New York state inspectors concerned if tribal casino’s are pandemic safe


New York’s Native American casinos are bringing in customers. Not beholden to the state’s mandate to keep casinos closed at this stage of the pandemic, the casinos continue to operate while implementing their own strict safety procedures. But state employees are unclear why there is any leeway for this activity when commercial casinos remain closed.

The Auburn Citizen reports the New York Gaming Commission has sent gaming inspectors back to Native casinos to ensure all regulatory policies are being followed. But the paper further adds that they have sources noting inspects were back at casinos owned by the Oneida and Seneca nations as early as June.

The casinos implemented their own health and safety guidelines in reopening, as any casino hoping to win back customers during this pandemic would have to, but inspectors are concerned about a lack of compliance from customers.

The Civil Service Employees Association, the union of the inspectors, had this to say:

“We hope that the public continues to comply with mask and social distancing requirements as well as the temperature checks to ensure patrons and staff remain healthy during this pandemic. Our safety and health department has worked hand-in-hand with members to make sure any return to work questions and concerns are properly addressed.”

One of the primary concerns of the inspectors though is they just don’t understand why these casinos reopened so early when Governor Andrew Cuomo has barred the state’s four commercial casinos from opening. In prior comments, Cuomo deemed the operations unnecessary to “maintain survival” of the economy. He’s yet to offer any timetable for the sector’s reopening.

While it’s not fair to dismiss the inspectors fears out of hand, New York has mostly flattened it’s Covid-19 infection curve, with under 800 new cases per day for the last week. And as the Native tribes have the right to reopen their casinos if they wish to, its best they reopen with some level of supervision.

In Nevada, where nearly all casinos have now resumed operations, lawmakers have taken a different approach. Senate Bill 4 has made it out of committee and would mandate certain protections for employees and players, while also protecting the casino from litigation. The Culinary Union got behind the measure, possibly seeing it as the best step forward for employee safety.