San Manuel Extends Closure While Other Southern California Tribal Casinos Reopen

Gaming News Gaming News

By Todd Shriber

For a fourth time, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is extending the shutdown of its eponymous gaming property in Southern California while rival tribal operators in the region move to reopen their casinos as soon as today.

San Manuel, which is one of the largest and most well-known tribal gaming properties in the West, has been shuttered for more than two months due to the coronavirus outbreak. Late last month, the tribe said the venue would remain off limits until at least May 31, marking a closure extension.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians has decided to extend the closure of San Manuel Casino beyond May 31. While we are hoping for a reopening date in June, it is too early to announce one with absolute certainty,” said the tribe in a statement.

Last month, the tribe said it would continue paying staff wages and benefits during the closure period. Originally, San Manuel and rival Pechanga – two of the giants in Southern California tribal gaming – expected to be closed until late March. Pechanga is aiming for a June 1 restart date.

Rivals Moving Faster

While Pechanga, the Golden State’s biggest casino, is pointing to June 1 to open its doors again, San Manuel isn’t yet naming a specific date. However, other tribal operators are moving more swiftly, with several bringing their casinos back online today.

Those include Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa near Cabazon, Calif. and the Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella and Tortoise Rock Casino in Twentynine Palms, both near the Palm Springs area.

“We chose to close the Spotlight 29 and the Tortoise Rock casinos as a proactive measure to protect our guests and employees from exposure to the virus,” Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians Chairman Darrell Mike said in a statement. “We have utilized this downtime to thoroughly clean every aspect of our operations and feel comfortable slowly reopening some aspects of the gaming areas, restaurants, and bars.”

In Eastern San Diego County all six of the tribal casinos located there opened earlier or will restart at some point this week. Those venues are as follows: Jamul Casino, Sycuan Casino Resort, Valley View Casino & Hotel, Pala Casino Spa & Resort, Harrah’s Resort Southern California, and Viejas Casino and Resort.

Newsom Not Pleased

Like other tribal venues, Golden State Native American casinos are located on sovereign land and are regulated at the federal level.

Still, a slew of reopening efforts that emerged in the state last week drew rebuke from Gov. Gavin Newsom who urged the groups to reconsider their plans until the areas in which the properties are located move into the third phase of the state’s broader reopening scheme. Most parts of California are still in phase two of the six-phase plan.

“As the coronavirus pandemic and our response to it continues to affect just about every aspect of our world, we remain committed to the principle that the health and safety of our community is simply the most important priority,” said San Manuel in the statement. “We look to local and state health and safety guidance, as well as our own retained medical experts, to identify the path to the safest and most sustainable reopening.”