US tribal casinos begin to reopen

According to the American Gaming Association (AGA) there are 989 land-based casino venues in the US but only 985 of them are closed.

According to the American Gaming Association (AGA) a handful of tribal casinos in the US have reopened their doors despite the threat presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

At the time of writing, according to the AGA, four tribal casino venues in the US have reopened.

The first venue to reopen was the Coeur d’Alene Casino, a tribal casino located in the state of Idaho. The decision to reopen the venue was made after the Governor’s stay at home order expired.

Earlier this week, two tribal venues in the state of Oklahoma moved to reopen their doors to the public. These two venues were the 7 Clans First Council Casino and the Tonkawa Casino.

Today (6 May), Island Casino in the state of Michigan is set to reopen its doors, making it the fourth venue to continue operations amid the pandemic.

In most US states, it will take much longer to reopen casinos. Commercial casinos, which are bound by state laws must wait until state officials give them the green light to reopen. Native American tribes that offer gambling activities, on the other hand, are sovereign nations which are not bound by the mandates set by any state government.

Although most tribal venues have complied with state measure voluntarily, they are not obligated to keep their venues closed.

Coeur d’Alene Casino takes precautions

With its early reopening, the Coeur d’Alene Casino in Idaho announced it would be adopting several safety measures.

Before entering the venue, guests must have their temperature checked using an infrared thermometer, side entrances have also been closed to ensure venue traffic is controlled. Patrons must also wear masks and when needed the casino will provide them.

To help with social distancing only every second slot machine is available for play and although the casino doesn’t offer table games, seating for the bingo hall has been reduced.  On top of this, plexiglass shields have been installed anywhere a guest may come into close contact with a member of staff. Hand sanitizer stations have also been installed throughout the venue.

Cleaning protocols have also been stepped up. Staff will clean surfaces more frequently while paying special attention to surfaces such as slot buttons and door handles. Opening hours have also been reduced. The venue is usually open 24 hours a day but will now close between 3 am and 7 am every day for a deep clean.

It is not yet clear how effective these measures will be and even if it works well, things may not work as well at other venues in the country.

Michigan casino comes under fire

In March, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) ordered all of the state’s casinos shut down, which was supported by an executive order that made called for the closure of all non-essential businesses.

Michigan currently houses three commercial casinos which were obligated to follow the order, and 24 tribal-owned venues, which complied with the executive order voluntarily.

However, Island Casino will be the first to exercise its tribal sovereignty and reopen before getting the green light from the state. The venue announced it will follow the standards and procedures outlined by the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA).

The precautions are similar to those in effect at Coeur d’Alene Casino, but Island Casino is a much larger venue with table games, a spa and convention center. However, these will remain closed for the time being.

The venue has come under criticism for its decision to reopen, with some predicting it could cause a spike in cases or even a second outbreak.

Reopening casinos early poses an issue

The reopening of casinos and non-essential businesses poses a serious issue across the country.

Venues that reopen early, without adequate safety measures in place, may run the risk of allowing the virus to continue to spread, which in turn will lead to more cases and eventually more deaths. There is also the issue of the wellbeing of employees as they will be forced to choose between either returning to work or losing what benefits they are entitled to while on furlough.

In some states, local governments must also contend with protests who view the shutdown of non-essential businesses as an infringement on their constitutional rights.

Nevada may reopen casinos sooner than other states

Nevada may be one of the first states to allow its commercial casinos to begin reopening due to the economy’s reliance on the gambling sector.

While no date has been set for the reopening of casinos in the state, Carolyn Goodman, the Mayor of Las Vegas, has called for Governor Steve Sisolak to allow the city to reopen immediately. After saying that she was willing to let Las Vegas act as a “control group” for relaxing social distancing protocols, Goodman came under fire from state officials and the public.

At the time of writing, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s stay-at-home order will last until 15 May, but this may be extended to help halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) has already issued guidelines to casino operators to follow for when they are allowed to reopen.

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