The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, the operator of the Southern California gaming property bearing the tribe’s name, said it’s extending the closure period of that venue through April 11. That’s as residents of the Golden State are now subject to a shelter-in-place policy aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.
Along with rival Pechanga, San Manuel was among the first major California tribal casinos to announce a temporary closure related to the COVID-19 pandemic. San Manuel voluntarily suspended operations on March 15 and, at that time, was planning to reopen on April 1.
To help protect the health and safety of our community, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians have decided to extend the closure of San Manuel Casino through April,” said the tribe in a statement provided to Casino.org.
Located in Highland, Calif., San Maneul has approximately 4,000 employees. The tribe said workers will be paid and continue receiving benefits through April 11.
California Coronavirus Toll
While some tribal operators have been slow to shutter casinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic, those in California are among the most vigilant. Some opted to do so prior to Gov. Gavin Newsom issuing the statewide shelter-in-place directive last week.
However, gaming closures appear to already be taking a toll on the Golden State economy. Last week, unemployment claims in the largest US state surged to 106,000, well above the usual 2,500, and officials there fear the most recent number won’t be the peak.
For its part, San Manuel rival Pechanga said last weekend it doesn’t expect to reopen on April 1 as originally planned, and that layoffs could be possible. That casino, located in Temecula, Calif., employs about 4,700 workers.
Southern California is home to about two-thirds of the state’s roughly 70 tribal gaming venues, and in counties such as Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego, those venues are among the largest employers.
“Tribal government gaming is a powerful economic engine, generating $7.8 billion for the California economy. Tribal gaming created over 63,000 good-paying jobs and $3.3 billion in income for Californians,” according to the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA).
Not Much Clarity
Gov. Newsom’s hasn’t put a timeline on when the shelter-in-place order will be lifted. But some counties throughout the state aren’t taking any chances and are strictly enforcing closures of all but essential businesses.
As of Tuesday morning, California’s coronavirus case tally was around 2,200, having nearly doubled in three days, with approximately 30 deaths.
There is gaming impact beyond card room and tribal casino closures. For example, efforts to gather signatures for 2020 ballot initiatives, including a sports betting proposal backed by a tribal coalition, are grinding to a halt because workers and would-be signers want to practice social distancing and not risk contracting the coronavirus.