Many of the tribal casinos in California recently closed as part of the state’s campaign to help stop the spread of the potentially-deadly coronavirus pandemic could be seriously wounded should they not be allowed to re-open before June.
According to a Sunday report from The Desert Sun newspaper, this is the opinion of Jef Bauer, General Manager for California’s small Augustine Casino, who likened the costs of re-opening such shuttered venues to those associated with reviving much larger facilities.
The newspaper reported that aboriginal casinos across southern California began barring their doors in response to the coronavirus outbreak from March 15 with Imperial County’s Red Earth Casino, which is owned by the federally-recognized Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, becoming the region’s last to shut up shop some seven days later. This purportedly came after the western state’s Democratic Governor, Gavin Newsom (pictured), started imploring residents to stay at home without giving any indication as to when the quarantine appeal may be lifted.
The Desert Sun reported that the 800-slot Augustine Casino is run by the federally-recognized Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians and sits on the tribe’s 640-acre reservation located within the Riverside County city of Coachella. Bauer purportedly declared that the process to re-open a facility such as his will most likely involve ‘all kinds of costs that you wouldn’t even normally have during that time’ such as marketing and hiring charges.
Bauer reportedly told the newspaper…
“So, the expenses will just be crippling for some businesses if we’re not able to get this under control soon and get open.”
Bauer reportedly told the newspaper that many tribal casinos in California are also likely set to experience many months if not years of decreased business once the coronavirus threat has abated alongside a reduction or suspension due to lingering health anxieties associated with lucrative attractions such as his own venue’s buffet.
Bauer reportedly told The Desert Sun…
“The virus is invisible and people are starting to see, today, quickly climbing death tolls and infection tolls and that is a scary thought. When the dust settles on it, there are going to be huge numbers and I don’t believe people are going to want to get into crowds. We get a lot of business coming in the door to eat the buffet.”
Katherine Spilde from San Diego State University’s Sycuan Institute on Tribal Gaming reportedly told the newspaper that all of this is being further exacerbated by the fact that many of the casino-operating tribes in California have pledged to continue paying staff wages and providing benefits during the coronavirus-related shutdown. The Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians has purportedly agreed to keep paying its staff for six weeks although the nearby Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, which is responsible for the 1,090-room Pechanga Resort and Casino, is said to have begun laying workers off from last Wednesday.
Spilde reportedly told the newspaper…
“A tribal casino is simply one part of the larger tribal government ecosystem. Some of the things a traditional business would be specifically focusing on like shareholder value or liquidity; they have just a very different framework that they’re working with. They aren’t corporations, so they don’t have a quarterly shareholder meeting mindset. You’ve heard tribes talk about the seventh generation, you know ‘We’ve always been here, we’ll always be here’. That really is just inherent in the tribal gaming model.”