Harrah’s Southern California Former GM Sues Caesars Entertainment Over COVID-19 Concerns

Posted on: September 6, 2020, 07:39h. 

Last updated on: September 6, 2020, 10:51h.

Caesars Entertainment, which operates Harrah’s Resort Southern California, has been sued by the casino’s ex-senior vice president and general manager after he claimed to have warned the company about coronavirus health risks before its reopening.

Harrah's Resorts Southern California GM Sues
The former general manager at Harrah’s Resort Southern California (above) has filed a lawsuit because of allegedly inadequate COVID-19 precautions upon reopening. (Image: KSWB)

The resumption of operations at the Valley Center casino starting in May led to “serious adverse health and safety consequences involving employees and customers contracting COVID-19,” the lawsuit by Darrell Pilant claims. The story was reported by inewsource, a San Diego-based news site.

Attorneys for Pilant filed the court action last week in San Diego Superior Court. He is seeking damages and severance pay, the report said.

Pilant left his top management post at the casino on May 21 after a series of disputes he had with company officials over safety-related concerns. The next day, the gaming property reopened.

It was “a matter of ‘right and wrong’ and what Caesars was doing was wrong,” Pilant’s lawsuit adds. The lawsuit further claims Pilant was told that California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and San Diego County officials were “on board” with the reopening.

He was to oversee the reopening process. But the suit claims it was “illegal and dangerous.”

Pilant worked for Caesars Entertainment for over 22 years. In 2016, he was named general manager at the Harrah’s Resort Southern California, overseeing all casino operations, inewsource said.

Pilant Advocated for Precautions in May

Despite the lawsuit, in May Pilant was quoted in a company media statement outlining precautions put in place to promote a safe casino reopening.

We are taking these enhanced health and sanitation measures very seriously,” Pilant was quoted in the May statement. “Our goal is to ensure a healthy environment for our teammates and guests with these new measures in place.”

Harrah’s Resort Southern California is owned by the Rincon Band of the Luiseno Indians. The tribe is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, inewsource said.

“The health of our guests, employees, and surrounding community remains to be our top priority. It is due to this commitment to our patrons and staff that we are pleased to reopen the doors of our gaming facility,” Rincon Tribal Chairman Bo Mazzetti said in the May statement. “We have implemented robust reopening guidelines from the National Indian Gaming Commission and Caesars Entertainment that include strong sanitization protocols, social distancing procedures, and limiting the capacity of the guests allowed at a time in the casino.”

Among the opening precautions was an advisory that players and other visitors going to the casino floor must wear face masks and have their temperatures taken. Employees were required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and have temperatures taken at the start of each shift.

Upon reopening, there was a maximum of three players per blackjack table and four players per roulette table. Security staff enforced social distancing rules.

Residents Contracted COVID After Casino Visit

Since the pandemic began, San Diego County officials declined to identify casinos and other businesses where coronavirus cases were confirmed. But inewsource reported that 217 local residents who were diagnosed with COVID-19 were at an unspecified casino within two weeks of symptoms. Twelve of these residents required hospital treatment. One, who was identified as a former casino patron, passed away, inewsource said.

San Diego County spokeswoman Sarah Sweeney told the news site that although residents had positive tests for coronavirus and visited a casino before the test, “It doesn’t mean they contracted the coronavirus there.” San Diego County has nine tribal casinos.

Casino.org reached out to Caesars Entertainment and Harrah’s for a response to the claims in the lawsuit. But officials did not respond before publication.