Indian Casinos Near Me With Slot Machines – The restaurants are filled with tacked-on tables and receive half the clientele they usually meet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
But while casinos on Arizona tribal lands are open for business, health experts warn that customers are risking their health along with their money by playing high-stakes games.
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Casinos are the only business classified as high risk by the Arizona Department of Health, which remains restricted due to the recent increase in COVID-19 in the state.
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But some public health experts say it shouldn’t. Dr. Shad Marvasti, director of public health at the Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, said Arizona is “nowhere near control for our population” and that all high-risk activities should be temporarily suspended.
“I don’t think these places should be open from a public health perspective until we get those numbers down when the rate of positive cases is high,” he said.
Casino managers and tribal leaders said they are taking the outbreak seriously and following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And customers like Linda Ross, who have visited several casinos in the past two months, feel safe.
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“I felt very safe in the places I went,” Ross said. But this may be an illusion, a false sense of security.
But the state has no authority to shut them down because they operate on tribal land, according to the governor’s spokesman, Patrick Ptak.
Tribal lands are sovereign, allowing indigenous peoples to govern themselves and maintain the traditional way of life of tribal communities. Tribal businesses, including casinos, have special status and operate independently of state government. The casino will be closed next March in cooperation with the state.
Several Phoenix-area casinos, including Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, Gila Rivers Hotels & Casino and Fort McDowell Casino, reopened immediately after Gov. Doug Ducey lifted a stay-at-home order in mid-May.
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Other casinos, including Desert Diamond Casino West Valley, Talking Stick Casino and Casino Arizona, have decided to reopen in early June.
But it’s up to gambling operators and tribal leaders to decide which security arrangements to implement and whether to keep them open or closed.
However, profits from the gambling business make up a significant portion of the tribal government’s budget. Stephen Lewis, governor of the Gila River Indian Community, admitted that when the casino first opened, gambling revenue made up about 75 percent of the community’s budget.
Arizona has yet to regulate other methods of generating revenue, such as virtual gaming. Therefore, casinos are not allowed to offer online gambling.
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Bernadine Burnett, president of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, said her community’s casino is “an economic engine that supports our tribal government.”
“The two months we closed the casino was just as devastating to the community, to the workers and to the vendors as it was to many businesses in Arizona,” he said.
“These are unprecedented times and we are doing everything we can to take care of our communities, our families and the men and women who care for our loved ones,” Gila River Hotels & Casinos said in a statement.
The state cannot force casinos to take special security measures, so each gambling establishment makes its own rules.
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Gila River Hotels & Casinos, which implemented some of the strictest safety measures in the Valley after an employee died from COVID-19, is consulting daily with health professionals, the statement said.
Matt Smith, public affairs consultant for the Tohono O’odham Nation, said the security measures at Desert Diamond Casino West Valley “exceed the guidelines of health authorities.”
Most casinos in the Phoenix area operate on the third level. If the casino is going to open, Marvasti said it’s important for them to “really keep it to a minimum.”
As casinos continue to implement security measures, more problems have emerged. Some workers at the multi-location business said they were worried about catching and spreading COVID-19, traveling between different casinos every day.
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Marvasti said worker travel is “nonsensical” and increases the risk for everyone, indicating that casinos are understaffed when workers are sick or quarantined due to existing conditions.
Some casinos have also gone back on previous promises. When Gila River Hotels & Casinos reopens, they have announced that they will be closing at 2 a.m. each night to thoroughly clean their facilities. But casinos have recently returned to 24-hour operations, urging visitors to “take the fun back”.
“(Gila River Hotels & Casinos) is committed to balancing our business operations to maintain long-term health while allowing our valued team members to take care of themselves and their loved ones,” the statement said. It will continue to be evaluated and sterilized.”
Security measures vary from casino to casino. More importantly, some have banned smoking altogether, while others have chosen to set up designated smoking areas in their casinos rather than outright bans.
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Arizona Casino and Talking Stick Casino, operated by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, were among the first to ban smoking. A spokeswoman for the gaming company declined to comment on the smoking ban, current casino security measures and concerns about whether the casino will remain open during Arizona’s COVID-19 outbreak.
Since reopening, other casinos have introduced new rules regarding smoking. Desert Diamond Casino West Valley is currently smoke-free and smoking is permitted only in designated areas. According to Smith, the West Valley location provides “significant smoke-free areas” and “maximized airflow in addition to our state-of-the-art HVAC system.”
According to a statement from Gila River Hotels & Casinos casino managers, smoking is completely prohibited on the casino floor.
“We believe this was a responsible and prudent move,” the statement said. “We understand that this option could significantly reduce our revenue, but we make our decisions in consultation with the community and relevant experts.”
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Executives say the majority of patrons support the ban, and guests who smoke use designated smoking areas away from the casino floor.
“Recently, some of our customers have expressed their reluctance to visit our business due to the smoking ban,” Gila River Hotels & Casinos said in a statement. “While we respect their right to do so, we have considered all of the available information … which has led us to determine that smoking bans are the best way to keep individuals healthy, even if it hurts our bottom line at this time. . . .”
Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino recently restricted smoking, updated its health and safety measures, and established designated smoking areas on the casino floor and outside the premises. Abby Fink, the casino’s public affairs adviser, said it would continue a “dynamic process” of reevaluating security measures “as new and reliable information becomes available.”
Marvasti said the smoking ban is a “big deal” to keep customers and employees safe at casinos during the pandemic.
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“Cigarettes are all about touching your mouth. You have to take the mouthpiece off to smoke, so don’t wear it all the time while you’re playing,” he said. Of course you can spread the virus through the air, which is another risk. “
Before the pandemic, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino was Ross’ favorite place to play. Even though he’s been away from his Scottsdale home for long periods of time, he said he still visits to take advantage of the casino’s promotions.
“I don’t go to places where smoking is allowed, I call first,” he said. “When you exhale and you’re a carrier, you’re just spraying the air, and I think that’s very dangerous. I wish all casinos would ban it.”
He became a regular at Talking Stick Casino, Casino Arizona, closer to home. Ross said he also visited the Wild Horse Crossing Casino on the Gila River.
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“There are rules and things, the problem is with the violators,” he said. I saw a person wearing a mask sitting under his nose, so I told someone who went to him and said that he should put a mask on his nose. Soon I saw him undressing again.”
Casinos want to tell violators to leave immediately instead of issuing repeated warnings, Ross said. But he said he’s fine with trespassers being easy to avoid and he’s avoiding society and wearing a mask, face shield and gloves.
“I think they have to do everything – no smoking, take their temperature, everyone wears a mask, and if they take it off, they have to go,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s true or not. It’s so scary for them to be open. I don’t know how I feel about it.”
Casinos can’t stay closed forever, Burnett said. Fort McDowell Casino is open, but making sure guests and employees are safe is a top priority, he said.
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“We’ve never had an epidemic like this in our lifetime,” he said. “Unfortunately, we will deal with it
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