COVID-19 Crisis Closes New Mexico, Midwestern, and Washington Tribal Casinos

Posted on: March 17, 2020, 11:06h. 

Last updated on: March 18, 2020, 10:32h.

The Laguna Development Corp. (LDC) announced on Tuesday that it has agreed to voluntarily shutter its three New Mexico tribal casinos to help combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the southwestern state.

For perhaps the next 30 days, patrons will not be getting their kicks at the Route 66 Casino, a New Mexico tribal casino operated by the Laguna Development Corp. (Image: Laguna Development Corp.)

LDC, which serves as the development arm of the Pueblo of Laguna, operates the Dancing Eagle Casino, the Route 66 Casino, and Casino Xpress, located in the western portion of the state.

The closures take effect at 4 a.m. MT Wednesday, LDC Chief of Sales and Marketing Skip Sayre told Casino.org. He said that the plan is to close for up to 30 days. That’s common with other tribal casinos in New Mexico, such as the Santa Ana Star and Isleta, but he admitted the situation is fluid for the time being.

We will evaluate it on a daily and weekly basis based on conditions on the ground,” he said. “We don’t know if it’ll be less than 30, more than 30. I don’t think anybody knows that at this point.”

No patrons or casino employees have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

LDC will also pay employees and cover their health insurance for at least the first 30-day closure period.

“It’s something that’s happening in real-time, and we will evaluate the situation at any particular time and make the appropriate decision then.”

Four Winds Halts Operations in Indiana, Michigan

While states have called on their licensed casinos to close as part of the fight against the coronavirus, tribal casinos, which operate on sovereign land, are not subject to state laws.

When Indiana ordered its casinos to shut down over the weekend, the tribal Four Winds Casino in South Bend opted to stay open. However, on Monday, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians announced they would shut down their northern Indiana and three Michigan venues as of Tuesday morning.

In a statement, the tribe said it considered the most recent recommendations of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as requests from both state and federal government officials to close.

The tribe said it expects the Four Winds casinos to reopen within two weeks, and that employees will continue to be paid during the hiatus.

Spokane Casinos Closed in Washington

In Washington state, the Spokane Tribe of Indians announced Tuesday that it would close its namesake casino and the Chewelah Casino as of 5 p.m. PT Tuesday.

Javier De La Rosa and Dwayne Fitzgerald, the casinos’ general managers, said in a statement the venues closed to abide by CDC, state health, World Health Organization, and tribal health policies regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

They plan is to reopen in as soon as two weeks, and workers will get paid for the upcoming period.

“Community is a core value of the Spokane Tribe, and our guests and team members are considered part of our extended family,” the general managers said. “That sense of community can feel threatened in extraordinary times such as these. We want to assure you that we are here for members of our community and its visitors, and ready to welcome our team members and guests back when we soon re-open our casino doors.”