Published May 30, 2020
PLEASANT, Mich. — After voluntarily closing its three tribal casinos on March 16 to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Council decided to reopen its facilities for business last Friday to VIP guests only.
At the tribe’s flagship tribal gaming casino, the Soaring Eagle and Resort, an 8 a.m. reopening was done without the normal fanfare afforded a casino. It was done with a prayer and smudge ceremony. A couple tribal council members and a few words by Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe Chief Timothy J. Davis.
“We reopened with hopeful optimism without celebration because everything that is going on in the world right now,” Mike Bean, Chief Executive Officer, Saginaw Chippewa Gaming Enterprises told Native News Online. “Our number one concern is getting back up and running in a safe and healthy fashion for our team members and guests. The tribe depends on the revenue for its tribal programs.”
“The feedback we have received so far is people feel good about seeing people with masks on because they feel safer,” Bean said mid-afternoon on Friday.
Health and safety was echoed by Chief Davis.
“Tribal casinos in Michigan have over 30 years of experience in a fast-paced, evolving environment. Just as they have adapted to the changing gaming landscape, they’ve undergone meticulous care in devising new procedures in order to ensure healthy and safe practices,” Davis said.
The other tribal gaming casinos owned and operated by the tribe, Soaring Eagle Slot Palace in Mount Pleasant and Saganing Eagles Landing Casino and Hotel in Saganing also had soft reopenings for invited guests only.
Because the tribal casinos were closed for about two and half months, casino officials decided to conduct a soft opening in order to work through any difficult situations that might occur.
On Monday, the facilities opened to the general public before the stay-at-home was lifted by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Exercising the tribe’s sovereignty, tribal officials decided to open its gaming facilities.
“We have spent a great amount of the time we were closed talking to other casinos around the country to discuss how we reopen in a responsible manner,” Bean said. “We learned what we could. So we put in certain protocols in place to reopen.”
Among those protocols were everyone, including casino team members and guests, must wear masks. Since everyone has to wear masks, there is no smoking allowed inside the casino. And everyone upon entering the casino must have their temperatures taken by infrared cameras. No one is allowed to enter the casino with a temperature of 100 degrees F or higher.
Plexiglass partitions have been installed at appropriate interactive areas, such as the cage, players club, and the front desk of the hotel.
To help promote social distancing, every other slot machine has been turned off. In restaurants, seating has been reduced to ensure proper social distancing.
“Not all of our amenities are open, such as the buffet area, which obviously is a high-touch area. Also, the parking valet, coat check, spas are closed,” Bean said.
Other amenities not now in operation include shuttle service, the pool and the fitness center.
Bean says the casino operations will be monitored closely to see what works with the new protocols in place with the intention of keeping it safe and healthy for team members and guests.