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Opening with enhanced cleaning protocols and technology after COVID-19 closure, casino also offers take-out dinners with phase-in of restaurants planned


By Miriam Raftery


May 15, 2020 (Jamul) -- After a two-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamul Casino today announced a phased-in reopening.  On May 18, a soft reopening at 10 a.m. is planned for its Sweetwater Rewards Club VIP guests (amber level and above), followed by a public reopening on May 20. Hours will be limited from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. until May 21, when 24-hour gaming operations are slated to resume.

In response to the pandemic, Jamul Casino closed on March 20 to protect the health and safety of its guests, team members, and tribal members. The casino’s phased reopening plans starting Monday will include physical distance enhancements, increased cleaning protocols, and improved gaming technology.  


President and General Manager Mary Cheeks states, “This has been an unprecedented season of uncertainty, and we understand it may take time for some guests to be ready to come back.  I can assure you that we are doing everything in our power to ensure that Jamul Casino is a safe and fun environment when guests return.”


Owned and operated by the Jamul Indian Village, Jamul Casino is the fourth tribal casino locally to announced reopening plans, along with Viejas, Sycuan and Valley View. County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten initially opposed casinos reopening, but has since stated that she respects tribal sovereignty and will work with tribes on phased reopening plans with steps to protect the health of guests and workers.


Jamul Casino recently surveyed its database of guests; 94 percent of respondents indicated that they would be comfortable coming back to the Casino when it re-opens, according to a press release issued today.  


For patrons who are not yet ready to return, the Casino is offering “Jamul at Home” prepackaged meal kits. Each kit includes fresh ingredients from Jamul Casino’s restaurants—everything needed to prepare a meal for two to four people—plus a simple recipe to put it all together.  Each kit can be scheduled for pickup from the valet.  


According to the tribe, Jamul Casino’s re-opening plans follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State of California, the County of San Diego, the Tribe’s COVID-19 Task Force, the National Indian Gaming Commission, and were reviewed by the Southern Indian Health Council (SIHC). 


Reopening plans include:


  • Thoroughly cleaned and disinfected surfaces, machines, chips, dining and bar areas, kitchens and food prep areas, new air filters and HVAC cleaning
  • Continuous cleaning and sanitizing of dining venues and guest touch points throughout the day.  A special “Clean Team” has been established to be laser-focused on all high-touch guest and team member areas that will be continuously cleaned.
  • Temperature screening using non-contact infrared thermometers before team members and guests can enter the Casino. Anyone with a temperature of 100o or higher or other symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose) will not be allowed in the Casino.
  • Face coverings are required for all team members and guests. 
  • Most Casino employees will wear gloves, and the Casino will provide gloves to guests upon request.  Dealers and patrons who cannot wear gloves due to chip handling will be required to constantly sanitize and wash hands.  Dealers will frequently change cards as well.  
  • At least one hundred fifty (150) hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the Casino.
  • Required physical distancing will include reduced seating, shutting off certain gaming machines, and controlled entry and exit to facilitate distancing and occupancy. 
  • Social distance signage will be placed throughout the Casino and dining venues.
  • All cage cashiers and quick serve dining counters will have Plexiglass dividers.  
  • A phased re-opening of dining venues is also planned, enforcing physical distancing for restaurants.  


During this first phase of re-opening, Jamul Casino will not be offering shuttle or valet services, entertainment (DJs or live bands), buffets, or promotions. 


During the unexpected closure, Jamul Casino also upgraded its gaming system and improved the benefits offered to  club members. Upon re-opening, members can get their new Sweetwater Rewards card that will sync with the system in a cleaner no-touch experience.  New benefits include:


  • Points can be downloaded for play at any slot machine.
  • Dining offers can be redeemed simply by swiping the card at the dining venue.
  • In-game television screens are available.
  • Players can check tier status and change PIN numbers at the slot machines.
  • Slot machine winnings can be saved on the member’s Sweetwater Rewards account and used at any other machine or cashed out.
  • Members can load cash into their Sweetwater Rewards card account, then use it to play slots and table games without having to carry around paper money.


Additional features in the coming months include: 


  • Drawing check-in at the slot machines
  • Enhanced promotions
  • Streamlined jackpot processing
  • Beverage ordering on slot machines


Jamul Indian Village Chairwoman Erica M. Pinto, states, “We are excited to be re-opening Jamul Casino, and celebrating this key moment in returning the livelihoods of our team members, tribal members, and the hundreds of businesses that help keep our wheels turning.  We thank everyone for their resilience.  Welcome back!” 


The Jamul Indian Village tribe uses revenue and resources from Jamul Casino to fund educational opportunities, healthcare and housing initiatives for its members and projects that benefit the surrounding community through a tribal-state gaming compact. Prior to the tribal casino opening in 2016, many tribal members lived below the federal poverty line.

Jamul Casino supports more than 1,000 permanent jobs in the region.  For more information about Jamul Casino, visit www.jamulcasinosd.com.

Update May 17, 2020:  Governor Gavin Newsom has asked tribes to hold off on reopening casinos, however the Jamul Casino has announced its intent to proceed with its first phase of reopening on May 18, as has the Viejas Casino & Resort. County Health Officer Wilma Wooten, recognizing tribal sovereignty, has said she will work with tribes on phased reopenings to balance public health concerns with tribal needs for economic viability. 

Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.

East County Magazine gratefully thanks the Facebook Journalism Project for support through its COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund Grant Program to help make this reporting possible. #FacebookJournalismProject. You can donate to support our local journalism efforts during the pandemic at https://www.EastCountyMedia.org/donate.


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Tax revenue is needed

Someone in another article in this forum, related to the casinos, asked why are casinos being opened now, and not on a later time frame. The state (and other entities) rely on the tax revenues generated by the casinos. And, many jobs can be restored once gaming opens back up.