Casinos in California’s Coachella Valley are reopening Memorial Day Weekend despite the advice of Governor Gavin Newsom, who urged tribal governments to consider the public health risks of resuming gaming operations.
The state of California has no authority over tribes operating casinos, as they are regarded as sovereign nations. In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians that casinos operating on tribal land are free from state regulation. However, tribes have been encouraged to work in conjunction with states to distribute profits that would normally be taxed.
The Coachella Valley-area casinos reopening include the Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa, Spotlight 29 Casino, Tortoise Rock Casino, and the Agua Caliente casinos in Palm Spring and Rancho Mirage.
Tribal Casinos Share New Safety Measures
The Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage will reopen with a handful of changes. The property’s fitness center, poker room, and pool will remain closed until further notice. Hand-sanitizer stations have been added through the casino floor. Both Agua Caliente casinos in Palm Spring and Rancho Mirage will keep their buffets closed and cease valet parking services for the time being.
The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians said in a statement their Spotlight 29 and Tortoise Rock casinos were thoroughly cleaned during the temporary closures. Half of the seating for slot machines has been removed to allow for proper social distancing.
Casino employees will undergo testing for COVID-19 before they are permitted to return to work. All guests will be required to undergo temperature checks prior to entering the casinos. Guests, employees, and vendors are required to wear masks.
The Morongo Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians reported the Morongo Casino will also conduct temperature screenings, and capacity has been reduced to provide space for social distancing. The casino plans to operate without poker and bingo for the foreseeable future. Valet parking has also been put on hold.