The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe announced Wednesday that they will begin reopening portions of their reservations on June 1.
Portions of both Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun will reopen on that date with new safety guidelines in place, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and social distancing guidelines.
The tribes said they collaborated to create new safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic, and said that their policies are "consistent with or exceeding the State's phased guidance and safety protocols."
The casinos are on sovereign land and not subject to the governor's executive orders. Both tribes agreed to close their properties back in March, in line with business closures in Connecticut, to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday that he was very concerned about the announcement.
"I think that’s incredibly risky and it's risky for the people that work at the casinos, it’s risky for the people that go to the casinos, it’s risky for the region because you have a lot of employees who go back out through the region," he said.
Dr. Albert Ko, professor of Epidemiology and of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine who co-chairs the reopening advisory board, said the indoor nature of the space, paired with the amount of time people tend to spend at a place like a casino, are significant concerns. He also pointed out that those who work there who may have underlying conditions are at great risk.
“I can’t stress enough about how we’re concerned about that situation,” Ko said.
Lamont said he wanted to discuss the plan with tribal officials again, and was hoping to coordinate with other regional governors to come up with a safe reopening plan.
"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we put public health first," he said.
During the first phase of reopening on June 1, concert venues, buffets and poker rooms will remain closed, and restaurants will be open only for takeout.
The properties will also aim to welcome only Connecticut and Rhode Island residents. They will not be marketing to New York or Massachusetts, and they will not accept out-of-state buses.
Mohegan Sun Unveils Casino Safety Measures
Officials also said employees will receive training on infectious disease safety and proper sanitation protocols.
“This afternoon, Governor Lamont and his reopen team expressed two general concerns about Connecticut casinos opening on June 1. First, they worry about the regional impact, specifically referencing buses coming from New York or other states. We completely agree, that’s why the plan we put forward today made clear that both casinos will not accept any buses and clearly not from New York or Massachusetts, nor will we do any marketing to those states at this time," Jame Gessner, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, wrote in response to the governor's comments. "Second, they are concerned about older customers who may have increased health risks. Again we agree, that’s why the plan we put forward today made clear that we will advise older customers to take specific precautions and to stay home if they are part of an at-risk group. We appreciate the Governor’s concerns, and we appreciate that he also made clear the tribal nations are being 'thoughtful' about reopening. We look forward to working with him further as the state continues to reopen."
“The safety, health and wellbeing of our Tribal community, guests, team members and local communities remain our number one priority as we prepare to reopen. With the guidance from our Chief Medical Officer and the CDC, we’ve made significant investments to enhance our processes to adapt to the challenges of the new normal brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic," Rodney A. Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, wrote in a statement.
Foxwoods Safety Protocols
Foxwoods released a list of new protocols it will have in place for the first phase of reopening.
- All guests and team members entering the property will go through non-invasive thermal temperature checks at the entrances to the property; those with an elevated temperature will not be allowed entry
- Team members and guests will be required to wear face masks at all times. If a guest or team member arrives without a face mask one will be provided
- Waiting areas and lines will be marked to observe appropriate physical distancing standards
- Additional hand sanitizing stations and sanitizing wipes will be provided throughout the property, including in gaming areas to allow patrons to wipe down slot machines
- Personnel will be regularly deployed to clean and disinfect high-touch areas for both guests and team members throughout the property, including but not limited to elevators, slot machines, and counters
- Temporary plexiglass separation will be placed at all transactional locations including but not limited to hotel check-in, cage, Rewards Booths, retail shops
- Table games will include plexiglass barriers, and betting spaces will be spaced to limit the number of players per table. The poker room and bingo will be closed until further notice.
- Initially, restaurant outlets will be limited to take out. The Rainmaker Buffet will be closed.
- All employees entering the property should undergo a daily COVID 10 checklist questionnaire as suggested by the CDC
- Signage will be added across property with reminders of Tribal and CDC guidelines such as wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, stay home if ill, and other guidelines.
- Entertainment and the nightclub will resume when it is determined safe to do so.
- No spa or gym facilities will be open until permitted by the CDC
For the full safety plan, click here.