As of Monday, December 7 the Ute Mountain Casino Hotel in Colorado temporarily closed in order to prevent community spread of COVID-19. (Courtesy Ute Mountain Casino/Facebook)
In order to prevent community spread of COVID-19, various Tribal casinos have made the tough decision once again to shut their doors to patrons for the holiday season.
Ute Mountain Casino Hotel in Towaoc, Colorado temporarily closed its doors on December 7, 2020. Meanwhile in Tucson, Arizona, the Casino del Sol family of casino resorts has decided to voluntarily close beginning the same date as well, with plans to reopen on January 2, 2021.
“Given the rising COVID-19 numbers in the state of Arizona, Pima County and the country, Casino Del Sol has made the decision together with the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council to temporarily close Casino Del Sol, Casino of the Sun, the Resort, and Estrella at Casino Del Sol,” casino officials stated, adding that Sewailo Golf Club will remain open during this time.
As with former closures, Casino del Sol CEO Kim Van Amburg said the enterprise is committed to continue paying employees. The Pascua Yaqui-owned casinos were previously requiring regular testing, and that may influence future Tribal Council decisions regarding precautions taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “We’re mandating monthly COVID tests, so it would seem comparable to me to ask people to be vaccinated as well,” Van Amburg told Arizona Public Media.
In Colorado, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal council recommended the closure of the gaming facility, 90-room hotel, and food and beverage outlets, in effect through 2020. The Tribal council will consider reopening in January 2021.
“Out of an abundance of caution, and as a result of monitoring the guidelines set forth by local, state, and federal health officials, we believe it is in the best interest for the health of our guests, employees, and community to pause casino, hotel, and restaurant operations,” reads a Facebook post from December 6.
Ute Mountain Casino employs more than 470 people at this time but says employees will not be affected by the temporary closure. According to a statement from the Tribe, all employees are to return when the property reopens.
“We will closely monitor what is happening at a state, regional and national level with regards to COVID-19 and its impact on our region, community and the economy. And, while it has been a difficult decision, without question, it is what is necessary to ensure the safety of the Tribal community, guests and our team members. Their safety, well-being and livelihood remain our top priority,” said General Manager, Rick Scheer. “We look forward to re-opening at full-capacity and will continue to support our employees and local community during this time.”
While the Ute Mountain Casino Hotel is temporarily closed, the Tribe’s travel centers will remain open with limited hours, social distancing in place, and limited guests.
ExxonMobil Ute Mountain Travel Centers in Towaoc and White Mesa will remain open from 7 am to 7 pm daily to provide services to travelers and long-haul truck drivers along highways 491 and 160. The centers have showers, a laundry room, a trucker’s lounge, a convenience store, Wi-fi, regular and diesel fuel and a restaurant, serving to-go orders only. The Travel Centers will offer complimentary coffee to all truck drivers during this time.
“As we’ve seen through this difficult time, our truck drivers are essential in helping us move forward,” Scheer said. “They will be away from their families during the holidays and making sacrifices to ensure that our country has the necessary goods to function through this pandemic. Our Ute Mountain Travel Centers will remain open and continue to do what we can to ensure their comfort.”