez; the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio; Harrah’s Resort Southern California in Funner owned by the Rincon Band of Mission Indians; Morongo Casino Resort Spa in Cabazon; San Manuel Casino in Highland; Table Mountain Casino in Friant; and Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, which will close through the end of March.

  • Oklahoma – of the state’s more than 140 Indian casinos and gaming centers operated by 33 tribes, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has closed all 10 of its casinos including its Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa through March 31. After receiving updated guidelines from the CDC, the Chickasaw Nation made the decision to temporarily close all of its casinos including Winstar World Casino, Newcastle Casino, and Riverwind Casino, at midnight on Monday, and will also remain closed until March 31, while the Choctaw Casinos & Resorts has suspended all operations including casinos and travel plaza gaming locations, resorts and concert venues effective March 16 until further notice.
  • Washington – both of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians’ Emerald Queen Casinos; Muckleshoot Casino; Silver Reef Casino; Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort and both of the Tulalip Tribe’s casinos.

AZ, NM, NC & WI:

Other tribal casino closures include three of Gila River Hotels and Casinos in Arizona, including Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte, and Vee Quiva, which effective 4am Wednesday, March 18 will temporarily close; the Pueblo of Pojoaque‘s two Santa Fe, New Mexico casinos, Buffalo Thunder Casino (the Hilton remains open) and Cities of Gold. Also in NM, the Laguna Development Corp. (LDC), the business arm of the Pueblo of Laguna, voluntarily shuttered its Route 66, Dancing Eagle and Casino Xpress casinos in New Mexico at 4am MT on Wednesday, March 18. And in North Carolina, both of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians‘ Harrah’s Cherokee casinos.

In Wisconsin, the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee indefinitely suspended operations on Tuesday, March 17 at 5pm.

Commenting on the decision, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager for the property, Rodney Ferguson, said…

“At this time, the health and safety of our guests and the 2,700 team members at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino is the top priority,” according to multiple local news agencies.

As for the tribes across the nation that for the time being are keeping their casinos open, preventative measures are reportedly being taken to keep guests safe, such as frequent “deep cleanings“, closing key amenities, turning off banks of slot machines, limiting table game availability, canceling large events, limiting bar & restaurant service, increasing staff training, and posting COVID-19 information and updates on their sites.

Social distancing in Florida:

In South Florida where casinos have started shutting down, Seminole Casinos, including the Hard Rock in Hollywood and the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, are staying open having put “social distancing” measures in place.

Of the Sunshine State’s seven tribal casinos, six are owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, with the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, which owns and operates Miccosukee Resort & Gaming resort and casino located on the western outskirts of Miami.

After recommending a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, by Monday that number dropped to 10.

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