By Miriam Raftery
File photo: Sycuan Casino
Updated May 14 with additional information from County Public Health Officer Wilima Wooten
May 13, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Following Viejas’ announced plans to reopen its casino on May 18, Sycuan and Valley View casinos have unveiled plans to reopen on May 19 and 21. All are on Native American reservations, and each has detailed plans for modifications aimed at protecting safety of the public and guests including face masks, sanitation procedures and social distancing.
However in a press conference today, San Diego County Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten voiced concerns and indicated that the county does not agree with the casinos’ reopening plans. “If. they do open and ignore our request not to open, then we would definitely have to ensure that they put stringent practices in place to help protect the public health. But opening up casinos will cause a risk to our public health. That is very clear; it creates gatherings of individuals,” she stated.
Later she indicated the county has reached out to the federal government to potentially block the casinos from reopening, NPR reports.
Tribal reservations are considered sovereign nations that make their own laws, however state and federal officials do have some powers to intervene if public health is at risk. It remains to be seen whether authorities will allow the casino openings to proceed, or take steps to require modifications or prevent openings.