Connecticut’s tribal-owned Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are set to partially open their casinos on June 1, ignoring calls from Gov. Ned Lamont, who warned that doing so is risky given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mohegan Tribe and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) both stated that their properties already have safety measures in place for their opening. According to the chairman of the MPTN, Rodney Butler, they have coordinated with the Mohegan Tribe to develop a plan that should help them re-open safely, which will assist Connecticut from the economic downturn of the pandemic.
The tribes expressly ignored the recommendation of Gov. Lamont, who called the decision risky in his daily briefing at the Capitol. According to Lamont, re-opening at this point is risky for the casino workers, casino visitors, and everyone else in the region, due to the surge of residents going in and out of their homes every day.
Gov. Lamont has also refused to consider legalising online gambling and has indicated that he is in the midst of talks with stakeholders from the region to come up with a feasible plan for casino re-openings to help ease the pain of thousands of furloughed and laid off casino workers.
Gov. Lamont acknowledged that the tribes are beyond his jurisdiction. While he respects their sovereignty, Gov. Lamont decided to speak out nonetheless in the hopes that it dissuades patrons from flocking to the casinos despite the risk.
Tribes Shore Up Safety Measures
The Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun have been closed since mid-March, which marked the first time they closed since the 1990s.
Both Connecticut casinos have stated that their re-opening safety guidelines will exceed the protocols recommended by government and public health authorities. Both operators will not open poker rooms, buffets, or concert venues; their restaurants will only serve takeout food. Infrared thermometers will be used at all casino doors. Casino employees will wear personal protective equipment, while players will have to don face masks to enter.
Indra Nooyi and Albert Ko who are co-chairs of Gov. Lamont’s advisory committee expressed their disapproval of the casino’s plans. Ko, an epidemiologist from Yale University says that indoor areas are much higher-risk for coronavirus transmission compared to outdoor areas. Extended stays indoor would be disastrous for casino employees and players should an asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier be able to slip through.
James Gessner, the Chairman for the Mohegan Tribe, stated they will be catering only to residents of Rhode Island and Connecticut. He also said that they will advising customers to stay home if they are part of a group particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, such as senior citizens and those with underlying medical conditions.