Pechanga Preparing for Lengthier Closure, Staff Reductions Could be Coming in April

Posted on: March 23, 2020, 07:47h. 

Last updated on: March 23, 2020, 11:33h.

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, the operator of the Pechanga Casino in Temecula, Calif., said it’s preparing for a temporary closure announced last week to last longer than previously expected. It added that staff reductions could commence as soon as April.

Pechanga could be facing a longer-than-expected closure because of the coronavirus and layoffs could be part of the equation. (Image: Orange County Register)

Last week, the tribe said it’s shuttering the gaming venue through the end of the month because of the coronavirus outbreak. Pechanga – one of the largest casinos in the US – and rival San Manuel Casino were among the first tribal gaming properties in California to announced temporary closures.

The tribe issued a statement Saturday indicating it’s prepared to keep Pechanga Casino closed beyond March 31, and that a round of temporary layoffs could commence on April 1.

As much as we would love to bring everyone back April 1, the facts and circumstances indicate the closure will last much longer,” said Jared Munoa, President of the Pechanga Development Corporation, said in the statement reported by the Riverside Press-Enterprise. “This temporary layoff means we will bring our team back together as soon as possible when we get through this. As painful as this decision is, we have to be honest and give our Team Members as much notice as possible so that they can make appropriate preparations.” reached out to the tribe for the press release, but didn’t hear back prior to publication of this article.

Blow to the Local Economy

Riverside County, the area in which Pechanga is located, is home to several other tribal casinos, making the gaming industry one of the region’s top sources of jobs and revenue. Only a handful of employers account for more jobs in the county, which is east of Los Angeles, than Pechanga.

The county says Pechanga has nearly 4,700 workers. The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians didn’t indicate how many of those staffers could be subject to layoffs next month. Employees at the resort will be paid and have access to benefits through the end of this month.

After Pechanga and San Manuel got the ball rolling on March 15, a slew of other tribal operators in Southern California followed suit in closing casinos, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, essentially all of the tribal gaming properties in Eastern San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties are shuttered.

Quick to Act

Golden State tribal operators were among the first in the country to react to the coronavirus situation in the US, joining commercial rivals in shuttering gaming properties, avoiding some bad public relations in the process.

For example, Florida’s Seminole Tribe, which runs casinos under the Hard Rock brand, kept those venues open longer than Native American counterparts in other states, earning harsh judgment in the court of public opinion. The Seminole didn’t announce the closures of its Florida casinos until last Friday, nearly a week after Pechanga and San Manuel decide to temporarily shut their doors.

Native American tribes are sovereign entities regulated at the federal level and are not required to comply with state directives to temporarily halt operations.