Viejas Casino & Resort reopened May 18 and is among other Tribal casinos using advanced cleaning technologies like UVC. (Courtesy Viejas Casino & Resort / Facebook)
Between now and the beginning of June, seven Southern California Tribal casinos have reopening plans in place and several have implemented state-of-the-art cleaning methods to ensure the safety of their guests.
Viejas Casino & Resort in Alpine was the first of this group of Tribal casinos to reopen May 18 at 8 a.m. Owned and operated by the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Viejas has implemented physical distancing, intense cleaning and sanitization practices, mandatory face coverings for both guests and team members as well as temperature and symptom monitoring.
“Viejas has also recently invested in new cutting edge UV germicidal technology that will be utilized to clean and sanitize the property every day,” according to Viejas. “This investment is a scaled approach that will eventually protect you passively, providing medical-grade, hospital clean conditions not matched anywhere else.”
According to a video on the Viejas Facebook page, “UVC Technology is a known disinfectant for air, water, and surfaces. It mitigates the risk of requiring infection and it has been a standard within the medical profession for years. All bacteria and viruses tested to date, hundreds including the coronavirus, COVID-19, are completely eradicated through UVC treatment.”
This UVC technology isn’t the only advanced cleaning solution being implemented by Tribal casinos. Sycuan Casino Resort in El Cajon and Cahuilla Casino Resort near San Jacinto have both chosen to go with TruClean.
Sycuan, owned and operated by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, said TruClean was added to an already rigorous cleaning program that follows CDC guidelines and comprises some 700 compliance measures.
Ramont Smith, operations manager of TruClean, explained to CBS 8 how it works: “Within the coating, there are microscopic molecules that resemble spikes and these spikes have the ability to pierce the cell membranes of a broad spectrum of microorganisms.”
In a video for Sycuan, Smith explains how TruClean functions like a Scotch Guard, which allows fabrics to become water repellant. “In the same way, the invisible coating is like a Scotch Guard that contains microscopic needles, and as soon as a microbe touches the coating it gets pierced instantly and the microbe is eliminated. This technology such as antimicrobial coatings has been used widely internationally and it’s registered as a long-term medical-grade disinfectant that is very effective against coronavirus.”
The Cahuilla Band of Indians also decided to go with TruClean for their new facility, which is three times the size of their original one and has a 15,000-square-foot gaming floor. According to the Desert Sun, construction began in October 2018 and the original opening was planned for April 2, but was pushed back due to coronavirus.
“We are eager to unveil and share the new Cahuilla Casino Hotel with our guests, team members and the community and we stand by our commitment to protecting the health and safety of all,” Cahuilla Tribal Chairman Daniel Salgado said in a news release. “Our focus during this time of closure has been on implementing protective measures and enhanced sanitary guidelines throughout the new property to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect our guests and team members.”
Sycuan plans to reopen on May 20 at 12 p.m. and Cahuilla on May 27 at 2 p.m.
Jamul Casino will be opening for all guests on May 21 at 10 a.m. and has implemented enhanced cleaning protocols.
“We’ve eagerly awaited the day when we would be able to open back up and bring you your favorite games, food, promotions, and entertainment. That day is finally here,” reads a message from the Tribal Council. “We hope that you’ve stayed healthy and safe during this time, and we’re now committed to help you have some fun at our place as we stretch our legs and get back to living life with a little more space around us. We want you to know that we’ve been hard at work developing new ways to keep you safe at Jamul Casino.”
After eight weeks of being closed, Valley View Casino & Hotel plans on reopening on May 22 at 8 a.m. “The safety of our guests, our team members and our local community remain our highest priority,” reads a statement from Bruce Howard, General Manager on the website.
“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,” Howard also says.
Soboba Casino Resort has implemented a full Health & Sanitation Program 2020 for its reopening on May 27. “We are taking cleanliness to a new level by implementing an aggressive new health and sanitation program to complement the already rigorous cleaning standards currently in place at Soboba Casino Resort,” reads the website. “Upon reopening, all guests and team members will be required to wear a mask; gloves will be optional for guests.”
Rounding out the potential Southern California Tribal casinos set to open is Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, which announced a possible June 1 reopening.
“Our reopening will be centered around the health and safety of our team members, guests, community, and the Tribe,” Pechanga announced on Facebook. “Operations and amenities will be limited at first, and our new health and safety protocols will be paramount.”
But everyone is not exactly on board with the spate of Tribal casinos reopening. In a May 15 letter to Tribes, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is “greatly concerned” because Tribal casinos are considered higher risk Stage 3 workplaces, which do not yet have state authorization to open yet.
“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,” Newsom wrote in the letter to Tribes.
Newsom does, however, appear to understand that Tribal casinos are sovereign entities and do not need state approval to reopen.
“I am not asking that Tribal governments receive authorization from the state or local governments prior to moving forward with reopening or suggesting that Tribal casinos remain closed indefinitely,” Newsom wrote. “However, in the spirit of sovereign-to-sovereign engagement, I respectfully request that until a surrounding or neighboring local jurisdiction has legally processed into Stage 3, your Tribal casinos remain closed. This virus does not recognize jurisdictional boundaries, and it is in the best interest of public health to move toward reopening in concert.”