Casinos on Native American lands are proving to be flashpoints in the debate about what businesses should be permitted to operate indoors as California experiences its worst COVID surge to date. And at least one casino in the Sacramento area is still planning to have a 6,000-person private event on New Year's Eve, even though there is no universe where this is not extremely risky.
Claiming that 6,000 people is still "less than 20% of attendance on a typical NYE," Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, California is forging ahead with its plan for an "invite-only" New Year's Eve fete, saying that this is within the state guidelines. As the Sacramento Bee reports, the plan is similar to one that had been floated by Graton Resort and Casino in Sonoma County to have a 4,000-person private event on Thursday night. That plan has since been scrapped after a slew of media attention and pressure from county health officials — even though the county does not have jurisdiction over sovereign lands.
While no one is allowed to dine at restaurants indoors or outdoors in the majority of California cities and towns right now, and bars have been largely closed since the pandemic began, casinos have continued operating despite potentially being highly risky environments for the spread of COVID-19. Masks may be mandated, but casinos are also places where people tend to be drinking and/or smoking, which can't be done with a mask on all the time.
Thunder Valley says that 6,000 guests will be "spread" over 835,000 square feet of the resort — but will they, though?
Another NorCal casino that is staying open for New Year's Eve with an albeit smaller party plan is Cache Creek Casino Resort in Yolo County. Its website announced that it is closed to he public on Thursday starting at noon, and reopening at 6 a.m. on New Year's Day. But the casino tells the Sacramento Bee that it will be hosting a private event for an undisclosed number of people representing "less than 1% of our pre-COVID occupancy."
As SFGate notes, both Yolo County and Placer County, where Thunder Valley resides, have COVID case positivity rates over 12% as of this week. And the very fact that these casinos are open presents huge health risks for those dumb enough to go there to gamble right now.
Having private events with limited capacities — and whatever other safety precautions are being taken including temperature checks at the door (which have already been dismissed by experts as fairly useless) which Cache Creek claims to be doing — is at least better than simply keeping the doors wide open on New Year's Eve for any drunk people to stumble through, COVID be damned.
Other Northern California casinos like Harrah's in Ione, the Red Hawk Casino near Placerville, and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino-Sacramento at Fire Mountain, are all staying open for New Year's, per the Bee, and this also seems deeply unwise.
"As part of Harrah’s Northern California’s ongoing quest to keep guests and team members safe, the casino is following a comprehensive outline of enhanced health and sanitation protocols,” the casino said in a statement. “Guests returning to the property will notice changes to the experience, including limited guest capacity on the casino floor and dining outlets, social distancing procedures and enhanced sanitation protocols."
Meanwhile, ICU beds are few and far between statewide, and the current COVID surge has not abated — meaning that hospital capacities are expected to be stretched even thinner in January as those being infected now become sicker.
All the tribes keeping casino floors open ought to consider what these profits are worth.
Photo via Cache Creek/Facebook