Sycuan is now the second casino to reopen this week, despite serious health concerns from county and state officials.
“We’ve gone above and beyond what was asked of us, probably tenfold of what was asked of us, so we wouldn’t open if we didn’t feel it was safe,” said Rob Cinelli, General Manager of Sycuan Casino Resort.
Cinelli says Sycuan will open in three phases. The first phase will allow a maximum of 3,000 visitors, which is about half of normal capacity. There is no timeline on when the casino will return to full operation.
Viejas Casino reopened on Monday and quickly reached allowable capacity. That forced hundreds of visitors to wait outside while the casino enforced a one-in-one-out policy. Jamul Casino also reopened Monday.
At Sycuan, members of the news media were forced to stage in a parking lot far from the casino, but there did not appear to be long lines at any of the entrances. At 1 p.m. the casino said there were 961 guests inside – about one-third of the allowable capacity. The number of guests are monitored by a device that pings visitors’ cell phones.
Sycuan did not allow news reporters to talk to guests, but the casino did allow limited access to a photographer.
Visitors can expect to have their temperature taken at the door by either a thermal camera or an infra-red thermometer. The casino is passing out complimentary face masks, which are mandatory. At bars, stools are separated. Players at gaming tables are socially distanced. Every other slot machine is turned off. Some concession workers can be seen working behind plexiglass. And there are an abundance of cleaning crews disinfecting everything from slot machines to ashtrays.
Sycuan officially opened to the public on Wednesday, but actually had an unannounced soft launch for about 300-invited guests on Tuesday. The casino’s general manager called it a dry run for employees, who have been off work for weeks. He says all employees will help enforce new rules.
“Getting our staff trained to feel comfortable to walk up to guests and say ‘Hey, we need you to wear your mask, thank you for your patience, thank you for your cooperation.' Most of our staff, that’s not normally what we ask them to do,” said Cinelli.
Cinelli is also counting on visitors to be responsible in order to help address health concerns.
“To say that we can completely protect everybody 1005, we can’t. But no other business can either,” said Cinelli.