Michigan Governor Unable To Stop Multiple Tribal Casinos From Opening In May
Many U.S states are slowly relaxing their lockdown restrictions and casinos in states like Connecticut and Nevada are preparing to reopen in May with strict social distancing measures. Michigan is being a lot more conservative as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer decided to extend her stay-at-home order.
This means that all licensed casinos in the state will have to wait until at least June 12 to resume operations. However, this order does not cover tribal casinos, as they have their own gaming commissions recognized by federal law and do not have to comply with the Governor’s rules.
Michigan Gaming Control Board spokesperson Mary Kay Bean said that the state’s 12 federally recognized tribes are under no obligation to strictly adhere to Gov. Whitmer’s gaming orders. In fact, four tribal operators have already announced plans to reopen their casinos by the end of this week.
Casinos “Essential” For Indian Tribes
Overall, there are seven tribal-operated casinos eyeing a reopening before June. These include Bay Mills in Brimley, Gun Lake in Wayland, Saganing Eagles Landing in Standish, Firekeepers in Battle Creek, Kings Club in Bay Mills, as well as Soaring Eagle’s two properties in Mount Pleasant. These casinos are operated by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, Bay Mills Indian Community, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi, and the Gun Lake Tribe.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan are among the highest in the country and with infections continuing to rise, there are concerns the premature reopening of some tribal casinos could jeopardize the state’s effort to curb the virus. But Kathy George, CEO of FireKeepers Casino Hotel, was quick to defend their decision, saying casinos are considered an essential business for the survival of the tribe. She also noted they will abide by the CDC guidelines.
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The tribal casinos will also implement enhanced safety measures, such as requiring temperature checks on guests upon entry, mandatory wearing of face masks (and gloves for staff), disabling a number of slot machines, regular sanitization of the premises and gaming equipment, as well as limiting capacity.
The Turtle Creek in Williamsburg and the Leelanau Sands in Peshawbestown had earlier announced their intention to continue their operations beginning on May 29. Both casinos will also reduce their capacity as precautionary measure. The tribal casinos also said they will keep up to date with health information from government authorities.
Detroit Casinos To Remain Shut
Casinos in Detroit will remain closed for the time being. These include Greektown Casino Hotel which is owned and operated by Penn National Gaming Inc. Detroit casinos have incurred massive losses since the lockdown began in mid-March, also resulting in significant losses in tax revenue for the state.