The first casinos to reopen in the U.S. after the pandmic shutdown were tribal properties.
Tribes depend on casino revenue for government services, jobs and other essential needs,
and in many cases took advantage of their status as sovereign nations to reopen before state officials gave the OK.
They did so with an abundance of caution, with the health and safety of their patrons paramount.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain opened its doors at 10 a.m.
May 21, more than two months after it closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’ve seen strong visitation levels given our reduced occupancy protocols,” says President Mark Birtha. “We’ve been very fortunate that our loyal guests have returned.
There is clearly pent-up demand for many in our region, given how long the state has been under a shelter-in-place status.”
Guests enjoy a complete integrated resort experience including gaming, dining, hotel and retail, Birtha says.
“They seem impressed with the amount of investment and training we’ve made in our safety and sanitation protocols.
Most people seem used to these expectations already, so there’s been no pushback or real confusion.
They appreciate our efforts to keep their environment safe.”
Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut reopened June
Pokagon’s Four Winds Casinos in Michigan and Indiana reopened June 15. These properties, owned by sovereign nations, are not subject to the laws for commercial casinos like those in Atlantic City or Las Vegas.
Yet all worked with local, state and federal agencies to develop safety measures to reopen.
“Although we are a sovereign nation, we’ve also considered recommendations from the federal government,
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and governors from both Michigan and Indiana,”
says Matthew Wesaw, tribal council chairman and CEO of the Pokagon Gaming Authority.
“We’ve been closely monitoring the data related to the spread of Covid-19,
consulting with medical experts and evaluating the potential impact the virus could have on our community and employees.”
Common Cooperation Tribal leaders and casino operators as well as regulators coordinate regionally with other tribes in order to share information and best practices to ensure that the entire tribal government gaming industry demonstrates a commitment to safety, says
Dr. Katherine A. Spilde, professor at the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University,
and endowed chair at the Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming.
“Each tribal government is reopening in the way that best protects the health and safety of their community, employees and guests,”
says Spilde. “Certain areas of the U.S. have very different rates of infection based on population density,
public health orders and other factors.
Tribal leaders work closely with other government leaders to coordinate testing, implement social distancing and public health best practices and share information.”
Unlike a traditional business, tribal gaming requires hosting people in tribal homelands, which makes these decisions even more important.
“The reopening of our casinos comes at a critical time for our tribe and our employees that are in need of economic relief,” Wesaw says.
“Unlike state and local governments which predominantly use tax dollars to operate,
the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians relies on revenue from its business ventures to fund services for our citizens,
including health care, housing, education, family services, financial support, police and more.”
The Four Winds Casinos operations team has worked closely with the Pok
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