While tribal operates in the US have already reopened their venues or plan to reopen, the state officials urge them not to restart operations yet. Keeping in mind the sovereignty of tribal nations, state officials cannot order them but can rather only liaise with them on the subject.
Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut Reopened
Connecticut tribal casinos have reopened doors despite the state’s urges not to. The huge Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun in the Constitution State restarted their operations earlier this month. This move was deemed rather controversial by state officials fearing for a second wave of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont commented on the subject by saying: “People over the age of 65 should not be in large, congregate settings. We think that’s dangerous, even now.” He continued by pointing out: “So, we tried to put some good, strong advice in place as people are on their way to taking a gamble.” The Governor was referring to warning signs placed on the roads leading to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun. The signs which were put up following an order by the governor read: “Don’t Gamble With COVID” and “Avoid Large Crowds.”
The peculiar method for informing the casino visitors was found as a necessity by the governor. This is because the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe are federally recognized tribes. In other words, the state officials can try to liaise with them but ultimately the tribes cannot be ordered to shut down operations or temporarily postpone the reopening. While trying to delay the reopening of the venues, governor Lamont even mentioned withdrawing the liquor licenses for the operators. This however could not happen so the governor took a decision to inform the casino’s visitors of dangers by placing warning signs.
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Surprised of the Governor’s Response
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation expressed that he is quite surprised of governor Lamont’s response. According to Butler, the tribes have made multiple attempts to contact the governor to inspect what measures the tribes have taken in order to resume operations. Amid those measures are installations of air filtering systems. Butler further noted: “I have tribal elders that I’m concerned about. And so I’m not going to put my community at risk.” He continued by stressing: “We’re doing this very, very cautiously and with every safety precaution in mind.” Butler also the deemed signs installed by the state officials as “catchy”.
The deputy executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association, Danielle Her Many Horses also commented on the reopening of casinos. She said: “You have tribes in states that do want to open up and tribes that are like, ‘no, no, no, we’re going to back off on this because we don’t think that’s the right idea.” She also noted that there are other tribal operators who feel that they need to restart operations in order to get their employees back to work. By doing so, the state’s economy will also restart. With that being said, data by the American Gaming Association shows that so far there are 673 commercial and tribal casinos have already reopened. On the other hand 316 properties remain closed.
Tribal Casinos Push for Reopening Despite State Orders
Elsewhere in the United States, tribal properties in Oregon, Washington, California, North Carolina, New York and Florida are also looking to reopen doors. One of the reasons is because employees want to return to work and restart the gaming industry. However, the urge to reopen doors comes while state officials still haven’t removed the ban for large gatherings. The Oneida Indian Nation tribe in New York partially reopened three of their properties last week, despite that state officials not granting them an official approval. On the other hand, the Cayuga Nation’s property was reopen back in May.
Commenting on the subject, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “Tribal nations are just that, they’re nations. So, they are not bound by state laws.” On the opposite part of the United States, in California, Governor Gavin Newsom has taken a different approach. Addressing the issue to the leaders of the state’s tribes, Newsom urged the tribes to coordinate their plans for reopening with the state’s plan. Newsom pointed that such coordination will help the state jump over an eventual second wave of coronavirus (COVID-19).