Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun Plan to Partially Reopen June 1, Connecticut Governor Opposes ‘Incredibly Risky’ Move

Posted on: May 20, 2020, 03:32h. 

Last updated on: May 20, 2020, 03:47h.

Connecticut’s two tribal gaming properties, Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, announced Wednesday they plan to partially reopen on June 1 much to the objection of Gov. Ned Lamont.

Connecticut Casinos Reopening
Rodney A. Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which operates Foxwoods Resort Casino, says the well-being of guests, employees, and local communities is the number one priority as it prepares to partially reopen June 1. (Image: ABC News)

News of the June reopening came in a joint Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (Foxwoods) and Mohegan Tribe (Mohegan Sun) announcement. The two tribes say they are putting into place appropriate safety protocols and operating procedures to protect guests and workers.

Those measures include protective equipment and physical distancing. During the first phase of the reopening, neither property will provide concerts, buffets, or poker rooms. On-site restaurants, which rent space at the casinos, will be open only for take-out.

The tribes say they are reopening to Connecticut and Rhode Island residents, and will not do any marketing to New York or Massachusetts citizens. No out-of-state buses will be accepted at the casinos.

Both New York City and Boston have faced among the highest numbers of US cases of coronavirus. Cases in metro New York City were blamed initially for much of the spread of COVID-19 in western Connecticut. As of Wednesday, there have been 39,017 coronavirus cases in Connecticut. The number of fatal cases was 3,529.

The reopening announcement was criticized by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont who wants the reopening date to be later this year, given the coronavirus transmission risk associated with gaming venues. During a Wednesday afternoon press conference, he threatened to reach out to casino employees about the dangers and also warn motorists heading toward the venues concerning the health risks.

I think that’s incredibly risky, and it’s risky for the people that work at the casinos, it’s risky for the people that go to the casinos, it’s risky for the region, because you have a lot of employees who go back out through the region,” Lamont said.

But in Wednesday’s statement, Rodney A. Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, stressed, “The safety, health and well-being of our Tribal community, guests, team members and local communities remain our number one priority as we prepare to reopen.”

Tribes Implement Best Practices for Safety

“With the guidance from our Chief Medical Officer and the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], we’ve made significant investments to enhance our processes to adapt to the challenges of the new normal brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Butler added. “Like many casinos successfully opening around the country — we are implementing industry best practices to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.”

For instance, he said infrared temperature scanners will be placed at all entrances. Guests will have to wear masks, and workers must wear appropriate protective equipment.

Dice, tiles, and cards will be frequently replaced at table games. Frequent cleaning will occur on the gaming floor.

James Gessner, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, said the new guidelines “have been implemented at several of our other resort destinations across the country — some of which are now open or will be later this month.”

The two Connecticut casinos have been shuttered since March 17. The tribes voluntarily agreed to follow Gov. Lamont’s shutdown of nonessential businesses, even though they are sovereign nations.

But the closures have had an economic impact on the tribes and the region. “We have no gaming income,” Butler told ABC News earlier this month.

“There’s no tax base here on the reservation. So, it’s costing us a couple of million a week just to stay closed.”

Earlier this month, Foxwoods initially said it was planning to temporarily lay off the majority of its workers at the end of May. That meant the employees would no longer receive benefits.

Foxwoods’ Golf Course Reopens

Also, on Wednesday, Foxwood-affiliated Lake of Isles golf course announced it is now open. Social distancing guidelines are in place.

Lake of Isles is a 36-hole golf club located in North Stonington. It is located across from Foxwoods Resort Casino.