Owners of Spotlight 29,Tortoise Rock and the two Morongo casinos announced on Tuesday plans to reopen Friday — the earliest opening date yet for casinos in this region.
This comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a letter to California tribes on May 15 urging them not to reopen their gaming facilities, although as sovereign nations, they are not required to follow Newsom's reopening plan. Casinos are considered higher-risk workplaces because of the volume of people they bring in and fall under Stage 3 of the governor's plan. Other businesses in Stage 3 have not been allowed to reopen yet.© Marilyn Chung/The Desert Sun Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella, Calif.
Other casinos in Riverside County, including Cahuilla Casino Hotel near Anza, Pechanga Resort Casino near Temecula and Soboba Casino near San Jacinto, intend to reopen next week after about a two-month-long closure to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
Besides Spotlight 29, the other Coachella Valley casinos: Augustine Casino near Coachella, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino near Indio, and Agua Caliente's Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage casinos have yet to announce reopening dates.
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The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians said Tuesday that it planned to welcome guests back to its Spotlight 29 and Tortoise Rock gaming facilities in Coachella and Twentynine Palms, respectively, starting at 10 a.m. on Friday. Several new cleaning and social distancing protocols will be in place.
Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa is an Indian gaming casino, of the Morongo Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians, located in Cabazon, California, United States, near San Gorgonio Pass.The casino has 310 rooms and suites. A 44-acre (180,000 m 2), 27-story resort, Morongo is one of the largest casinos in California.At 330 feet (101 m) high, the casino tower is the tallest building in both Riverside. Morongo Casino Resort & Spa 49500 Seminole Dr. Cabazon, California 92230 Toll free: 1-800-252-4499 Local: 951-849-3080 Email: [email protected] Sign Up For Our Newsletter. Visit Us On Your Travels Morongo Travel Center is located in Cabazon, California, only a few yards away from Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa both owned and operated by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Morongo Travel Center features a gas station, car wash, convenience store, and slot gaming hall. Comment (required): Email (for follow ups): Send; PokerAtlas.com. PokerAtlas is licensed and approved by the Nevada Gaming Commission and New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. All Vegas Poker is now part of PokerAtlas, and we welcome everyone from AVP to our great site and community.
“We chose to close the Spotlight 29 and the Tortoise Rock casinos as a proactive measure to protect our guests and employees from exposure to the virus,' said Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians Tribal Chairman Darrell Mike. 'We have utilized this downtime to thoroughly clean every aspect of our operations and feel comfortable slowly reopening some aspects of the gaming areas, restaurants and bars. We take the threat of this virus very seriously and will carefully monitor all aspects of all of our operations to ensure they surpass the protocol guidelines we have put in place.”© Courtesy photo Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella, Calif.
Everyone entering the casino will have their temperatures checked, and masks will be required for both employees and guests. If guests do not have a mask, a free one will be provided to them. Casino employees will be tested for the novel coronavirus before returning to work and 'will receive periodic testing going forward for the foreseeable future,' according to a news release from the tribe.
The tribe said the casino will be set up to allow for six feet of distance between players, with half of the slot chairs removed and no table games. Restaurants and bars at the properties will also be set up to allow for social distancing, the tribe said.
Each slot machine will be sanitized at least once per hour, and hand sanitizing will be encouraged, with hand sanitizer dispensers located throughout the properties, according to the news release. The properties were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected during their closures, the tribe said.
UV/ionization air purifying equipment from RGF Environmental Group, Inc., which is also used in healthcare facilities, has been purchased for both casinos, the news release said.
For more information, see the casino websites: spotlight29.com and tortoiserockcasino.com.
Morongo Casino Resort & Spa
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians announced that it plans to open the doors to both the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa and the original Casino Morongo once again at 2 p.m. on Friday, also with several new precautionary measures in place.
Guests will be able to play slot machines as well as table games but can expect to see changes, including fewer seats and some slot machines deactivated or protected with Plexiglass shields, according to a news release from the tribe. Plexiglass shields will also be available for table game players, the tribe said.
A 65,000-square-foot expansion and renovation project was recently completed at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa. Among other additions were new restaurants and a 30% expansion of the gaming floor.© Taya Gray/The Desert Sun Several ground floor renovations, such as the addition of Pink Coffee, are currently underway at the Morongo Casino in Cabazon, Calif., on Thursday, September 12, 2019.
“Morongo is excited to welcome our guests back into the game as we reopen our casinos and unveil our luxurious new expansion, which further augments our offerings at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa,” said Morongo’s Chief Operating Officer Richard St. Jean.
Many of the casino's restaurants will be open for business, but social distancing will be enforced and seating will be limited, the tribe said.
Morongo Casino Website
At this time, the Oasis Pool, Sage Spa, Fitness Center, Cielo Steakhouse, Potrero Canyon Buffet, valet parking, and the poker and bingo rooms will remain closed.
More: Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians announces Soboba Casino reopening May 27
More: Tribe announces 'target reopening' around June 1 for Pechanga Resort Casino
More: Tribal casino closures will 'be crippling for some' if stretched into June, casino GM predicts
Other changes outlined in the reopening plans for the Morongo casinos include:
- Touchless temperature checks for all guests and employees before entering.
- Reduced entrances to ensure complete temperature screening.
- Face mask requirement for all guests, employees and vendors.
- Additional automatic hand sanitizing stations throughout the properties.
- Air filters to be cleaned more frequently. The casinos' HVAC systems draw in fresh air from outside of the casinos.
'Every square inch' of the casinos was sanitized during the closure, and there will be enhanced cleaning protocols going forward, the tribe said.
“Our reopening is being guided by our abiding commitment to protecting the health and well-being of our guests, team members, and the community,' St. Jean said. 'We have spent countless hours developing enhanced safety and sanitation protocols and procedures that strengthen our already-exacting standards for cleanliness.'
Morongo Casino Open Yet
Simon Farmer, executive director of marketing at Morongo Casino Resort & Spa, said the tribe has stayed in touch with county and state authorities and kept them informed of its plans throughout the public health crisis. Casino management has also looked at the practices implemented by other casinos in other states that have already reopened.
'We diligently consulted with local, state and federal health officials, local medical experts on a new set of standards by which we could implement to reintroduce a newer, safer environment for everyone coming back to Morongo,' Farmer said.
Farmer noted many that tribes like Morongo depend on revenue from their casinos to fund their governmental functions. Morongo is also a large employer in the region and supports tribes without gaming operations.
He said he was unaware of whether the Morongo Band of Mission Indians received the letter that Newsom sent to tribes on May 15 urging them to wait to reopen their casinos.
'We obviously know what the governor's statements are and we certainly respect it .. but at the end of the day, again, and in communication with them, we believe we can reopen and operate safely,' he said.
Farmer said casino leadership has been in constant contact with employees throughout the closure. There were some furloughs and layoffs, though Farmer said he couldn't go into detail on how many were affected. He said making sure employees were comfortable with returning to work was an important factor in the decision to reopen.
'In preparation for reopening on Friday, we called them back and (got an) overwhelmingly positive response,' Farmer said.
He said 'very, very few' team members have said they are not comfortable with coming back to work yet. Those people have been offered to stay on furlough, Farmer said.
Despite being some of the first casinos in the region to reopen, the Morongo properties are ready, Farmer said.
'We would not even attempt this if we did not feel that we were creating an environment that exceeded the expectations of our guests, exceeded the standards of safety and cleanliness,' he said. Plots define.
For the latest on the reopenings, go to morongocasinoresort.com.
Risa Johnson covers Native American affairs in the Coachella Valley and beyond. She can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 778-4737. Follow her on Twitter @risamjohnson.
Morongo Casino Resort And Spa
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Spotlight 29, Morongo and Tortoise Rock casinos all set to open Friday