New York Commercial Casinos Remain Closed as Tribal Gaming Gets Back to Work

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been a go-to reference for how a state deals with the coronavirus. The state was hit hard from the very beginning with the outbreak and Cuomo has been handed the difficult task of making decisions to keep residents of New York safe. One such decision is to keep casinos shut down. Gaming venues have been closed for more than four months and show no sign of reopening any time soon. Cuomo does not see the casinos as essential businesses. While the commercial casinos remain closed, tribal operators are getting back to work. Native American tribes that offer casino gaming do not have to hold to the same laws as commercial venues do.

Back to Work

State Gaming Commission employees are back at work as the tribal casinos are back in business. Gaming inspectors must check the tribal facilities and make sure they are safe and in proper working order. According to recent reports, the inspectors began working again once the Seneca and Oneida nations reopened their casinos in June.

The casinos are located on sovereign land so they are not subject to the state’s laws regarding covid-19 shut downs. Sources say that the inspectors have concerns about the casinos offering services at this time. Native American operators have health and safety guidelines in place as part of the reopening process, but the inspectors are worried about how many people are allowed inside and mask compliance.

Compliance is essential. If players and employees are not wearing masks in the casinos, then the virus can continue to spread and potentially cause another outbreak in the state. Another outbreak is what Governor Cuomo is trying to avoid.

Gaming inspectors are wearing masks and personal protective equipment when they visit the tribal venues but it appears that not everyone on-site is taking the need to social distance and wear a mask seriously.

The inspectors stay in close contact with the tribal facilities to ensure compliance on a gaming standpoint, but they really have no jurisdiction when it comes to certain aspects. This could pose a problem in the future, if an outbreak were to occur.

No Commercial Gaming

As far as the commercial casinos are concerned, it doesn’t seem that the venues will reopen any time soon. The Rivers Casino, del Lago, Tioga Downs and Resorts World Catskills all remain closed and have been since March.

Cuomo is leery to open the casinos again due to density and compliance. He does not feel that casinos are necessary businesses, so there is little doubt that he will look to open them back up soon. As New Yorkers have not been as compliant as Cuomo would like with social distancing and mask wearing, this will pose an issue when it comes to reopening.

Overall, there is casino gaming in the Empire State, it is just offered via tribal locations. We shall watch and see in the coming weeks if Cuomo decides to loosen the reigns a bit and open the commercial venues back up. A lot will depend on how people continue to follow safety guidelines in the state.

Rebecca Kont
Rebecca Kont

Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.