Four San Diego County casinos will begin reopening this week, two months after temporarily closing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jamul Casino joins three others reopening -- Sycuan Casino Resort, Valley View Casino & Hotel, and Viejas Casino and Resort -- that follow the sovereign authority of their respective tribes.
San Diego County initially said it would seek federal guidance on how to prevent the casinos from reopening. A day later, Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said she met with tribal leaders and would be reviewing several submitted reopening plans.
“It is very clear to us that tribal nations have sovereign authority. And it is also very clear that the county and tribes share a mutual interest in protecting the community,” Wooten said.
The reopenings will come with noticeable modifications. Here's what each casino says they are doing to ensure the safety of their guests and employees.
Viejas Casino and Resort
Viejas Casino and Resort announced it will reopen its casino, restaurants and hotel on Monday, May 18 at 8 a.m. with signage to remind guests of safety protocols and social distancing guidelines.
Each employee and guest will be screened for fevers before they enter the building and anyone showing signs of illness will be asked to leave. Everyone will be required to wear a face covering.
To ensure social distancing, the casino will utilize every other slot machine and table games will be limited to three seated players. Bingo and Off Track Betting will remain closed.
Sanitary measures include closing the casino for four hours overnight for a deep cleaning and UV germicidal treatment and adding hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the resort.
For more on Viejas protocols, visit here.
Sycuan Casino and Resort
Sycuan will reopen on Wednesday, May 20 at noon. All visitors will be screened upon entrance and required to wear a face covering, according to the casino.
The casino will reopen in phases with some gaming machines, restaurants and other amenities remaining closed at first, the casino said.
“We have gone above and beyond of what the CDC is asking. We actually have a checklist of 700-different items that we follow," said Sycuan General Manager Rob Cinelli, stressing that protocols would be enforced by tribal operations and security teams.
The casino said it is using self-cleaning antimicrobial coating throughout the property, thermal cameras at entrances, plexiglass shields, personal protective equipment and more. Read all about Sycuan's sanitation program here.
Jamul's soft reopening on Monday is for "Amber and above Sweetwater Rewards Club VIP guests." The casino said it will reopen to the general public at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 21. All guests and employees must wear face coverings.
Guests and employees will be screened upon entrance by infrared thermometers and anyone with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, or exhibiting signs of illness will not be allowed inside, according to the casino.
Jamul said it will reduce seating, shut off certain gaming machines, and control entry and exit to facilitate distancing and occupancy.
The casino said a "Clean Team" will focus on high-touch guest and employee areas, and at least 150 hand sanitizing stations have been placed throughout the casino.
During this first phase of reopening, there will not be shuttle or valet services, entertainment (DJs or live bands), buffets, or promotions, according to the casino. Read all about Jamul's health measures here.
Valley View Casino and Resort
Valley View said on its website that it will reopen its casino, restaurants and hotel with spacing on Friday, May 22 at 8 a.m.
Modifications include requiring guests to wear face masks, according to a letter from General Manager Bruce Howard. He did not elaborate on the exact precautionary measures the resort was taking.
Harrah's Resort Southern California and Pala Casino Spa & Resort said they will join Valley View reopening Friday.
Barona Resort & Casino said it does not have a target reopening date.
Governor Gavin Newsom penned a letter Friday asking San Diego-area casinos to reconsider reopening while acknowledging even a partial reopening is crucial to each tribe's ability to raise revenue for their communities.
He said, “in the spirit of sovereign-to-sovereign engagement,” he asked the tribes to wait until surrounding jurisdictions met the Phase 3 criteria allowing them to reopen, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Tribal leaders declined to comment or did not yet have statements prepared when NBC 7 San Diego reached out.
"Sycuan has had and continues to have a positive relationship with the governor, and this pandemic is no exception," said Adam Day, chief administrative officer of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. "And we always maintain the confidentiality of those government to government conversations, and this pandemic is no exception."