San Manuel Says Smokers Must Stay Outside, Limits Booze Service as COVID-19 Cases Spike in Southern California

Posted on: June 30, 2020, 09:50h. 

Last updated on: June 30, 2020, 12:04h.

Amid a second wave of coronavirus cases in Southern California, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is unveiling new alcohol consumption and smoking guidelines for visitors to its namesake tribal gaming property in San Bernardino County.

San Manuel Casino Sets Rules
The outside of San Manuel Casino, which is exactly where the tribal operator is mandating smokers stay to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus. (Image: KTLA)

San Manuel — one of the largest tribal casinos in Southern California — was one of the last properties in the region to reopen. It did so on June 15 following four extensions of its closure period.

Smoking will be limited to designated areas, which, for now, will be located outside of the casino. Alcohol service will be provided at slots and table games only,” according to a statement issued by the tribe.

While calling the situation “fluid,” San Manuel said the changes are “temporary,” but necessary to “support facial covering mandates and to minimize opportunities for multiple-person gatherings at bars.”

These new policies go into effect today at 9 am PST.

Missing Link?

Before announcing the new drinking and smoking rules, San Manuel — like other commercial and tribal casinos — implementing various new protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including temperature checks on all employees and guests entering the venue. The rules required guests to wear masks at all times while on the premises, and markers throughout the property reminded visitors to practice social distancing.

San Manuel’s move to limit smoking to outside comes as other casinos in the US are doing the same, and as some employee groups are pressuring operators to implement similar bans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says smokers are at increased risk of severe coronavirus-related illness.

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that there are no peer-reviewed studies directly linking smoking and increased vulnerabilities to COVID-19. But there are observational examinations confirming “a non-significant relationship between smoking and severity of COVID-19. However, the same authors found a statistically significant association between smoking status and primary endpoints of admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), ventilator use, or death.”

California was one of the first states to ban smoking in indoor workplaces, including restaurants, doing so in 1995. But tribal casinos aren’t beholden to that law because the venues sit on sovereign land and are federally regulated.

Bar Ban Makes Sense

Southern California is experiencing a significant spike in new COVID-19 cases. An analysis published by the Los Angeles Times on Monday indicates 5.9 percent of coronavirus tests for the prior week came back positive, up from 4.9 percent the week before.

San Manuel’s move to confine drinking to gaming areas could prove sensible, because Golden State health officials say bars can be breeding grounds for the virus, as patrons remove masks more frequently to drink more and talk, potentially putting infectious saliva into the surrounding air.

On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered bars in Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings, and Imperial counties shuttered. Watering holes in Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Stanislaus counties are also being asked by state health officials to temporarily close their doors.