After more than two months of closures, two casinos in San Diego County reopened Monday despite opposition from state and local leaders.
Jamul Casino and Viejas Resort and Casino opened its doors Monday, with Viejas opening once again at 8 a.m. and Jamul hosting a soft opening at 10 a.m.
A security guard at Viejas Casino told NBC 7 that by 11 a.m., the building was at capacity, which was half its usual amount to ensure social distancing. A long line of people waiting to get inside stretched from the front entrance. Guests were only being allowed in as another exited.
Viejas was taking steps to ensure the safety of its customers and staff, including requiring face coverings and utilizing every other slot machine, among others, according to a message on their website.
Guests said they felt assured by the safety measures and were not concerned about their health.
"They’re very clean, everybody’s wearing their mask, there’s no coughing, everybody’s washing their hands. They’re cleaning all the machines every once in a while, so they’re doing good," said Chula Vista resident Susan Linderman.
San Diego resident Karen Fernandez said she trusted the casino was making the right decision.
"I didn’t have any concerns actually coming out today," she said. "I knew they weren’t going to reopen unless they had a strong game plan and they were absolutely 100% sure that their guest and their employees were protected as well."
The parking lot was blocked off because it also was at capacity. Instead, cars were parking along the street in front of the casino.
A Viejas employee was administering temperature checks before guests would be allowed in.
On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote a letter asking San Diego-area casinos to reconsider opening its doors so soon and instead do so during Phase 3 of his reopening plan.
San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten was opposed to the casinos’ decision to reopen soon but later agreed to work with tribal leaders on how to do so safely.
On Monday, she said only Jamul and Sycuan casinos had submitted their reopening plans for review.
"As we have stated before, we are not in agreement," Wooten said. "We do not have jurisdiction, so the best thing we can do is review the plans and ensure that there are at least measure built in to prevent the spread.”
“The thing we have to do now is make sure we are monitoring any outbreaks in those facilities.”
In response to the reopenings, County Supervisor Diane Jacobs released the following statement:
“The safety of employees and customers should be the top priority of every business that is opening up or waiting to open up. My preference is that businesses like these would be treated equally, but I’m encouraged that communication is taking place between some tribes and our public health officials.”
Two other casinos are set to reopen this week, as well. Sycuan Casino Resort will reopen Wednesday and Valley View Casino and Resort will open its doors on Friday. Harrah's Resort Southern California and Pala Casino Spa & Resort also said they would reopen Friday.
All casinos are on sovereign land and therefore, its respective tribes are not required to follow county orders and its guidance on its reopening plans.
The casinos will have newly adopted procedures aimed to keep its visitors safe during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Such measures include turning off every other slot machine to ensure social distancing, mandate facial coverings for each employee and visitor and temperature screenings before entry.
Viejas Casino said it will also close four hours overnight for deep cleaning and UV germicidal treatment. It also said it would place hand sanitizer dispensers throughout its property and limit table games to three seated players.